How to handle a new client enquiry: the definitive guide

There are a lot of steps involved when converting a lead to a client, and depending on how you handle these steps, you can make or break a relationship. In this article, we take a look at 'how to handle client enquiries' since this is the first step to making a good impression. What many accountants don't realise is that you need to streamline this process so that you can refine it and repeat it effortlessly. As you can imagine, this saves a lot of time and hassle for you and you appear very professional and organised to your new potential client. So here it is, how to handle client enquiries.

This article is based on content that we shared in a virtual masterclass on "How to handle a client enquiry." If you want to listen to the full recording, download it here for free

You need to have a solid sales process

The most important piece of advice I can give you if you want to know how to handle client enquiries is that you need to have a sales process in place. You can't just handle client enquiries as they come in, you need an organised workflow that you can follow from determining whether an enquiry is serious to converting that lead into a client. This is what your sales process should look like:

a speech bubble to represent a client initiating contact1. The lead initiates contact

Your sales process starts when the lead initiates contact with your firm. When we talk about a lead here, we mean someone who either emails you, phones you or walks in off the street. Someone who is specifically reaching out because they are interested in working with you; not someone who is signing up for your email newsletter or your event for the content or even a referral. These are prospects.

So, the sales process starts with a lead contacting you with an enquiry. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is to get their contact details. I'm talking about their landline number AND their mobile number. This is essential because people are more likely to respond, when you get to the follow-up stage, to a text message than an email or phone call that they can ignore.(If you need help with your sale process, download our sales process map for free here)

Read: 3 simple marketing strategies your accountancy firm can use to attract exactly the right sort of clients in turbulent times

a telephone to represent booking a call as the second step for how to handle client enquiries2. Book a pre-qualification call

Once you have their contact details in your sales funnel, the next thing you want to do is book a 10-minute pre-qualification call with them. The receptionist and anyone in your team can do this if you have a pre-qualification script that they can follow.

The aim of this call is to qualify your lead.  Are they actually ready and interested in moving forward? Will they be a good fit for your firm? Do they fit one of your client personas? (Download our free client persona template here) Are they the right type of client you want to work with? Do they use the right software? If you find that they are a match, then you can progress to the next step in the sales process (booking a discovery meeting). In the instance where they aren't a good fit for whatever reason, you should refer them on to another accountant.

When you are pre-qualifying your lead, you should use DUFF:

  • D - Decision maker - are you talking to the decision-maker? If there is another partner, you want to have both of them there at the meeting as they both need to say yes.
  • U - Urgency - when do they want to actually have changed accountant? If it is after their year-end, you need to know when that would be.
  • F - Funds - Do they have realistic expectations of what it will cost? Can they afford it?
  • F - Fit - Is there a good fit between the people you want to work with and who they are?

Note to Accountants Millionaires' Club members: you can use the pre-qualification script in the membership site and adapt it for your own purposes.

a meeting to represent step 3 for how to handle a client enquiry3. Book a discovery meeting (if they are a good fit)

The third step for how to handle client enquiries is booking a discovery meeting. That is if the client is a good fit for your firm. It also not as simple as just booking this in and meeting with the client, it's good practice to give them some pre-work to do first.

Before the meeting

  1. Give them pre-work

The best way to identify whether a lead is serious is to give them pre-work to do before the meeting. Ask them what they are trying to do and to send you copies of their business plan, their most recent year-end accounts and management accounts. Give them access to your cloud-based accounting system.

By doing both of these, you're not only weeding out the price-sensitive shoppers and people wanting free advice, but you're also doing some due diligence for yourself. From asking for this pre-work, you can then better understand the size of their business, what they are trying to do, and what state their accounts are in. You can also get an idea of how much they are already paying which will help you when it comes to quoting them.

As you can imagine, anyone who takes the time and effort to send you everything you need before the meeting IS a serious lead.

2. Chase them up

About 1 week before the meeting, you will need to chase up the pre-work that you need for the meeting if you haven't received it already. Around this time, you should also reconfirm the time, the venue, and agenda of the meeting, and give them directions to the meeting place or instructions for how to dial in if meeting virtually. You may even want to email over a 'potential new client pack' which shows them some templated sample reports for businesses that are similar to them.

The day before the meeting, you should check if the meeting is going ahead and if you plan on providing snacks, you should check any dietary requirements. Then, on the morning of the meeting, you should text them to say "look forward to meeting you."

What all these touchpoints do is, they give you the confidence that they still want to meet. While this chasing can be done via a client administrator, to the client, it makes a very good first impression. They are likely to be thinking, "if this is the way they look after you before you're a client, imagine how they will look after you when you are a client."

headphones to symbolise listening as a tip for how to handle client enquiriesDuring the meeting

When you finally meet with the lead, either face-to-face or virtually, you want to spend at least half of the meeting finding out about them. You should never go straight in with something such as, "okay, so you need your compliance sorted, that will be X," that's bad practice.

This discovery meeting needs to be a fact-find on them, what their personal goals are, what they are interested in, and how their business is going to help them achieve these goals. When you know and understand their emotional drivers, only then can you effectively 'sell' your firm and position yourself as their solution.

To get your clients to open up in this discovery meeting, it's important that you ask the right open-questions and really listen to their answers. Here are some essential questions to ask:

Open-questions to ask

  • What’s the biggest thing you are working on right now?
  • If there was one thing you could change that would make the biggest difference to you and your business, what would it be?
  • Which barriers are you facing right now?
  • What prompted you to go into business?
  • Is this how you envisioned running a business would be?
  • What do you believe that your business could do for you?

'Threat' and 'Impact' type questions to ask

  • What would happen if you couldn’t…  (e.g. fix your profitability)
  • How much would it cost you to ignore… 
  • What is the implication of not fixing…  (e.g. your sales and marketing)
  • How much would it be worth to you to fix this problem…

You need to really understand what is important to your lead to be able to sell the bigger and better services that you offer to them. Only when you have done this can you progress to the second half of the meeting. This is where you should talk about solutions (if they are ready) and if you settle on something that they would like agreed, you can even create a proposal and quote them in the meeting.

People do like to know how much it will cost (plus it's more effective if you quote in the moment to strike once the iron is hot). Just remember to use reliable tools such as Practice Ignition or GoProposal.

Note to Accountants Millionaires' Club members: you can use the prospect meeting script and/or proposal template which you can find in the membership site.

a phone with a note saying sign here to represent the final step for how to handle client enquiries4. Send the proposal and follow up

The final stages for how to handle client enquiries include creating and sending the proposal, and then following up with the lead until this is signed. Even if you created an example proposal within the meeting, it's always worth agreeing a time to go over the final proposal together

It's best if you can send over the proposal by the end of the day (to keep the momentum going), and then all that is left is following up. Follow up with the lead by email and then by phone if you still haven't heard. Hopefully, they will accept and sign the proposal, but if not, find out the reason why. It might just be that they aren't ready yet, in which case you need to put them back in your sales funnel and stay in front of them until they are. If there is an issue, this is something that you can discuss further and negotiate with them to hopefully turn that no into a yes.

Read: How to use the buying journey to win new clients (even in this turbulent time) 

Start handling client enquiries like a pro

In the space of reading this article, you should have transitioned from 'how to handle client enquiries?' to 'I need to streamline my sales process.'

Now you know what steps you need to take to convert an enquiry into a lead, how to pre-qualify your leads to identify if they are serious, and what to do before, during, and after the sales meeting, you can start handling client enquiries like a pro.

Just remember to explore your lead's problems, be curious about their motivations, and use them to position you and your firm as their best solution.

If you need some help with your sales process, don't forget to download our free sales process map here.

Learn how to quickly add an extra £2k of monthly recurring income to your practice (even if you are a reluctant business developer)

Download (for free) the workshop recording of 'How to quickly add £2k of monthly recurring revenue to your practice' and you will discover:

  • How to generate more income from your existing clients without putting in place a price rise
  • How to get your clients to pay for more services without seen to be profiteering or ambulance chasing
  • What marketing your firm can do right now which is going to cause new good clients to flock to your firm

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