Most accountants are poor at sales. They are often not trained in sales skills, and any that they may have picked up will probably have atrophied during the years of technical training prior to their accepting client and prospect development responsibilities. The only consolation is that the competition’s practice development skills are just as rudimentary.
So what do you do when a prospect comes to you for a quote, and then uses your proposal as a lever to gain concessions from his present accounting firm? Here are three possible approaches:
Put your cards on the table and explain the situation candidly. Explain that you understand that it is difficult to break a long-term relationship, but point out how your firm that brought tax solutions and advantages to the prospect, not their present accountant. Explain that the prospect will receive everything you offer, and that they are paying for everything you have told them.
Offer a guarantee
If you sense the prospect is close to signing, you can offer him something his present accountant will not – a guarantee. Tell him you will do 90 days’ work for his business. You will send him invoices, but he should ignore them for 90 days. At the end of this period, if he is happy with what you have done for him he pays in full; if not, he pays what he thinks you are worth.
If the prospect is particularly stubborn, suggest that he put himself in your position. Suppose he is a landscaper who does contract work. He goes to a contractor and makes an offer far superior to a competitor, but the contractor says ‘That’s certainly a good offer, but I feel I ought to give my existing landscaper a chance to match it’. ‘How would you feel? What would you do?’
If these approaches doesn’t convince the prospect, you may have to leave him for a while. Come back in six months, because by then it is almost certain that his satisfaction with his present accountant will have started to wane again.
To protect yourself from your clients soliciting proposals to use as leverage against you, make it clear to them that if there is anything they are not completely happy with they should contact you immediately, and you will take care of it. Remember, it is when the client becomes dissatisfied that he starts to look around for alternatives.