Do you cringe when you get asked that question? Do you answer it as quickly as possible so you can get back to what you’re doing? Or do you answer with the common reply of “It depends?” Having an open mind and a new approach to answering this question could be just what you need to get more profitable clients.
When I am coaching accountants on marketing, I often hear that clients and prospects that ask this question make poor clients because they are price-sensitive and they are just shopping around. While this might be true a small percentage of the time, I’d love for you to consider a whole new viewpoint.
Perhaps these prospects simply don’t know what else to ask when they are shopping for an accountant, QuickBooks consultant, tax person, or bookkeeper.
No one wants to feel stupid. And yet, clients who need to hire accountants and QuickBooks consultants often do not know the right questions to ask in order to judge how good you are at what you do. Many small business owners must rely on their gut instinct when you are communicating with them. So their fallback question is “what do you charge?”
The accountant who gets fed up with the question makes the prospect feel worse. It’s not really a good way to start a relationship!
Judging the Clients’ Ability to Pay
Another factor that comes into play when deciding how to respond to a prospect who asks “How much do you charge?” is judging the prospect.
We make judgments all day long: Checking balances, getting things coded correctly, ensuring the tax deduction is done correctly, etc. The problem is, we don’t turn the judgment off when it comes to a prospect’s ability to pay. And we base our judgment on things that might be inaccurate, such as the client’s industry, how smart they sound, or what they look like.
That’s why developing a system of qualifying and selling is so important to our marketing results. The judgment and emotion we feel while trying to make the sale is reduced when we can ask questions and follow a process that we know works over and over again.
Qualify, Then Sell
All great salespeople will qualify their prospects, then set a future date or two to build the relationship and make the sales pitch. I recommend the same thing for accountants, and don’t worry; it doesn’t have to sound sales-y at all.
Here are some ideas of what to say. If you don’t have time to qualify the client, you can respond with something like this:
“What a great question. I have bookkeeping packages, and I would love to speak with you more about which package might be right for you. Would you like to set up a time to talk?”
“Hmm. I’d love to find out more about your company so I can give you an accurate quote. Would you like to set up a time to talk?”
If you have time to qualify the client, you will be able to prepare more for the sales call. First come up with three to five qualifying questions and comments so you can figure out in broad terms what this client needs. You can use these questions over and over again for each prospect once you’ve written them out. Ask the client:
- Do you have a deadline or a requirement coming up?
- Do you have an idea of what services you need from us?
- Can I ask you a few questions about your company? – You’ll want to know things like the type of entity, size of company, size of the accounting department, and who was doing the previous accounting unless they are a startup.
Try not to spend more than five minutes on an unscheduled phone call with a prospect. Your goal is to set a sales appointment with them so they can get to know you and your expertise and make a decision about whether you are right for each other.
How Much Do You Charge?
I encourage you to ask yourself if the response you are giving to this common question is the most profitable one from a marketing standpoint. If not, then develop a response that you and your prospect will feel good with. Consider writing some qualifying questions, and test them out the next time someone asks you about your fees. You might be pleasantly surprised at the turn the conversation takes.