How to shorten sales cycles with an entry level offer

For years, I operated without an entry level offer. Both when I had my agency, and as a solo consultant. 

At the time, I didn’t know any better. But even once I learned about charging up front for a discovery process or entry level offer, I was afraid to implement it. 

It just seemed strange and foreign to me, and I couldn’t picture how it would work for my clients.

So for years, I did things the old fashioned way. I had multiple calls with clients before they paid me money, and I wrote up personalized proposals for each client. 

And it worked pretty well… 

But eventually I decided to make a shift and try out selling an entry level offer. The first few months were rocky, but eventually, I saw the light and decided never to look back.

This article outlines the journey I made with selling an entry level offer, mistakes I made along the way, and it gives you a roadmap for creating your own offer. 


How I ran my business before selling an entry level offer

For years, I ran my business doing one off proposals for each client. I actually enjoyed writing proposals so I never thought much of this. 

This was my way of doing things and I had it nailed down to a science.

A client came in the door, I would question them and learn about their needs.
Then I would hold a second call to learn more and build rapport.
Then I would present a proposal with 3 options. 
And boom, most of the time they would sign. 

The key part is “most of the time”. No matter how hard I tried, I would still have those deals slip away even after investing several hours in phone calls, meetings and proposal writing. 

But it wasn’t just the lost deals. Often these deals that never closed seemed to drag on and eat up too much of my time. 

I accepted this as part of life, and just kept doing things the same way.


Enter life changing epiphany

Somewhere in this time period, I came across a few thought leaders all talking about the same things.

Even after all of this, I still struggled to figure out how it would work for my business. 

But eventually, I gave it a shot.


Phase 1 of selling discovery

The first phase that I had of selling a discovery process was by doing what I called an “Outbound Strategy Powerup”. I described this to prospects as:

It’s a series of 3-4 calls and documents where I learn more about your business, and then we work on building an outbound marketing strategy for your business that is going to win you dream clients.

At the end, you walk away with a strategy document on how to run the outbound marketing campaign, and then if you choose to, you can hire Outbound Creative to implement that strategy. Or you can choose to go ahead and implement it yourself”

This was my general pitch on the phone with a client. It worked ok and I sold a few of these, and some of these actually lead into great retainer clients who I work with until this day.

But I also sold a few to companies who didn’t become a client of Outbound Creative. And worst of all, these companies also didn’t end up implementing the ideas I brought to them because they didn’t have capacity in house.

This sucked. 

Basically I had just sold them an entry level offer that became entirely useless to them.

Yes they had a strategy document and a plan, but it was a plan that they were never going to be able to use and thus they received zero value from the process we just went through and the money they paid.

This stuck with me and I felt guilty about it. 
I felt like I had conned them into a sale. 
It wasn’t my intention, but I hated that I just sold them this discovery and they didn’t get any value out of it.


The problem with my first model of selling discovery

After lots of thought, I came to a simple consolation as to why I felt guilty.

Selling a discovery process that only benefits the client if they buy your full service after is selfish. 
It benefits you, not the client.
If you want to create an irresistible entry level offer, you need to create real value even if they don’t buy

So how do you do that?

How do you create an offer that creates value for the end buyer, even if they don’t buy your service?

Simply put, your discovery process needs to be bigger than just the service that you offer.


Phase 2 of selling an entry level offer: The process and offer that I use today

Eventually, I realized this problem. The Powerup was serving my self interest. It was making sure I was paid for my time, but if my clients didn’t hire Outbound, then most of them wouldn’t implement the ideas on their own. 

I needed to create an offer that provided value, even if they didn’t buy.

So here is what I realized…

Many of my clients who were utilizing my Outbound efforts were getting meetings, but many of them still failed to close the deal. 

As I examined each of these companies closer, I realized that they had no real process for sales. They were just kind of winging it deal by deal and letting their customers determine the buying process.


This was it. In order to make my discovery process more valuable, I needed to examine the companies entire sales process, and not just look at their Outbound marketing efforts. 

I needed to take a holistic approach to examining their whole business, and offer advice and insights wherever I saw room for improvement. 

And then as a part of that, I would create a strategy for how they could utilize outbound marketing to grow their company.

So here is what my pitch sounds like with potential clients today:

So we start off each engagement with a Sales Teardown and Strategy Blueprint. It is a series of 3 phone calls and documents where I learn more about your business, write out all of my ideas and insights for ways it can be improved.

I look at your business from a holistic viewpoint and examine your sales process, prospecting process, marketing materials, positioning, web presence, case studies, buyer personas, and much more.

The whole process takes 3 weeks and basically you are getting access to all my ideas and insights on how to improve sales for your business. At the same time, we will build the strategy and plan for your outreach campaign.

The idea is that if I can bring you even one single insight that is going to help you close one more deal this year, then this process will pay for itself.

Now that is an irresistible offer!

Within this process, I create a plan and strategy for their outbound marketing campaigns, but I am also looking at all other areas of their business that impact sales and marketing.

The documents I write up are massive and jam packed with ideas and insights for improving their business.

Sure, they won’t implement everything that I bring them, but certainly within this process are a few ideas that can change how they run their business.

And that creates the irresistible value proposition:

“If these insights help you close one more deal this year, then the process will pay for itself.”

That is the kicker. 
That is value pricing at work. 


How a properly positioned discovery process can change your business

Since implementing this change, I meet far less resistance in the buying process.

Before when I was just creating a ‘roadmap’, clients would fight back because they knew it would only be valuable if they ended up hiring me. 

Now, with the new ‘Sales Teardown & Strategy Blueprint’ client’s see the value and many buy in their very first phone call.

And more importantly clients walk away happy, even if they don’t end up hiring Outbound Creative. 

And that makes me feel great.

Oh and one other benefit of this new approach, I am able to charge a higher rate for this process and customers are happy to pay for it!


How to create your own irresistible discovery offer

First, let me reiterate this key point from earlier in the post.

Selling a discovery process that only benefits the client if they buy your service after is selfish. 
It benefits you, not the client.
If you want to create an irresistible entry level offer, you need to create real value even if they don’t buy

With that in mind, here are 4 core concepts to follow when structuring your discovery process.

1. Make sure that the client receives real value, even if they don’t hire your firm after the discovery process

REAL value is the key here. In my first offer, I convinced myself that the client receiving my Outbound Marketing plan was real value. It wasn’t. They weren’t going to implement it themselves, and so in the end they got nothing out of it. 

2. Broaden the scope of your discovery to bigger than your companies core offering

Take a holistic view at their company. Look for ways you can provide value and insights to them beyond just your area of expertise. This will give you a better understanding of their business, how your service fits in, position you as an expert, and create more value for the customer.

3. Tie the offer you are making to an end deliverable in their business

“If these insights help you close just one more client this year, then this process will pay for itself.” 

What value is your entry level offer bringing them. Tie your service against that value and don’t undervalue the worth of an idea. 

4. Over deliver

I hold this as a value in all aspects of my business, but it is especially important at this early stage level. Often in my entry level engagement I offer a ‘Copy Analysis’ but in the actual process, I end up ‘Re-writing’ a decent chunk of copy for them. Under-promise when you sell the discovery, and then over-deliver on the execution.


To boil all of this down to a single idea:

The key to creating an irresistible discovery process is to ensure it creates massive value for your client, even if they don't hire you after.

Have you tried to sell a paid entry level offer? 
What has your experience been like?

Leave a comment below.