Giving and Receiving Free Products and Services

When you decide to lower your prices, offer your time, or offer free products or services, do you change the experience that the “beneficiaries” receive compared to those that pay full price? Do they get treated as an underclass? If you do, did you clarify what the differences would be before you started, and were they comfortable with the expectations? Did you think clearly about what you were trying to accomplish by entering these transactions to begin with? Is there congruence? The reason I ask is I often see people enter into “special” business transactions with friends, family, former colleagues, and others that they respected and trusted and irreparably damage those relationships.

Should You Enter The Transaction To Begin With?

I recently entered into a transaction with someone that is recognized as an expert in a field I’d like to know more about. The other party demonstrated that expertise to me as an enticement to sign on. However, we should have never entered the transaction. Why? I will spare you the details and skip to the conclusion. The other party did not have the time available to work with me. Plain and simple! There were red flags right from the beginning —difficulty in scheduling appointments and canceled sessions. I observed them and ignored the signals because I was too excited about the outcomes I thought I could get. The other party in effect gave me an unredeemable gift certificate.

So here are the questions you should ask if you are going to offer to give service or product away for free or at a discounted price:

  • How much time will it take, and do you have the time to give?
  • Is the customer/person going to use the product or service properly?
  • Are you going to change service levels for the customer/person, and what are the consequences?
  • What are your intentions/expectations?
  • What are their intentions/expectations?
  • What are the consequences if the offer does not work out? Why?
  • What is the likelihood that the offer won’t work out? Why?
  • Would this be an ideal customer for you if they had the money to pay for it?
  • If this is not an ideal customer for you, how does this benefit your organization? Can it hurt your organization?

As you can see most of these questions work for the receiver of the services! All I would add, is “have you done sufficient due diligence? How would others judge your decision-making based on how thoroughly you approached this decision?”

Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies and people that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation.