By Michael Alter
Auditioning a client prospect is important, because it allows you to make an informed decision on whether or not a prospect is right for you.
To ensure the new client audition is successful, you must know the profile of your existing client base and understand the group. Knowing why your most successful clients are a positive fit for your business will help you prepare for an audition to weed out those who are not the right fit.
Pre-audition: know your business and existing client base
Before auditioning a prospect, consider the 80/20 rule, in which 80 percent of your revenue may be generated by the top 20 percent of your client base. The profiles of clients in this top tier represent the characteristics you should seek out during the audition of prospective clients.
When examining the top 20 percent of your client base, note the relationships you have and services you provide this group. From this list, determine in which area(s) of service you would like to grow your business. When you know the profile and have identified service areas you would like to grow, develop audition questions to better qualify prospects.
The audition: know the prospects and understand their immediate needs
Auditioning a new client can occur over the telephone or in person. Some may argue in person is best, because you can read body language and get a feel for how comfortable you will be working with the potential client. For example, if a characteristic of your top 20 percent is that you feel you generally get along well with these clients, an in-person meeting may reveal the same "get along" feeling.
Preparing audition questions before audition meetings ensures bases get covered during the meeting. Ask who potential clients have worked with in the past and why they are considering making a change now. Discuss their expectations and immediate and future goals; look one, five, and ten years ahead. The audition questions will help you decide to take them in as clients or not.
If the audition goes well and you decide they may be a good fit, ask for references and make calls to references provided. Beyond references, use the Internet – it holds a wealth of information about people and businesses. Search for information that helps further solidify whether they will or will not be a good fit for your business. Start with Google and consider Facebook and LinkedIn.
After the interview, compare potential clients' traits and characteristics with those who make up the top 20 percent of your business. Determine if and where they will fit into your business and decide if taking them on as clients would be a good use of your professional resources.
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About the author:
Michael Alter, payroll expert with an MBA from Harvard Business School, is a nationally recognized spokesperson providing thought leadership and sensible advice to help accounting and payroll professionals build deeper more profitable relationships with clients. Alter, president of SurePayroll, writes the Trade Secrets column on INC.com and is frequently published in Bloomberg TV, Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur Magazine.