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Some accountants only get to see the odd new prospect every now and then. I assume however that winning more clients of the type you want is one of the things that would help you feel your practice is more successful.
This is week 14 of Mark Lee’s 52 week Successful Practice Pack.
As you know the course addresses 4 themes: Clients, Happiness, Systems and Development.
Back to Hearts/Happiness this week and ensuring that you are well placed to convert new leads into clients who will pay you the fees you seek to earn for the work you do. We last considered the related topic of what fee levels make you happy and how to secure these in week ten’s email.
The basic idea
Whether you are still building up a practice or you are simply seeking to tweak things, it’s not fun being turned down by a prospective client. So I’m sure you’re happier when they say ‘yes’.
Why have you not been successful to date?
This is another of those topics that often comes up in my 1-2-1 mentoring/coaching sessions. There’s rarely a quick fix. But there is invariably a way to turn things around.
Possible factors include:
Environment – where you meet, the conditions, the ease of access;
Your manner – a failure to establish rapport (which we addressed last week);
The prospect’s situation – seeking a different style of service, more expertise, cashflow issues, different or lower fees;
Your terms of business – fee levels, what’s included/excluded and payment terms;
The wrong people are approaching you – either you don’t really want them as clients or they realise that you’re not the sort of accountant they want.
You may have a good feel as to what has gone wrong in the past. Or you may be just guessing. Do you ever ask? If not, why not? What are you afraid of hearing? The truth? OR, are you making assumptions that could be far of the mark? Unless you or someone asks, you’ll never really know.
Are you taking too much responsibility or alternatively are you assuming there’s nothing you can or need to do differently. That would be somewhat arrogant and probably means you’ll not gain much from this email. Also we probably shouldn’t work together 1-2-1.
Be more choosy
I’m not about to repeat what I suggested in previous weeks about being careful who you meet (week 13), targeting (week 5) or niching (week 9). In the context of converting leads I am suggesting that you adequately pre-qualify prospects and avoid wasting any time on random strangers whom you wouldn’t want to have as clients.
Think about those clients you have whom you don’t like. What do they have in common? Can you identify whether a prospect shares any of those qualities before you meet them or send them a fee proposal? You are under no obligation to agree to work for everyone who approaches you.
Ok, so they approached you direct so it’s taken little effort on your part. But do you really want to take on another ‘duff’ client rather than make some effort to find more of the clients you like and enjoy working with?
Assuming you are meeting genuine prospects:
- Meet with them at their place of business or somewhere you know that is tidy and clean (unless you think this will put them off for some reason).
- Use a planned agenda such as the one I provided last week.
- Find out what are their real issues and what outcomes they want. What factors will influence their decision? Are you to be their first accountant or are they moving from someone else? If so, why? Is it just about price? REALLY??
- Show you care and reference (unnamed) clients who had similar issues or concerns and how good they feel about now having you as their accountant.
- Make the idea of having you as their accountant so much more appealing than going elsewhere. This is easier to say than to get right. Especially as you cannot do this until you know sufficient about the prospect. There’s no point talking about your Rolls Royce service when someone only wants to buy a Smart Car level of service.
- Record prospect meetings using an app on your smartphone and review the recordings to learn from your mistakes. Also so that you can note down and reuse the good stuff you say.
- Use a practice mentor or coach to learn, practice and rehearse how you handle prospect meetings and discussions. You can do this over the phone, skype or, ideally, face to face.
One key tip
Oh how I wish I’d done this more often when I was in practice. You haven’t lost a prospect until they say ‘no’.
Ideally you will determine their intentions when you speak or meet with them. Before doing so you can ask whether they are the sole decision maker. Perhaps it is (or could become) your standard practice to meet with all key decision makers rather than just one? That’s not always feasible of course. But you do need to know who it is so you can ask when a decision will be made and to indicate that if any further clarification is required you would be happy to provide it.
Follow up by email after the meeting or the call anyway. Repeat key points and any clarification you think is required.
Set reminders to ensure you follow up again after a few days and again every few days. Do not just send emails. Call occasionally. You are a professional and you know how busy people sometimes don’t get around to non-urgent emails. Your aim is to help them. Equally if they don’t want your services please would they let you know (and why not)?