There are several proven ways to get fees resolved in the selling interview:
• Do you have a budget for this?
If they don't, how are they going to pay for it?
Having trouble getting people to share a budget with you? Don’t expect them to if you don't make the time and effort to listen and care about their problems before you go solving them for free.
My experience -- and that of thousands of clients over the last 25 years -- is that people will share budget information with you if the sale is conducted in the right, empathetic manner, and the client perceives you care about them.
• Give them a number
"Folks, based on what you've told me, without yet having had a chance to pore over your books and records, you're looking at fees of between $XX,XXX and $YY,YYY. I may be a little high or low, but that's a good ballpark. Should we continue?"
If they say yes, you've qualified them for fees. If they say no, ask why not. Perhaps you don’t have the job spec’d out right.
Perhaps you should leave and save your fancy proposal that isn't going to sell them anyway? Do you think people buy from proposals? Only accountants and engineers buy from proposals. Other people, "civilians", buy from people.
• What are you paying now?
Why should they tell you? But then, why should they?
At some point people will have to trust you in order for you to get hired. One of the greatest traits CPAs have going for them in the selling situation is that the public trusts us much more than "salespeople" and other professionals.
Or you can play that tired old game that the client by now knows all about. It's called the "We Need to Take a Look at Your Books Game." You know -- you get a chance to look at their books supposedly to find out what condition the records are in, but the real purpose is to run a tape on what they paid their previous accountant. Don't you think the client has figured this one out yet?
• Are fees your most important consideration?
One of my favorite questions -- it gets right to the point of fees. My experience, and once again that of my clients, is that fees are rarely their only consideration.
If indeed fees are their most important consideration, this question asked early in the sales process, determines if the client is worth buying, leaving you in control of the selling situation and eliminating wasted time, effort and energy.
By Allan Boress, CPA – author of The I-Hate-Selling Book, available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com