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What are the Best Ways to Get Your Prospects to Take Action?


It happens to everyone: You’ve had a great call with a potential client, and you feel confident they are going to move forward with your services. But, when you reach out to onboard them, nothing happens. What's going on? How can you get them to take action?

Mar 2nd 2020
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You’ve had a great call with a potential client, and you feel confident they are going to move forward with your services. They’ve even gone so far as to sign your engagement letter. You reach out to start the onboarding process, and…nothing happens.

When you finally do make contact with the prospect again, they say they’ve decided not to move forward at this time. It’s not that another bookkeeping firm has offered a better engagement…it’s that the business owner has decided not to change how they are handling their bookkeeping. They are still interested; they’re just not ready to move forward right away.

What happened? Your call went great, your proposal was accepted, the prospect signed your engagement letter…why have they decided not only not to work with you, but to maintain the status quo in regards to their bookkeeping?

The Placebo Effect

I have a hypothesis about what happens when a prospect stalls out after they seemed so eager to move forward. Sometimes, in the spirit of being helpful (and in showcasing our expertise), we give away too much information on the initial call. The prospect feels like they know enough to solve their problem themselves, and they don’t need to engage you after all. With practice, you can overcome the habit of giving away too much information for free.

The same holds true for if you have a tendency not to ask the prospect for their business. You must have a clear call to action to encourage the prospect to move forward. Again, with practice, you can become comfortable asking for business.

But there’s a third reason why a prospect might not convert to a paying client. I call it the placebo effect.

The placebo effect takes place when the prospect feels better simply because they talked with you about their bookkeeping challenges and needs. You didn’t actually solve anything for them – and they haven’t solved anything for themselves, either – but their conversation with you has had the same effect as a sugar pill can have for participants in a medical study.

Placebos aren’t medicine, though, and the underlying disease (the prospect’s bookkeeping needs in this case) is still a threat to the business’s health. So: How do we get the prospect to move forward when they’ve convinced themselves they’re okay now?

Poke the Bruise

Whenever I first mention my “poke the bruise” technique, the response is usually shock. Admittedly, intentionally inflicting pain sounds horrible, but poking the bruise isn’t about being cruel. It’s about reminding the prospect of the pain caused by their underlying issue and encouraging them to take action that will alleviate that pain for good by resolving the problem.

If your prospect is experiencing the placebo effect, their pain has lessened, and they have essentially forgotten that they had a problem in the first place. They feel better, so on a superficial level, they think the problem has gone away. It’s our duty to remind them that there is more to wellness than the alleviation of symptoms. They must take control of the health of their business in order to experience lasting wellness.

There are four fundamental rules to poking the bruise:

  1. Be Gentle: You don’t want to cause too much pain – that will cause the prospect to run away – but you do want to remind them that they have a problem that hasn’t been fixed yet. When the prospect says they’ve decided not to move forward at this time, remind them of what they said their concerns were during your discovery call, and ask how not moving forward is going to help them. This reminds them the pain isn’t really gone, and the issue causing it remains.
  2. Remind Them How You Can Help: Don’t take it for granted that the prospect remembers the solution you proposed. Remind them that you have a solution for their problem, and tell them how working with you will help them solve the problem faster, granting permanent pain relief.
  3. Give Them a Path Forward: To prevent the placebo effect from taking hold again, you need to get the prospect to take action before you end the conversation. This can be as simple as getting them to give you access to their bookkeeping system, walking them through how to do that, and then verifying you have access before ending the conversation. Think of this like getting a shot at the doctor’s office: It hurts a little, but you feel better after it’s done because you know real medicine will start to work on your illness soon. The prospect might squirm a little and try to get out of taking the requested action, but once they do, they will feel real relief.
  4. Deliver a Quick Result: This doesn’t mean you have to optimize a set of profoundly bad books overnight. In this case, the result needs to focus more on validating the prospect’s decisive action to move forward with your services. This quick result can be anything from a thank-you call the next day to the delivery of an onboarding gift. And don’t forget the impact of the follow-up appointment within a week to show them the progress they are making by working with you…even if you don’t have much to report.

From Pain Relief to Wellness

When a prospect feels relief simply by talking with you about their bookkeeping needs, they aren’t likely to take action to move forward with the solution you are offering. It’s our responsibility as bookkeeping professionals to remind them that pain relief is different from a cure. By gently reminding the prospect of the pain caused by their underlying problem, reminding them of our solution, giving them an easy path forward, and delivering a quick result, we can help our prospects take action and start moving toward positive and permanent solutions in their businesses.

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