To state the obvious: people in debt don't have a lot of money available

You want to write a check for the full amount of that credit card balance. You want to see the shocked expression on the face of the creditor as he exclaims, "He/She has escaped us!" You just want to get out of debt and be like a human again.

But since you don't have the money, it remains a fantasy. The rich uncle belongs to someone else, not you. And you're smart enough to know that buying lottery tickets is a really bad investment. So what could be the solution? How to put that pie in the creditor's face?

And then you see this superduper, superpowerful "Get Out of Debt NOW" debt relief company. They come complete with lawyers, negotiators, and accountants, all at your disposal!

And wait! They offer a free debt consultation. You can afford THAT! And they say they'll give you real actionable advice, with absolutely no obligation! So, really, why not talk to them? Everything to gain and nothing to lose!

But is there a hidden danger here? Maybe yes, maybe no. It can certainly depend on the honesty of the company. But, unless you really know where to dig, it's hard to tell.

So we will seek the answer in understanding just how marketing works. The free consultation is not a debt relief question, it is a marketing tool. Let's delve into the secrets of marketing to figure out whether this free consultation is evil and manipulative, or angelic and the true way to get out of debt.

What convinces someone to sign up for a service or purchase a product?

Emotion. As much as we want to believe that our buying decisions come from our intellect, they don't. The intellect can identify a service or product that promises to be helpful, but if the heart doesn't want it, no sale will be made.

And the opposite is true as well. How many of us have bought something we completely did not need just because we desired it? As weird as this seems, I have a thing for headphones. Whenever I am in a store that sells them, I go over to look at all the models and imagine what my music will sound like in them. As a result, I have a separate pair of headphones for my computer, for my MP3 player, for my second laptop and for my two telephones. And when a pair of headphones starts to malfunction, I'm happy. I get to buy a new one!

We buy because of emotion.

Good marketers and sellers use this process very effectively

A well-known coach of entrepreneurs, Dan Sullivan, has a definition of selling that has become iconic:

"Selling is getting someone intellectually interested in a future result which is good for them, and then motivating them emotionally to take action to achieve that result."

In other words, first grab their attention and interest them, then get them to want it badly. But the key phrase in Sullivan's definition is "a future result which is GOOD for them."

That phrase is the difference between the evil creeps who sell cigarettes (or worse) to kids and the good citizens who sell wholesome foods to families.

But where does free debt counseling fit into this mix?

It is what is called "the introductory offer." The best marketers do not try to sell the main product right away. They want you to have a taste of what they offer, so you can begin to trust them and their products.

That's a key word, Trust. When you, the consumer, have had a positive experience with them, the seller, they gain trust points in your eyes. You're no longer buying from a slick-looking, pinstripe-suit-wearing, fast-talking salesman. You're now buying from someone who has proven their value to you.

Which brings us to the critical question you must ask before you pick up the phone or submit the form for a free debt consultation. And that is:

Is it really a free consultation or is it a high pressure sales call?

Are you walking into a solution, or a trap? I once signed up for a free consultation for business mentoring. The rep hardly spent any time on my business's problem. Instead, he spent the 45 minutes telling me how he has already planned out just who would be counseling me, and how we are going to solve the problems together.

That consultation was not an introductory product, it was a high-pressure sales call, and they almost lost me because of it. This same business company offered free lectures on marketing. Those were the real introductory product, providing true value at no cost. They showed me that this company could, indeed, help, and so I signed on. And I will give them credit, I learned a lot.

The most honest and helpful companies, and there are many of them, are more than eager to give real value to people in their introductory conversation. That is the best way to gain trust! This is how long-term relationships are created, and they are worth far more to the company than the expense of providing a free introductory offer.

So if the consultation will be filled with useful information, rather than elaborate descriptions of the company, then go for it. But…

How can you tell if the free debt consultation is one of the good kind? First technique:

First of all, you know and they know that they want your business. And you know and they know that their particular brand of debt relief is just one of different options. If your case does not fit the service they provide, they should honestly refer you elsewhere.

And truly helpful companies will do just that for both reasons of integrity and marketing reasons. Marketing reasons?

Yes. This is the first element of deciding whether to make the call or fill out the form: Reviews. Nowadays, every large company has a trail of consumer reviews to check. So if they aren't built to solve your type of case yet they sell you their service anyway, you'll be disgruntled, and you'll disgruntle over on Yelp or Trust Pilot! They don't want that, so they'd be smart to say "That's not our specialty," when appropriate.

It's also important to look at how they respond to negative reviews. (Understanding that some negative reviews are written by consumers that were just out of their minds and unrealistic.)

The second thing you must know before you make the phone call or fill out the form:

What is this debt relief company's specialty? Are they a debt management program? Do they contest debts and settle them? Are they a lending company that will offer consolidation?

You should familiarize yourself with the different solutions out there, and see where you fit into the mix. You can do this in a few minutes by utilizing our Debt Planner-Credit Card Calculator. Based on your results, you should choose the company that offers the most promising solution.

You can shop around, and take numerous free consultations before you sign on the dotted line (if you choose to).

The third thing to do before claiming your free debt consultation:

Write out the five most important questions you have. When you are the one in charge of the call, it will not become a sales call. It will remain a true advice session with give-and-take. If you feel that the counselor is listening to you and really grasping your debt life, then it is certainly worth it.

Among the questions you should ask are probing questions to understand exactly what they do. Challenging questions, where you share your doubts. Honesty questions, where you ask them to volunteer the weaknesses in their programs. Make sure you get a realistic assessment from your counselor.

You should finish the call with greater knowledge than you started it, and with actionable things that you have learned. A sales call is not necessarily evil, as long as the counselor provides valuable information and is transparent about what they offer.

So now we understand how to make a free debt consultation work for you

The free consultation is standard marketing. It's nothing to be afraid of. What's most important is that the company is trustworthy, and that the consultation will give you true value. You will achieve this by doing your homework before you call, planning your questions, and understanding where it fits into the marketing mix.

And remember! It is a free consultation. The moment you feel uncomfortable, push that little button that ends the call. But reputable companies don't want you to do that, so they will make sure that you get what you are looking for. Then you will recommend them, and everybody wins!

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