JPWF - Handshake - Finding great clients

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How to prospect and discover great accounting clients, without losing your mind - JPWF

"Treat all prospects like 5-star prospects and add value constantly. With that said, be sure to have a qualification process in place as well! " - David Cristello

You’ll find many firms and salesmen to do the inverse of the above i.e. "Treat everyone like they aren’t 5-star prospects until they prove they are, then target them." Having various friends spend time working in the service industry, I tend to generously tip waiters even with average service.

One evening, a friend and I were dining out in a national chain. Our waitress, unfortunately, acted very aloof, sighing with simple requests and slow to refill a glass. This wouldn’t upset us that much except right next to our table were a pair of men dressed in nice suits and shined shoes. With them, she was laughing, carrying on, refilling if the glass dropped below the lip of the cup and more.

We were not in suits but in plain street clothes. She treated us like 1-star prospects. Perhaps if we pulled out a fancy watch or purse, her attitude would change…we’d suddenly become 5-star.

Wrong.

With new clients in a firm, it’s easy to judge a prospect before you even sit down and start the discussion. You have other clients to speak with, phone calls to return, Chamber of Commerce events to attend. It’s easy to overlook prospects based on: look, age, reviews online, hearsay etc.

Instead of going in with preconceived notions that are damaging, follow these rules to treat them as 5-star prospects until they prove they are not. Also, how to tell if a prospect shows signs of being a great accounting client or someone you DO NOT want to work with.

Listen First, Respond Later:

Your first goal with any prospect is to listen. Typically, an accounting client isn’t just looking for tax returns and bookkeeping. They usually want more and it’s your job to dissect those needs and make sure your firm is the right fit for them. Prospects will normally not know what they need, you must educate them.

Treat them as someone who is already a client, as if they are already paying you. It changes the mindset and tone of the conversation instead of a “sales pitch.”

*Warning Signs of a Future Difficult Client: They fired their last firm due to growing fees, their old firm fired them for various reasons, their first question is about fees and not their issues, asking for a discount right away.

Provide Value Upfront:

With taxes and finance, you’d be surprised of how many wealthy individuals don’t understand the basics and how their taxes and money should be managed. It’s up to you to educate them right away (for Free) as a way to bridge the “trust gap” as well as showing your firm’s first priority is to help, not sell.

Initial meetings should be strategic, but also, more importantly, not a time-burner. This first meeting will show you how much the prospect will value your time and you have the opportunity to show them how valuable your service and expertise is.

*Warning Signs of a Future Difficult Client: They take a long time to make a decision on whether to work with your firm, they show up extra late (not valuing your time), they ask questions you already provided many answers to.

Be Enthusiastic with the First Initial Consultation

You’re going to have those days where you just want to shut out everything, put on some headphones and forget what’s going on. With new clients, they can sense in a heartbeat whether you are meeting them because you “want” to vs. “have” to.

Begin the meeting with a large smile, strong handshake and saying their name right back to them. The mood of the conversation forms its nucleus in the sentiment giving off. If you’re feeling the meeting is a waste of time, trust me, the client can sense it as well. Bill Clinton was famous for this, but it can work in sales pitches as well. He makes you feel as if you’re the most important person in the world when he talks to you.

You must do the same with prospects. Make them feel as if they are the most valuable prospect in the market.

*Warning Signs of a Future Difficult Client: The potential accounting client takes their time setting up the initial meeting, They look distracted while meeting, following up they don’t answer their messages, they are slow to set a meeting, you seem more excited about what to do with their money than they do.

Most Important Step: Are they your Target Market:

This is the first step , but we’ve left it for last. You must make sure this accounting client fits into your client demographic. Are they in your industry where your firm is the expert? Is there a minimum threshold for revenue they should be in? Are you geographically based?

You should be asking these types of qualifying questions early on with expectation they will be a good accounting client. At the same time, if they prove they aren’t in your target market, you simply shorten the meeting (so to respect both parties’ time) and directly let them know your firm isn’t a right fit. Typically, you should have some referrals to direct them to so as to be as helpful as possible.

*Warning Signs of a Future Difficult Client: They are disorganized and can’t give you straight answers to your qualifying questions, they are a lead from the Internet. In accounting, this isn’t as typical, but make sure you know 100% near the beginning of the consultation where they found you.

Every prospect deserves your respect and help. Listen early on and provide value right away. Treat them as a 5-star prospect until they prove otherwise.

What are your tips on determining whether or not an accounting client will be the right fit or not (rather than by comparison)?

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