I don’t believe in taking on just any client in my CPA firm. And you shouldn’t have to, either.
It’s true, I believe in demographically defining your client, and then targeting that specific client with your marketing and advertising efforts. But not every prospect who fits your “ideal” profile at first blush will ultimately be right for your firm.
Not too long ago, I was introduced to a prospect. Initially, he gave every appearance of being precisely the type of client I was targeting. He was the owner of several chiropractic offices in Central New Jersey, and his wife owned a spa.
The prospect and his wife entered my office for their appointment and promptly began chewing my ear off with gripes about the bad economy and how badly it was affecting their businesses. But in spite of their recent struggles, they seemed to think they knew everything. They were quick to throw out numbers, trying to impress me with how well they tracked their business financials.
Now I’ll be honest with you – I can’t stand a “know-it-all” attitude. It always rubs me the wrong way.
In my experience, a know-it-all client is one who doesn’t take and follow advice well. And that’s not the kind of client I want. I want a client who objectively listens to me and act on the advice what I give them.
After asking my prospects a few pointed questions, I uncovered some details about their big-shot financial system. There was little substance and too much fluff. And the numbers they did have were in a state of complete disarray. They’d been consistently late in filing their income tax returns. They’d paid several thousand dollars in penalties and interest. And now, they were looking for an accounting firm that would provide them with services at a deeper discount.
I disengaged. I told them flat-out that my firm was not the right fit for them.
With that simple decision, I saved myself and my staff lots of potential heartache and trouble.
Nowadays, I prequalify my prospects. Each one gets a questionnaire they must fill out and either send to me ahead of our meeting, or bring it with them.
I use my prequalification questionnaire to interview the prospect and understand whether or not they’re right for The Omar Group. Sometimes they’re not.
It’s vital to clearly understand what types of people you want for clients. But it’s equally important to know which types you don’t want. Once you’re clear, come up with a process to prevent any “bad apples” from slipping in.
Feel free to adopt the idea of a prequalification questionnaire for your firm. Here are some questions you might include:
- How did you hear about us?
- How long have you been in business?
- What is your current legal structure?
- What tools do you use for recordkeeping (e.g. accounting software, manual accounting, etc.)?
- How many employees do you have and how do you process payroll?
- What were your revenues and net profit for 2011?
- We would like to find out more about your current team of experts – accountant, financial advisor, attorney and business coach. How would you rate each?
- What do you like about your existing relationship with each, and what is not working?
- What are your top business goals for this year?
- What are the three biggest challenges you face as a business owner?
Want to immunize your CPA practice against recession? Join me for a powerful two-day event in Elizabeth, New Jersey on October 27th & 28th, 2012. Learn more and register here.