Rate Your Prospects

By Troy Waugh, Waugh & CO, Inc.

With a powerful and focused marketing and sales program that generates many leads, the partners find themselves meeting with prospects regularly. The partners’ focus at the initial meetings with a prospect is to understand the prospect’s business and the issues of the company. For example, if the business is not related to a niche in which the firm has expertise, a red flag goes up. If the business is calendar year or price driven, the partners begin to question their capacity to handle the client.

Being a fan of John Madden, former pro football coach and current sports announcer, I like to use the MADDEN test for a new client:

M- Money
A- Accessibility
D- Desirability
D- Decision Influencers
E- Eligibility
N- Need

Money. Be alert to various factors that will answer these questions: Will this prospect have the ability and willingness to pay a premium or full fees? Who were their previous accountants? Who are their other advisers? What do their facilities look like? On what scale are their products and services?

Accessibility. In order for you to sell your services, you must sell to people who can decide to hire you. In other words, if you are selling organs, don’t waste your time talking to the monkey. You must have access to decision-makers and influencers. Untrained CPAs waste an enormous amount of time talking to low-level decision influencers. Generally, if you cannot access the key decision influencers, your message will not get through. Also, if key decision influencers will not talk with you, most times this indicates that they are not serious about changing.

Desirability. Next, ask yourself, “Does the prospect have the desire, or interest, to work with me or our firm?” If the client has the money and you can access the decision influencers, but they do not desire to work with you: Guess what? They won’t.

Decision Influencers. The next qualifier relates to the decision influencers. Not only must you be able to reach them, but you must also understand their needs, desires, and perceptions.

Eligibility. Is the prospect eligible to do business with you? This question relates to risk, industry, expertise, enjoyment, and many other factors you may set for eligibility. Rainmaker David Morgan says, “If we come into contact with a municipality, we will stop right there. We do not do government agencies. They are not eligible to work with us.”

Need. Does the prospect have a need for the services you provide? This question should not be held till last. Often, it will be the second or third qualifier.

You may want to set up a scoring template for qualifying prospective clients along the lines of the Madden test.

Keep in mind that selling is about making sales, not about walking away from opportunities because you have too quickly made an emotional decision or judgment call based on the wrong reasons. I am not advising that you give up too soon, not use creative sales appeals, or terminate the sales process because you may be in over your head. I am, however, suggesting that you have a walk-away philosophy and strategy that you can use as a template when the value of current business or potential business is in question.


Permission is granted to publish this article. Please provide attribution to:

Troy A. Waugh, CPA, MBA
Waugh & CO, Inc.
PO Box 1208 Brentwood, TN 37024-1208
P 615-373-9880
F 615-373-9885


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