By Paul Reilly

Buyers are addicted to free. Buyers want free delivery, free installation, free samples, free warranties, free maintenance. Subscription-based companies often offer a “freemium” option to entice buyers. “Free” is bad business. The cost of “free” is too costly to bear. “Free” is the worst four-letter f-word you can say in sales. Stop using the word “free”!

Here are three reasons to remove the word “free” from your vocabulary.

Reason #1

The word “free” cheapens whatever follows it. If something is deemed free, it’s considered less valuable. Why would someone pay more for something less valuable? To combat this perception, it’s common for free publications to have a dollar amount placed on the cover. The publication is building in perceived value. Don’t cheapen your solution by offering something for free; there is a better way.

Reason #2

Free focuses the conversation on price. Paradoxically, giving something away for free causes sellers to become more price-sensitive. Free products or services hijack the buyer’s mind and focus their attention on short-term sacrifice. That is the great benefit of something free—there is no sacrifice today. Your “free” services are add-ons designed to build perceived value, but the customer is more excited about the freebie than the value you create.

Reason #3

Free is too costly a burden. Imagine giving the customer a free sample. After a few weeks, you stop by the buyer’s office, and the free sample is right where you left it. They haven’t used the sample because they have nothing invested in the sample. We place greater value on the things we pay for.

I recall working with a sales leader that required his sales team to pay half of the expense for any additional training the seller wanted to receive. If the salesperson wanted to attend a seminar that cost $1,500.00, the salesperson would pay half. The sales leader knew they were more likely to utilize the training if they had something invested.

There is a better way to position your value-added extras. Anytime you use the word “free,” substitute it with “value added” and it takes on a whole new meaning. If you need to clarify further, use the term “complimentary” or “no charge.” Those two phrases take the emphasis off of free and create a more positive image. Remember, just because it’s free to the customer doesn’t mean that it’s free to you. Never provide something of value for free. Free yourself from the worst four-letter f-word in sales.

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