When you meet a prospect for the first time, they have no idea who you are. It’s important to lay out a foundation of trust. A few key elements in that first initial phone call will go a long way. There are five steps you can take, as an accountant or bookkeeper, to go from a warm lead to a long-term client relationship.
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Step one: Create a strong introduction
The best way to introduce yourself is with your elevator pitch: “Hi, I am John Smith. I am the owner of Accountant Company. Due to my credentials, I can secure you the best price for accounting software. I will introduce you to different support options, in case you decide one is needed to help you along your journey.” You should write your elevator speech out and practice it. It should take less than a minute and grab someone’s attention.
Step two: Listen
After the introductions, you want to dive in and understand what the client needs. You can show that you are interested in gaining their business by mentioning that you visited their website. A good rule of thumb is to verify what you gleaned from the website by confirming the industry they are in. Never assume anything.
At this stage, you will be listening to their needs and taking note of their pain points. Find out where they are today and what they envision their future to look like. Getting to the root of the problems by discovering pain points is where the opportunities are for you – as an expert accountant – to solve the problems. Be sure to take lots of notes.
Step three: Present solutions
Once you have uncovered some of their issues, you can discuss possible solutions. It’s important to set client expectations here, and avoid under promising and over delivering. There are times when you might need to bring in additional experts to solve the problems correctly. Explain what this process may look like. When you can, be sure to reference other projects you have worked on to call out some of the potential pitfalls. For example, “QuickBooks can do this process, but it’s important to set it up properly in the beginning because a bad workflow will not give you accurate reports and cause frustration later.”
Step four: Quoting the project
At this point, the client may be impressed with what you have said so far and be ready to work with you. However, they may not fully understand how much consulting time their project will take.
It’s extremely important to articulate a clear scope of work, outlining all their needs. To keep the communication flowing, be sure to review this scope over the phone or video conference to make sure everyone agrees on the scope. Try not to apply a fee to the quote until everything is outlined. These quotes may take some trial and error to set up, which is part of the process. The customer will be much more receptive to a fixed price, rather than a per-hour quote.
The customer may ask for testimonials to verify you are qualified to do the work. Be ready to provide updated references. If this is an existing QuickBooks client and you are trying to sell tax services, you can do a data analysis review, invest a set number of hours in reviewing their current file structure, and recommend areas that need improvement. You can bill the client for these smaller projects. The range for this service depends on the amount of time you will invest in the project, the quality of the report, and the willingness of the prospect to pay for the analysis. This option allows the client a chance to get to know your quality of work without making a huge investment.
Step five: Determine if the client is a good fit for your expertise
The key is to build a rapport with the prospect or strengthen your relationship with a current client. If, at any point during the discovery process, you feel like you are in over your head, be honest. Try to find someone else to assist or take over the project. Remember, you can’t be an expert in everything, and it’s important to build your team with others that can complement you. If you decide to have another expert take over, it’s a good idea to stay close to the project to ensure the customer has a great experience.
Last but not least, there are times when you have to listen to your gut. When a prospect is very demanding and does not appreciate the value of the services you are providing, there are times when you need to simply decline the project and let them know that you are not a good fit.
It’s time to close
You can create a good experience for a potential client by listening to their needs, and demonstrating your expertise by offering solutions to their problems. Remember to provide examples of similar clients you have worked with and the similar issues you helped them solve. These discussions will naturally build trust with a new client and win their business. Set yourself up for success in the long term by establishing strong relationships. They will come back to you when they need help.
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This article originally appeared on the Firm of the Future site by Carrie Kahn.
Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.