Converting Prospects to Wins: Getting a Home Run

By Howard Dorman, CPA, WeiserMazars LLP – September 15, 2016
Converting Prospects to Wins: Getting a Home Run

Baseball fans know that while players want to get as many at-bats as possible, at the end of day, they are not rewarded for how many at-bats they had in a day, in a year, or even in a career. 

Players are rewarded for their number of hits and home runs. That is what determines if they get into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Turning a prospect into a client is like hitting a home run. Hopefully, after you read this article, not only will you get the at-bats but you will hit the ball out of the park. 

As an accountant, the first step should be pretty easy: understanding the importance of evaluating your efforts in converting prospects to clients. This conversion rate is a simple calculation. There are only two numbers you should focus on: the number of qualified prospects and the number of new clients attained as a result of this process. Simple, right? Similar to setting a fitness goal, you will want to develop some initial steps with a sense of structure defined by benchmarks to keep you moving forward. 

Webster defines a prospect as a possibility or a likelihood of some future event occurring. In this case, it can be defined as the likelihood of a company expressing interest in you becoming its new accountant or service provider. More specifically, a prospect is a potential customer qualified on the basis of his or her buying authority, financial capacity and, most importantly, willingness to secure your services. 

The first challenge in the process is qualifying the prospect. Are they a desirable client? Do they fit the mold of your typical client profile? Do you have the expertise to address their specific needs? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself when qualifying a prospect. Let’s say that you have been referred to a company by one of your centers of influence (a banker, a lawyer or even a client). The next step should be to find out as much information about the company as possible. See if anyone else in your office has had any interactions with this company or can offer some industry insight. You can search the internet or obtain pertinent information from various business publications and organizations such as Dun & Bradstreet. First Research is a helpful database for prospect-related industry specifics. Another benefit of researching the company is that you can obtain some great talking points for when you are face to face. 

Congratulations! You've made it to the fun part. It's time to set up a meeting with your prospect. You now have factors working in your favor: a warm lead and a better understanding of the industry the prospect operates in. You are getting closer to having a qualified prospect. Now is the time to bring in an appropriate partner or a staff member with industry-specific experience. It is good practice to bring someone else with you to visit the prospect, to show that you can provide a qualified team. 

Always be prepared. Before going to the prospect meeting, it's helpful to discuss the details of the meeting and desired objectives with your team. What issues do you want to address? Why is the prospect seeking a new firm? Formulate solid questions that will open the door for the prospect to express desired goals and reasons for dissatisfaction in the past. This is where you need to use good listening skills. In real estate, they say the key is location, location, location. In winning new clients, it’s listen, listen, listen. Is it expertise within the industry that the prospect wants? Is cost a major factor? This is a critical part of the process. If you are talking, you are not listening. You may be missing the reason that you were asked to visit. If you take the time to listen to the prospect’s concerns, you will be able to respond to them. 

Set goals for yourself by creating benchmarks regarding prospects and client wins. You can never be too prepared. And remember to carefully listen so that you have a clear understanding of what the prospect actually wants. If you come in with preconceptions or make quick judgments, you could miss the mark.

Howard P. Dorman

Howard P. Dorman

Howard P. Dorman, CPA, is a partner with WeiserMazars LLP, servicing privately held companies and service firms. He is a member of the New Jersey Society of CPAs.

This article appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.