#RecipeForSuccess: How to Engage the Right Clients for Your Firm Using Exclusive Onboarding
Are you looking to shift your practice toward deeper, more long-term relationships with your clients? Are you tired of spending almost as much time meeting with potential clients as you are with your current clients? Here is your #RecipeForSuccess!
What is a #RecipeforSuccess? It’s a campaign that provides key ingredients and steps for accounting pros and their small business clients to achieve success. Search “recipe” on this site for similar articles.
Master Chef: Ingrid Edstrom, Polymath LLC
- Good boundaries
- Solid communication
- New client questionnaire
- Initial consultation
- Engagement letter
- Client discovery process
Step 1: Combine good boundaries, solid communication and self-awareness to create your ideal client archetype. In order to find your ideal clients, you must first know who you are looking for. What software do you love best? What workflows work best for you? Do you have a preferred industry that you get super nerdy about? Which clients do you communicate with most effectively, and what do those clients have in common? How about pet peeves? Are there things that some of your clients have done in the past that you would not tolerate if you could avoid it?
Write it all down. This is your ideal client archetype and it is the foundation of this recipe, just like the flour, salt and baking soda in biscuits. Note that your ideal client may change over time, as you and your firm evolve and change. That's OK! You can always continue to perfect this recipe to your taste.
Step 2: "Sift" your potential clients online through your new client questionnaire. Once you know who you are looking for, you can begin ensuring engagement with the right clients, using your new client questionnaire. After all, we don't want lumpy clients clogging up our workflows and giving us indigestion.
If you do not yet have a new client questionnaire to help you sift through your potential clients, here's an additional article on the importance of a high-quality sifter. You can also review this article for an example of a working questionnaire from Polymath.
Step 3: Combine your ingredients with your client's ingredients in the initial consultation. We all know that it takes two to tango. Our clients are holding a lot of the ingredients that we need in order to make something tasty together. It's a bit like "stone soup," where we all need to contribute something. The exciting part is that it's always a bit of an experiment, and it will turn out a little different every time. As accountants, we have the dry ingredients, and our clients have all the wet stuff, such as eggs, honey, vanilla and lemon juice. That's their vision, passion and dreams for their business. It's up to us to show them what amazing things can be created when we put all of our ingredients together.
You will continue to refine your palate as you meet with clients, and you will notice earlier and earlier when a relationship might be too tart, salty or dry for your tastes. Aim for the relationships that are robust, sweet and satisfying on every level. Don't push to close a sale when something doesn't taste right. If you do, you'll end up eating crow for dinner instead.
Here's a sample agenda for an initial consultation with you clients.
Step 4: Baking=follow up. You want to offer the right amount of time for your recipe to rise and get perfectly golden brown. Constantly opening the oven can cause your cake to fall, and leaving it alone too long will set off your smoke alarm. Some clients are ready to jump into an engagement with you right away during your consultation. Others need a moment to reflect on your discussion, or to have a conversation with their spouse or partner.
If the potential client needs time, give it to them. Don't push to close the sale. This is fine cuisine, not fast food. We are focusing on high-quality, long-term relationships, and those are worth exercising some patience. Keep in mind that taking a step back can also help you to notice if something feels off to you. How is the client's communication? Are they following up in a reasonable amount of time, or are you already having to chase them down? We're working with delicate ingredients, and if it turns out that the client brought spoiled eggs to your initial consultation, you'll start to smell it after a day. Trust your senses. You can always refer them to the accountant down the street that specializes in pickled eggs.
Step 5: Set the table. Things are smelling good! Before you can eat, you need to make sure you have the proper tools in place so that you don’t get burned. At Polymath, we use Practice Ignition to serve our engagement letter to our clients on a silver platter. The team at Practice Ignition helped us set it all up. It even processes the payments from our clients and integrates with QuickBooks® Online!
Your first engagement with your new client will be for the discovery process, which is our next step.
Step 6: Taste testing. Before you gorge yourself and order a full year's supply of this new relationship, let's ensure that it's going to be one of your favorite foods. That is what the client discovery process is for. Similar to step 3, it takes two to tango. It may turn out that your client has different tastes than you, and it's best to find that out now rather than later, when you have committed to a project that has you feeling bloated.
Your discovery process is a service worth paying for, as it offers useful information to the client that will ensure that they have everything they need to make an educated business decision about their next steps in your relationship. This will also help you to determine how price sensitive your client may or may not be before entering into a longer term engagement. Price sensitivity can be like buying that amazing-looking box of cookies just to discover that it contains an ingredient you are allergic to. It's much better to take a small bite and ensure you don't react before eating the whole thing in one sitting.
Step 7: Bon Appétit!
Your exclusive onboarding process is a constantly evolving recipe that you will continue to perfect for years to come. The more you specialize in the client relationships that are most rewarding for you, the more your clients and your firm will thrive. After all, that's what happens when you are eating healthy foods that you enjoy!