You may be caught between wanting new clients and feeling trepidation about signing them up. You might even be beating yourself up about it. Of course, I want a new business. So why do I feel so uncomfortable closing the deal? And how do so many other practitioners find it so unflinchingly easy?
I’m one of those practitioners who finds it a painless process, but that wasn’t always true. I used to have a fear of sales, and essentially when we convert a prospect to a client, that’s what we’re doing – we’re closing a sale.
There are two key things we need to do to get more comfortable with client conversions, and they’re both psychological. One addresses what’s going on in our minds, and the other gets into the heads of our prospects.
First, we need to let go of any negative associations we have with sales, such as a belief that all salespeople are pushy or dishonest. The fact is, you and I are selling services that are going to make our prospects’ lives better. If we believe in our ability to help, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re doing good work.
Second, we need to get the prospect eager to work with us before they even walk into our office, thereby eliminating the need for us to “sell” them at all. There’s no pressure to do a tap dance and convince the prospect how wonderful we are when they walk in holding a pen and asking, “I’m ready, where do I sign?” Well, that might not be exactly what happens (although you never know). However, you can prime the prospect so that a hard sell is completely unnecessary. Here’s a step-by-step process that will make you feel completely at ease every time you ask a prospect to sign on the dotted line:
Step 1: Gather Information
When the prospect first reaches out to your practice, have the receptionist or administrator conduct a brief preliminary interview. Questions should include why they want to meet with you and what their relationship is like with their current CPA. This will help you decide which details about your services to highlight, making sure the prospect knows that you provide what he or she needs, including items their current CPA may not.
Step 2: Set the Appointment
Have your receptionist or administrator set the prospect’s appointment with you for the following week, at least 5-7 days later. This gives you time to prime them with information about you and your practice.
Step 3: Mail Priming Information
Send a packet of information to the prospect right away, ensuring they have plenty of time to read it before meeting with you. The packet should be as thick and generous as possible. The idea is to impress them. Provide them with as much information as possible that you believe will get them thinking favorably about you, and possibly filling some gaps where their current CPA may be coming up short. Some things you might include:
- A special report that you’ve written or, even better, a copy of your book (if you’ve authored one) so they will fully appreciate the amount of expertise you bring
- Bios and photos of everyone on your team, so they can see how well-served they will be by working with you
- Written testimonials by happy clients, so they can see that you have an excellent track record, thereby giving them instant confidence in you
- A few sample copies of your print newsletter (if you publish one), so they can see the added value you bring to your clients
- Copies of articles you’ve written for local newspapers or industry journals, again, demonstrating your expertise
- Copies of any articles that have been written about you or quoted you, showing how well-regarded you are.
- Copies of your most informative blog posts (if you publish a blog)
Step 4: Include an Application
Be sure to include an application in your mailing packet. This will send a subtle message that you are selective about who you do business with, and will likely stir the prospect’s inner competitive spirit, making them want to be “chosen” (as opposed to choosing you).
Step 5: Get to Know Them
When finally meeting with the client, start with a focus on him or her, not on your firm. Review the application to get to know more about them, and ask questions like What are your revenues? What are your goals for this year, for the next five and ten years? What books do you like to read? What are your biggest challenges? Listen carefully and take notes. (Notice, you’re not doing any “selling.) Finally, recap the notes you’ve taken to confirm that you have an accurate picture of their needs.
Step 6: Talk Differences
Now is when you can safely devote some time to talking about your practice. Focus on educating the prospect about all the ways your firm is different from the competition. This won’t feel like blatant selling because you’ll be discussing the aspects of your practice that give the prospect a real advantage. So while you’re talking about the practice, you’re also talking about the prospect and how you can help them in ways others can’t. This step also does some advance work to help you during the next step.
Step 7: Present Packages
Here is where you will explain your different services packages and their fees. In the event that the prospect objects to a fee or argues that another CPA is cheaper, you can easily point back to the differences you highlighted in the previous step. You’ve already made the case for what makes your practice different and better than the rest. You can use that case to justify higher fees. The prospect gets more for their money.
Step 8: The Dotted Line
Here is where you will ask the prospect which package they prefer, then get their signature and payment. Ta-da! You’ve just signed up a new client – comfortably!
Step 9: Completion of Paperwork
Let your new client know that he or she should expect a call from the firms’ office manager who will guide them through the retrieval of paperwork. This part of the process can easily be delegated, so you should, freeing up your time for tasks that require executive-level attention.
Step 10: Schedule Orientation Meeting
Have your office manager schedule an orientation meeting, bringing them officially into the workflow, further strengthening the relationship and making them a referring lifer.
While signing up a new client is a form of selling, it doesn’t have to make you sweat. Not when you get your own head in the right place and get your client “sold” on your practice before they walk through your door. By following my ten-step process, you’ll become one of those unflummoxed practitioners who welcomes new business with an easy, genuine smile.