Has the Pandemic Created an Opportunity to Add Clients?

Is it okay to keep adding new clients during the pandemic? Or is it tasteless? It's perfectly fine, says Bryce Sanders. The key is in your approach. Here are 4 simple and respectful strategies.

Jun 15th 2020
President Perceptive Business Solutions Inc.
Columnist
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“Ditch them. Take me instead.” It’s hard to think of anything more tasteless than prospecting for new business during the pandemic. You would be seeking to profit from the misfortune of others. Leave that to other industries! Yet Albert Einstein said: “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” There’s potential to add some new clients later, if you are helpful and compassionate now.

You have many types of business-owning clients. Everyone is likely incorporated, but scratch the surface and you have retailers, multi employee businesses, consultants, sole proprietors and service providers. Unless the sell face masks and other PPE, their business revenue has vanished or slowed to the trickle a hastily arranged takeout or online business can provide.

They talk to competitors.  Neighbors. People in the chamber. Friends on social media. If you are helping your clients, they are in a great position to tell others less fortunate. We are living in the generation that values peer reviews over commercial advertising and news stories.

Strategy #1: Get Referrrals: The key is getting them to tell your story. They need to understand how you have helped them. Staff reductions were done compassionately. You helped them apply for federal funds and followed up on their behalf. You had them returning excess inventory. They have a rent holiday because their store is in a shopping mall and entry is prohibited. They have renegotiated a service contract or two.

Remind them. Ask how their peers are coping, the fellow who owns the adjacent shop in the mall. They are likely complaining. Let them know you are agreeable to explaining the proactive steps you took.

Strategy #2: Develop a Good Reputation: You are helping your client try to get those federal funds. They come through local banks, which are poorly equipped to process the tsunami or requests. You take on your client’s case, acting as their agent.

Your client calls. You have nothing new to report, yet you call back quickly. You explain the steps you are taking. You will continue following up. You are upbeat. There’s no charge for these calls.

Your client had friends. They are trying to navigate the maze to get at the cheese. They are frustrated and complain loudly. Your client tells them how you are acting on their behalf and providing updates, without sending a bill. They explain their accountant is always upbeat, never upset when they call. These friends will want an accountant like that.

Strategy #3: Help with Retirement Planning: You also have retired clients. Others are getting close, yet short of cash now. The federal government has taken extraordinary steps, making it easier to borrow more and for longer. They’ve eased the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules, a benefit for clients who don’t want to need extra taxable income. You have proactively brought this to your client’s attention.

They have friends. They are FaceTiming or talking over the fence. Some don’t know about these changes, while others don’t understand them. Your client passes along printouts or forwards e-mails you’ve sent them. They start calling, asking; “Can you help...?”

Strategy #4: Take Over Another Firm: Accountants come in all ages. Many are healthy, others less so. The pandemic has forced us all to consider ‘what if” scenarios. Some are thinking: “Do I really want to do this forever? Local accountants tend to know each other through professional groups, civic groups like Rotary and the Chamber or seeing each other at religious services. They talk about future plans.

You might be in a position to buy another practice outright or merge with another practice, allowing the other owner to gradually step back. It’s a way to grow your firm while letting another enjoy the next stage of their life.

All of these approaches involve a compassionate soft touch. You are helping others, not taking advantage of their misfortune.

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