4 Reasons to Have a New Client Checklist
In July 2015, our team at Polymath, LLC realized we needed a better way to triage the onslaught of new client inquiries we were receiving. There were more calls coming in than our small bookkeeping firm could service, and many of the inquiries were not a good fit for us. Previously, we had been offering a 1-hour free initial consultation to anyone that asked for one, but we soon realized that this was no longer sustainable.
Many of these potential clients were just seeking some quick, free advice, or looking for training on how to do their own books. Others were desperate for immediate assistance on projects they had put off for months or years, wanting to make their emergency our emergency, whenever the IRS came calling. While we used to be happy to provide those services in the past, we were looking to shift our routine toward deeper, more long-term relationships with our clients. We found that we were spending almost as much time meeting with potential clients as we were with our current clients, and our current clients needed more attention from us. Something needed to shift.
We started a client onboarding system that began with having each inquiry fill out our New Client Questionnaire on our website. Any time we received a call from a potential client, we let them know that filling out this form was the first step in developing a relationship with Polymath.
This served us in several ways; the key benefits included the following:
1. We got to see from the start if the client was going to follow through. We were tired of chasing down clients who were not coachable and not going to follow through. We cannot love their business more than they do, and we do not believe in exhausting ourselves to "make a sale." For us, a good relationship begins with knowing that the client is ready to show up to their own game, and filling out our online document is the first test.
2. We got to learn, outside of the conversation, what the client is looking for, and discuss as a team what our next step would be before making any decisions. Does the client have a big cleanup project that we need to budget time around? Are they currently working with or interested in switching to our preferred software platform? What is their industry and location? How passionate do they feel about their business? These are all important things for us to know before having a logistical conversation with the potential client. By receiving the information in an impartial format, we can review it as a team and find out where our intuition is pointing before responding.
3. We bought ourselves some time. We already knew that we weren't interested in working with the clients that procrastinated and now need their work done yesterday. Those clients don't even bother to fill out the form. For the ones that do fill it out, when we first reply to them, we let them know that we currently have a waiting list that is several months out, and we find out how serious they are about working with us. The best relationships are the ones who really want to work with US, not the ones just looking for a bookkeeper. Then, we are able to start the conversation with this potential client, knowing that they aren't wasting our time by shopping around.
4. We eliminated the price conversation. Often, the first question a potential client has is, "What is your hourly rate?" If that is the first thing asked, we already know that they aren't a fit. We're not looking to be the least expensive for our clients; we are looking to have the best value for their needs. We are looking for clients that are looking for RESULTS. The clients who fill out our form have already been impressed by our system, and they are already envisioning the positive impact that working with us may have on their business. Price now only gets discussed at the end of the initial consultation appointment, once we know we are a good fit and the client sees our value.
With these pieces in place, we have really cut down on the amount of time we are spending on conversations with clients that are not a fit for our firm. We have gotten much more clear with ourselves on what we look for in a client relationship, and WHY.
It has also enabled us to more effectively point business owners in the direction best suited for their needs right away, which saves them time and allows us to help them in other ways than just taking them on as a client. Referring the client to another professional that is a better fit lets us provide quick, effective assistance to both the client and that referral ally, enabling us to serve our greater vision by helping more small businesses thrive, including our accounting colleagues.
A Good Fit Makes a Great Client
We hope that by sharing our onboarding process, we can help your firm thrive, too! Click here to see the checklist on my website; you may want to customize something like this for your own needs.