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Why You Should Stop Wasting Time on Proposals


Many CPAs and accounting professionals use proposals to entice potential clients, but they have downsides, such as discounting your services. In this article, Loren Fogelman explains why a proposal could be hurting your business and offers an alternative approach to taking on new clients

Jan 11th 2022
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Let’s say you’re about to wrap up an initial consultation with a potential new client. The meeting flowed smoothly, you gathered all the necessary information and the client is a good fit. Now what? You might agree to send a proposal, as it's what you’ve always done. But what if you want to stop wasting time on proposals?

A Flawed Process

Proposals often kill momentum. It can be like asking someone for a dance. Rather than an immediate yes or no, the response is often, "Let me think about it." Then, as the song continues to play, you wonder whether they’ll be joining you on the dance floor or you need to move on. Filling your practice with new clients can be like a dance. Proposals don’t enhance this dance; rather, they disrupt the tempo and throw off the rhythm. 

Closing the Deal

Harvard Business Review researched the behaviors of professional salespeople and found that fewer than 50 percent of sales professionals excel at closing a deal, especially in terms of getting a new client. Remember, you got into the accounting profession to serve, not to close. 

Here are seven common reasons why accounting professionals avoid closing the sale:

1. They don’t know what to say.

2. When they’re nervous, they talk too much.

3. The awkward silence lasts forever. 

4. They don’t know how to communicate value.

5. Objections from the client, such as "it's too expensive," throw them off.

6. As soon as money comes up, they lower their price.

7. They’re not good at it and don’t want to pressure someone.

Proposals can get you off the hook by avoiding the close, which can be an uncomfortable conversation. The proposal process, however, creates complications. You send your quote and then wait for the reply. If the client doesn't respond quickly, you pursue them instead of the other way around. It’s a delicate balance. Too much pursuit shows desperation, while too little leaves money on the table. This creates frustration, requires additional time and impacts revenue. 

Stop Wasting Time on Proposals

Six reasons why you need to stop wasting time on proposals:

1. They can hinder a decision that was imminent. Overall, proposals add another step to the sales process. Some clients are ready to start right away, and saying that you’ll send a proposal kills momentum. Some potential clients will move onto another accounting professional who’s comfortable discussing the money part of the deal. This means you warmed up a potential client to the benefit of another accounting professional. 

2. They can leave a potential client with questions. Every day that passes between the initial meeting and sending the proposal affects the outcome. After spending hours on a proposal, your potential client may ignore most of it and immediately skip to the price. Since you’re not present to answer her questions or explain the value, she’s left alone to decide whether your services are worth it. 

3. They can cause delays. Delays mean more work for you. Additional questions require more time – especially if you communicate by email. As time passes, doubts may flare up. 

4. They can be a distraction. How often do you finally send the proposal and never receive a reply? That’s frustrating. Then, you’re left to wonder why you were ignored. No response could mean:

  • Their priorities changed because a new issue grabbed their attention. 
  • They weren’t truly interested, but didn’t want to tell you no. 
  • They're overwhelmed – for a variety of reasons. 

5. They aren't associated with a deadline. Too many accounting professionals skip this critical step. Without some type of time limit, there’s no urgency to get started now, so your proposal goes on the to-do list for another day. Consider adding an expiration date or limiting the number of slots available for new clients.

6. They can devalue your work. Many clients don’t fully understand what accounting involves. Keep that in mind as you start to list multiple tasks, as a long task list can cause overwhelm. Plus, a lengthy task list fails to fully communicate your value. 

The Proposal Solution

So you’re ready to stop wasting time on proposals. What’s the alternative?

First, answer these two questions:

1. Is this person a good fit for your firm?

2. Do your services meet her needs?

If the answer is no, wrap up the meeting.

If the answer to both questions is yes, then ask them, "Would you like to hear how it works?"

Tell the client you want to solve her top challenges and offer her a diagnostic review that will let you know exactly what needs to be fixed. Tell her it will be completed by a specific date, and let her know how much it will cost.

Why offer a paid diagnostic review?

  • It’s a low-risk first step for you to get a closer look into a potential client's financials.
  • You collect payment for the review during the initial consult.
  • Immediately you find out if the person is ready to engage your services, shopping around or seeking free information.
  • The diagnostic review lets you accurately scope the project.
  • It protects you from engaging with a headache client since during the review you test drive what they're like as a client.
  • You can send a work agreement outlining the scope once they engage your services. 

With this solution, you stop wasting time on proposals, and receiving an immediate response reduces frustration. Plus, you collect payment before the meeting ends.