Finding clients that work for your accounting firm

On this episode of the podcast Andrew Lassise and Michelle Weinstein, a sales strategist who works with accountants, discuss what goes into finding clients that are a good fit for accounting firms.

After some tech issues, they dove right into the topic. “Your internet connection is not stable but you are sitting right next to the router,” Michelle quipped.

It’s a good reminder that tech issues can happen to anyone – accountants, sales people and even remote tech support companies. You can listen to the show wherever you listen to podcasts, watch the video or read the related article below.

Who is Michelle Weinstein?

Michelle helps accounting professionals grow their firms in the most efficient ways.

  • What do you do when you get a lead?
  • What do you say when somebody calls and asks “how much do you charge?”
  • How do you increase your revenue and profitability without adding on more work?

“So you get paid what you are worth and work with the clients that appreciate you,” Michelle said. Finding the right clients, communicating well and setting boundaries. “You aren’t working with everyone and anyone and are getting paid for the value you bring and based on what you think you are worth.”

Read next: Accounting Podcast: Grow quicker with Profit First

That also includes your education, Michelle said. “I work with so many accountants who have masters, CPAs, MBAs… and you are always reading tax laws. Why aren’t you getting compensated for that knowledge?” said Michelle.

Listen to Michelle’s podcast: The Abundant Accountant

What’s the definition of an abundant accountant?

“It’s about how do you have the live and the firm of abundance,” Michelle said. Abundance doesn’t necessarily mean huge numbers of clients. “It’s about the quality,” she said. “The quality of life. It’s your self care. And that world of abundance as far as work-life balance.”

Looking for ways to eliminate 14-hour days and less reliance on tax season, is another way to become an abundant account, Michelle explained.

Why do accountants price less than they are worth?

But even with all this knowledge, sales strategies still need to be involved. Andrew shared that it’s kind of programmed into people that knowledge will do the trick alone. “Be smart and people will flock to you is what we are taught,” he said.

Of course, people always sell themselves to a degree. Your first job. Your next job. Those are all sales strategies.

Michelle Weinstein

Michelle Weinstein

It comes back to “competence and confidence,” Michelle explained. Many people are competent in the technical aspect. “How do you do 1040s? How do you do monthly bookkeeping really well? How can you do tax planning? How do you do tax resolutions really well?”

People are really competent with the technical tasks and are likely also confident. “Now where we lack the competence we lack the confidence,” she said. “And in the sales area you probably never thought you’d signed up for a 24/7 sales career.”

“But we can’t do the technical work until we have a new client,” Michelle said. “You can’t do that without sales.”

The general population needs accountants, said Michelle. People still have to do taxes and get assistance with their books and other tasks.

“And what about reading the tax codes every year?” Michelle asked. “It’s time to get paid for that time as well.”

Not getting paid top dollars comes back to the lack of sales competence. “How do you sell without being overly pushy?” she said.

When people are not confident with the process and they really want a client, they underprice. “That starts a downward spiral right there,” Michelle said.

Read next: Pricing strategies for accountants

“A lot of people will look at an accountant as ‘this is a commodity’,” Andrew added. “Because it’s something they don’t understand. I think humans are wired that if we don’t understand something we will just grasp onto something that we do understand.”

Of course, when 30 accountants are all trying to win business of that one client what separates a good accountant from a bad one? Many people just go off price, said Andrew.

“Those are the worst clients but if you are bad at sales those are the ones you attract,” said Andrew.

“We typically don’t buy service-based services on price,” Michelle added. “People buy on feeling. The problem with the industry is that we’ve been negotiating on price. They think that’s normal. However, you can retrain people. You can retrain your clients.”

Picking clients

Not every prospect is a good client.

“Who are you going to work with?” Michelle asked. “And one of the first things you need to look at are the boundaries. Who are you going to choose to work with? Who do you want to work with so you can actually have clients that will pay you what you are worth and actually appreciate you for the work you are doing for them.”

In a commodity model, which accountants should try to avoid, there’s no appreciation for the work. “It’s just a transaction,” Michelle said. “Where for most of you, we don’t just want transactions. We want high-value relationship-type work.”

To do that, we have to change process.

One problem is that “more work often means more money today,” Andrew added. It helps picking clients and doing pricing differently.

How do we identify the clients we want to work with?

Think about your client roster now and think about the person you love talking to now. The client you love working with. “You love when you pull their file and work on their business,” Michelle said. “You love that they tell you how much they appreciate you and your knowledge.”

Make a list of 20 attributes of that clients. That’s your perfect client that you want to go after.

Then make a list of attributes of clients you really don’t like working with. “The ones you can’t stand. The ones that drive you nuts,” she said. “These are the ones that try to get your prices lowered every single year. They say ‘well, I know this other accountant and they are doing it for like $1,000 less’. Why are you so much more?”

To make the shift take an inventory of yourself. Consider how much you’ve invested in degrees, certifications, training and more.

“Most accountants, their biggest client they are actually losing money,” she said. “The top line revenue looks good but you aren’t considering the emails, the meetings calling them and so on.”

If a prospect isn’t a good fit, it’s okay to walk away from the potential deal. Working with similar clients – like accountants – can also help other clients as you run across different problems and can apply solutions to the wider client base.

But what about saying no to money?

“Not all money is good money,” Michelle said. “We always think more is better. But if you do an analysis on your time and knowledge and you want them to pay you $10,000 and they want to pay $1,000 I wouldn’t take them. You’ll be in the negative.”

Michelle is the first one to admit that it’s hard to turn away clients. “Somebody asked me if I work with non-accountants. I have but right now I work with accountants, two years in business…,” Michelle said, rattling off some of the qualities she looks for in an accountant client.

She says she does try to talk to people needing help for 15 minutes and tries to refer them to somebody else “so to not let somebody hanging.”


Think of the brain surgeon

Michelle shared the example of the brain surgeon. Patients don’t get to negotiate with the surgeon or walk all over them. That’s the kind of relationship needed in professional services as well.