Identifying a great client happens during the sales process, during those first few conversations with a prospect. This process helps determine if a potential client will be good to work with, profitable, and a strong fit for your firm. Follow these guidelines to learn how to find great clients to help grow your accounting business.
The Three Stages
There are three core stages during the sales process that are essential to assessing the quality of the fit between you and your client:
- Qualifying Business Attributes
During this stage, ask prospects about their business and see if it’s a fit for your practice. As you’re building your checklist, consider attributes such as business size (annual revenue, number of employees, type of revenue, volume of transactions), industry vertical, current workflow (organization level, comfort level with technology) and the prospect’s budget.
- Initial Assessment of Needs
The focus here is to understand the prospect’s pain points. This stage requires engaging in a deep conversation about how the prospect operates, including their current methods for invoicing & tracking expenses, their plan for growth, how they would define an ideal accounting or bookkeeping relationship, and the sorts of software tools they’d prefer, if any.
- Crafting a Solution and Presenting It to the Client
At this final stage, (a) the client has been assessed to be a good fit for your practice at the business level and (b) your practice is ready and excited to solve their needs. When presenting the proposal to the client, it starts to become clear how the client perceives their business advisor and whether they have the personal characteristics of a potentially great client. More on that below…
Key Characteristics of Great Clients
At Hubdoc, we’ve talked to thousands of accountants and bookkeepers about this and everyone has a different answer. Some say ‘right brain creatives’ are ideal clients because they’re happy to offload the numbers and calculations to someone who enjoys it. Others say, it doesn’t matter – clients can be data-driven, and as long as they know the difference between good books and sloppily completed books, they will be great.
The good news is there are common threads throughout this advice. The commonalities are clients who are:
Responsive, Respectful and Trusting
Any strong working relationship is based on trust and respect.
When talking through challenges faced by a client, see how they respond to opinions. If they’re asking questions in a respectful manner and want to better understand, that could be a sign of a great client. As part of this, identifying if they are responsive, engaged in the process and truly care about solving this need is a good leading indicator of their engagement levels later when you need them to send over bank statements, receipts, invoices or bills or you simply want to discuss their financials with them.
Expertise and Benefits-Focused
In the past, the hourly pricing model focused clients on cost, perhaps more than necessary. Now, value-based pricing removes a lot of that concern and enables accountants and bookkeepers to play more of the business advisor role. This is where they can drive the most value and clients who put stock in that expertise lay a strong foundation for a good working relationship.
Technology evolves quickly and the best clients are going to be ones who are comfortable with it. It means less client education and handholding. Many accountants and bookkeepers check for this by looking at the type of phone a potential client uses or the type of laptop. For example, if a prospect is using the latest iPhone, that might be a signal that they’re tech-savvy. A client being tech-friendly makes it a little easier; especially since creating a technology solution for their back-office is part of the process of getting them setup.
Applying these best practices will help you build your dream practice. By working with your ideal clients, you’ll not only enjoy your work more, but you’ll improve the level of happiness of your employees and generate more revenue with delighted clients.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. When you speak with prospective clients for the first time, what process do you follow and what have been the lessons learned? Would love to hear from you. Thanks!
About the Author
Jamie Shulman co-founded Hubdoc with his elementary school friend, Jamie McDonald. They had previously run and sold a software company. Jamie found it frustrating managing the back office of their previous company: continual questions from their bookkeeper, lots of paper documents, scanning and disorganization. He knew there had to be a better way to handle small business bookkeeping. That’s why he founded Hubdoc. Jamie is a recovering lawyer as well as repeat entrepreneur. He previously studied at Brown University, followed by obtaining his JD and MBA from the University of Toronto.