When meeting with prospect clients, using effective language is very important. One of the many questions that I am often asked is…
“What effective strategies and language can an accountant use when meeting a new prospect?”
In order for me to answer this question, I need to deal with one particular word here that I do not like, which is the word “strategies”. This is not technique based work we are undertaking. We are in the relationship building business! When we meet with new potential clients, we are literally building a relationship. We are not trying to close a sale, we are not trying to sell a product but what we are doing is trying to build the possibility of working together. We can only do that by having a very empathetic business relationship.
As for strategies, I would throw them out immediately. Do not look to employ strategies as I think that they will come across as far too transparent and probably turn off the prospective client.
However, effective language is a whole different matter. The time when it becomes most important to use it correctly is with the questions that we ask so we can find out about the client’s business. We want to find out what drives the business and what holds the business back. Do not forget that this is the first time we have met the client and they may or may not be in the mood to tell us about it.
So it is the language that we use when questioning the client that becomes extremely important. There are a number of questions that you could use in order to open up the conversation. I am going to suggest three groups of questions that I would recommend that you use.
Questions to Ask Using Effective Language
If nothing else were to happen or change in your business right now, what do you have to achieve over the next 12 months?
Do you need to achieve a breakeven position?
Do you need to achieve a certain level of growth?
What do you need to achieve and why is that?
This group of questions typically helps you to find out what is motivating the business operations.
2. Vision – past and present
This next group of questions is one of my favourites because they elicit a response that you can always follow up on.
Five years ago where did you think you, and your business, would be?
Where is your business now in relation to your vision five years ago?
If the client did not think their business would be where it is now and it is behind the pace, how do they think they are going to speed it up?
What is their plan of action for that?
If their plan is on pace, how are they going to maintain their momentum? If it is ahead of where they thought it was going to be five years ago, how are they going to keep that level of pace up?
How did they manage to accelerate in the first place? And so on and so on….
There are always follow up questions and a much deeper conversation that can be yielded from that particular question.
3. The story of their business
Another line of questioning I like is this.
When you set the business up, what were the goals in the initial few years?
This question is made with the assumption that the business is older than three or four years and that you are meeting them for the first time. This question gives the client the perfect opportunity to talk about the story of their business, how it came to be, what they were trying to achieve, whether this was a breakaway from being in paid employment, whether it was designed to achieve a specific goal and what are they trying to achieve now.
So many businesses, once they achieve their big ideas, lose their meaning. As such, it becomes a corporate entity, it can become a monster to feed and the owners typically lose a lot of inspiration as a result of no longer having a purpose for being in business other than to be in business.
So you can see how those three groups of questions really start to speak to the very core of the business owner. By asking these questions your prospect client starts to show you their motivations because you are an interested professional, one who has experience and one who wants to know the answers. These questions are typically the most effective use of language to use in that initial meeting.