As a professional accountant, you want to keep your business growing. But how do you add more clients without becoming overwhelmed? And how do you acquire new clients as quickly as possible? One way is to add consulting to the repertory of services you offer. As a consultant, you diversify your customer base, which stands you in good stead if any one area of your practice lags behind. In addition, you position yourself as an expert in your field, which may allow you to increase your billable rates. Getting consulting clients can be a speedy process (and it doesn’t have to be difficult) if you track and follow up with potential clients systematically, while also offering new services to place your brand in front of a new clientele.
How to Get Consulting Clients Fast—A Strategic Approach
If you’re planning on reaching out to new potential clients as expeditiously as possible, begin your campaign by developing a tracking system to make follow-up easy. Start by creating a spreadsheet to maintain all the information on your potential clients. As you make a list of people to contact, other names are likely to occur to you. Keeping all the information about them in one place—including contact info, all your notes about your contacts and attempted contacts, and their responses—lets you understand the status of your relationship at a glance.
Many people who use this system discover that they can expect to land one meeting with a prospective client for every 10 people they contact. That means that if you plan on contacting a minimum of 10 potential clients per day, you can expect to land one actual meeting (and, hopefully, one actual client). If your numbers fall below this 10% figure, take a look at what you’re doing to see if you’re communicating clearly. If you net more than 10%, you’re doing great and should keep on doing whatever you’re doing. Because you can track your successes, you can make adjustments on the fly to speed up the process even further.
Determining your market niche helps you strategize smartly about who to approach as prospective clients. By highlighting very specific services—such as helping new businesses get off the ground or working with businesses of, say, $3 million in revenue to help them expand—you can target prospective clients most effectively.
How to Get Consulting Clients Through Workshops and Seminars
People like to hire experts as consultants. You can prove your expertise by putting on educational workshops and seminars for your existing clients. Choose topics that let you truly shine, whether you specialize in tax accounting, forensic accounting or some other branch of your field. When you encourage your clients to invite people who might benefit from your seminars (for free, of course), you gain in several ways. First, those guests are being introduced to your services by someone they trust, so they’re likely to approach you with trust and respect. Your existing clients are also giving you a tacit endorsement by attending your seminar and inviting guests. Finally, you have an opportunity to meet prospective clients in a non-pressure setting and to collect their contact information.
After your seminar, of course, you want to add those guests to your spreadsheet as potential clients for follow up—and you’re more likely to get a positive response. Because you’ve added so many new prospects to your spreadsheet at once time, you speed up your continuing process of contacting and deepening relationships with leads.
The Value of Offering Advisory Services
Workshops and seminars aren’t your only options for reaching out to a wider client base. Consider expanding the accounting services you offer into the advisory services realm to demonstrate how valuable you are as a consultant. Perhaps you could move into helping clients who are developing new products’ cost out of their rate and distribution process, or you can establish yourself as a financial expert ready to help businesses with their expansion plans. You could also start offering risk management services that include a thorough review of clients’ portfolios. Long-term planning and succession planning services can be of great value to corporate or high-net-worth clients.
As you expand your line of services in this way, you make yourself more valuable as a consultant. Start by marketing these new services to your existing clients, and follow up by asking for referrals to prospective clients who might be able to use these services. Each time you reach out in this way, add the new names and other information to your consulting spreadsheet to track all your interactions.
Following Up With Potential Clients
As you accumulate the names of prospective clients through workshops, offering additional advisory services, referrals from your current clients, and other means, you need a method of following up with them. All the interest you’ve generated isn’t going to do your accounting practice much good if you never move beyond the initial contact.
Follow up by responding immediately to anyone who shows interest after your initial contact. If you give yourself a deadline of 24 hours maximum to respond to a prospective client, you show that person that you’re attentive to their needs and can be counted on for reliable follow-through. You also benefit yourself by keeping up the momentum in working your way through your prospect spreadsheet.
Your response should be a pitch for your consulting and accounting services. If you focus on how you can make clients’ lives easier and their businesses more successful, you’re likely to see your new leads show real interest. If you get to the point of discussing your rates, don’t feel you have to cut your rates at all. After all, these prospective clients are coming to you because you are an expert in your field, so they are likely to expect to pay top dollar.
How to Adjust Your Approach, If You’re Not Gaining Clients
If you’ve reached out through these various methods and don’t see the kind of response you hoped for, step back to see where you may need to make some adjustments to your strategy. You may need to change your tactics in any of the following ways:
- If you’ve reached out to a lot of people but your response rate is lower than 10%, the content that you’re offering may not be appealing to your potential clients—which means you should change your sales pitch
- If you don’t have a lot of responses, but you do see a high rate of people signing on as clients from the few responses you have, you may be reaching out to the wrong people and need to explore new avenues toward collecting leads
- If a lot of people are responding, but you’re not signing clients, you may not be offering the kinds of consulting services that people actually need—or you may not be doing the best possible job at conveying what you’re offering
In any of these cases, make the appropriate adjustments, asking for feedback from colleagues and existing clients, if necessary. Trial and error should show you how to adjust your outreach to keep increasing your roster of consulting clients.
Retaining Your New Clients
Understanding how to get consulting clients and putting your strategy into practice is just the first half of your task in building the advisory services side of your accounting business. As you gather new consulting clients, it’s important to do what’s needed to retain them as clients. Go out of your way to understand what they need, and deliver the kind of service and advice that exceeds their expectations. If you’re unable to retain your new consulting clients, you’re not likely to gain the kind of word-of-mouth needed to help your new consulting business grow even further.
The growing marketplace for consultants offers an open door for experienced accountants looking to expand their practices. Collaborate with clients, stay on track and grow your firm with QuickBooks Online Accountant. Sign up for free.