How you can stop being scared of losing prospective new clients

Nov 23, 2021 | Accountants, Business messaging and branding, Marketing and promotion, Sole practitioners, Websites

Many accountants appear to approach the idea of finding new clients with conflicted emotions. If you do this you are probably making life harder for yourself than it needs to be.

On the one hand your website and marketing activities try to promote you and your firm as able to act for a wide range of clients. The more the better. This is best exemplified by the email sign off I have seen some accountants use and that pleads for unspecified referrals – to anyone for anything.

On the other hand you are worried that there may not be many prospective clients who actually want to engage you as their accountant.

I first heard this latter concern a while back when it was described by marketing guru, Ian Brodie as a fear of ‘client scarcity’. He says:

“It comes from a mindset of having a shortage of leads and not wanting to lose a single one. Of maximising your chances of converting every lead because they’re in short supply. And it’s very time consuming”.

I agree with this and I see it a lot with accountants both in larger firms and especially among the sole practitioners whom I mentor.

You end up spending time talking (or giving ‘free initial consultations’) to lots of people who aren’t perfect for you because you don’t want to miss out on the one who is. It’s a process that only works well in a world where you have plenty of time but very few leads.

Ian’s thinking here has echoes of advice I have long provided to accountants who want to stand out and to be more successful. Indeed it should resonate more with those accountants who are not desperately seeking new clients all the time.

Many accountants have ‘good enough’ client bases. They generate ‘good enough’ fees and provide a ‘good enough’ living. They only lose the odd client each year and generally win a couple of new ones to make up for this. Although these random new clients may not be ideal, at least they were no trouble to win over.

If you have greater clarity as to what makes for an ideal client you can afford to be more choosy when you get approached by prospects who may not fit. Why give these strangers the benefit of your time for free? Shouldn’t you be focusing on existing profitable clients? On your personal growth and development? And on encouraging new prospects who meet your preferred criteria?

Here are two things you could do – the first of which I have advocated in many previous blog posts:

1 – Ensure your website makes clear your area of expertise and specialisation (eg: your niche); and
2 – Avoid the generic ‘we’ll charge a fair fee and tell you what this will be after we’ve spoken’

Why not, instead, provide some more positive and proud indication of your fees on your website?

Many of the firms that do this are those looking to charge lower fees than their competitors for packaged services. This can work of course.

But, assuming you prefer to charge premium fees, what if you had the courage to be clear as to the minimum fee that you look to earn from new clients?

What if your website supported your marketing and your networking efforts to attract a specific type of client? What if your website made clear your client contract – ie: what clients need to promise if they want you to be their accountant?

Such an approach would, as Ian Brodie says:

“Scare off anyone who wasn’t perfect for you (and in the process attract people who were perfect)”.

To an extent this is the approach I took when creating the website. We make clear that there is nothing there for anyone seeking free tax advice. The website and members of the Tax Advice Network help visitors (be they the public or accountants) firm “tax advice worth paying for”.

Adopting this level of clarity as regards the type of client you most want to work with means you shouldn’t have to sell 1-2-1. You could genuinely focus instead on how you could help each (ideal) prospective client. No more trying to persuade anyone that you’re the right accountant for them. No more trying to ‘establish value’ during face to face meeting. That would be done long before the prospect ever spoke to you. They’d establish it for themselves.

And if you lost a few leads along the way that you could have converted with a lot of effort – so what? Plenty more fish in the sea.

I would add that you could reasonably conclude that those prospective new clients that you lose by adopting such an approach would not have been ideal for you anyway.

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