How to deal with clients who ask for too much ‘free’ advice

Ed ChanFounder & Non-Executive Chairman, Chan & Naylor

In the spirit of helping you avoid giving away too much IP or advice for free to potential clients, here is the Wize Mentoring way of dealing with prospecting chats.

There are seven divisions in a business. Division 4 is Production (your accounting firm’s engine room responsible for delivering the services that your clients are paying for) and Division 3 is Sales.

In the Sales division, the Senior Client Manager’s (SCM) job is to sell, and their KPI is not time on the clock but rather the number of proposals sent. In Division 4, the Senior Production Manager is the grinder, who is responsible for reviewing, checking and training staff, and doesn’t interact directly with clients.

In the Capacity Planner that we use, the SCM’s budgeted productivity is only at 50-60% versus the grinder’s, which is at 85-90%. This is because much of their time is spent in sales, not production.

We allow 5 to 10 minutes of free advice, but predominantly they need to take the client through the sales journey:

  1. Discovery (to identify the problem and possible solution)

  2. Send proposal with price

  3. Move to production

Upon acceptance of the proposal and price, the new client then goes to Division 4 (Production).

The most successful SCM goes from the discovery stage to the proposal extremely quickly, and they always seem to send out a record number of proposals each day. Their KPI should be the number of proposals sent.

Yes, it’s a bit of a skill to be able to ‘not give all your IP away’ in a conversation and be able to stop and say, “I will send you out a proposal of what can be done”.
Ed Chan, Wize Mentoring

In the proposal, there will be a price. Clients then will have time to consider the proposal and the price and if agreeable, they will sign the proposal and send it back. Only after acceptance of the proposal should it be sent to production.

This has several benefits:

  1. You are not giving all IP away in a conversation

  2. The SCM is the only one that does this and not all staff

Because the grinders complete production work, you shouldn’t expect them to sell. The right person (your SCM) should be the person with the strong communication and interpersonal skills, and ideally, should love sales, and are skilled in the art of moving people from discovery to proposal in the least amount of time.

For example, if a client asks whether their business has to pay FBT (Fringe Benefits Tax), you can discuss briefly what FBT is and then say that you will assess their situation in detail and send them a proposal.

In the proposal, you can add the client’s situation briefly and what is required to determine whether they are subject to FBT and the cost to do this. If the client wants to go ahead, they will sign the proposal. If not, they will not sign and you can get on with other work.

So, in summary, it’s important to firstly ensure everyone at your firm is working in their flow and playing within their positions. Secondly, staff members who are communicating directly with prospects need to understand the limit between providing just enough information to lead to a proposal, and too much information where a proposal isn’t required because the prospect’s questions have been answered—for free!

Ed Chan
Founder & Non-Executive Chairman, Chan & Naylor

Ed started Chan & Naylor from a small home office in Sydney and grew it into a National Financial Services Organisation that now works without him, with offices in most capital cities around Australia, servicing more than 10,000 clients.

In 2018 he co-founded WIZE Mentoring, a network for accountants who want to know how to successfully grow their firm and have it run without them.

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