Finola McManus outlines why February is the optimum ‘hunting season’ for new clients.
As you read this the 31 January finish line will be within sight or you may even have passed it early. You will recall reading many articles at this time of year about the need to now plan ahead and think of systems and a different way of doing things so you don’t have the same stresses again next year. In this regard you know what you need to do and how to do it.
What I am going to outline here is the approach you should be adopting to seize the unique opportunities that present themselves with clients- existing and new- in February.
Practitioners are all focused on the need to win new business and increase fees. Many of you will have marketing and business development plans in place with specific measureable targets to assess ongoing and systems to measure the effectiveness of referral systems.
February is sometimes seen as the month in which to draw breath after a very busy period of tax returns and accounts production. There is usually time and resource to turn to practice management and ‘housekeeping ‘issues at this time. February billing can also look low.
Many of your clients are vulnerable at this time of year and it is a critical time for you to contact them and measure client service levels. How many of your clients only found out in January what their personal tax bills were? Whilst you know their lack or personal cash flow planning and financial management is due to them not handing records and information to you in time, the client often perceives this as poor service from the accountant. As a result they are ‘ripe’ to be courted by other accountants and consider leaving your firm.
You need to identify who your valued clients are and contact them in February to review and discuss how you are going to plan for their needs in the year ahead. In particular, talk of how much better they would feel if you could help them manage their cash flow and tax bills with as much notice as possible. You are then in a better position to agree fees and plan your own workload. The client will see this as proactive forward planning and understanding their needs. You are now ideally positioned to win new business advisory work from them and generate additional fees in the year to come.
Clients who are at risk of leaving in February each year can often be retained by a simple phone call or meeting to listen to any negative feedback they have and set a positive service plan going forward. It is much more valuable to your own practice to retain good quality clients as opposed to have to replace them.
It is also an often ignored fact that it is easier to win new business from existing clients as opposed to win new clients.
February is the ideal month to seize these opportunities as it often coincides with clients having their own ‘quieter’ period and having time to meet to discuss business goals and plans for the new calendar year. We all know that cash and tax and two of the most important issues for any client so what better time to discuss both those topics just after the 31 January tax bill has been settled.
February is your optimum ‘hunting season’ for new clients. There are many disgruntled clients out there sharing negative opinions about the service they received last year from their existing advisor- the flip side of what is outlined above. Your marketing plan should have a target list of those business clients you want to act for and a clear strategy of how to contact them this month to arrange informal meetings to review their needs.
The opening questions, like ‘how much notice did you have of what your January tax bill was going to be?’ is usually enough to get people talking freely. You just need to listen and identify their needs, then explain how your service offering would be different. Then ask them what positive impact your approach would have. It’s a very powerful conversion strategy to win new clients.
You will now perhaps look at the 1 February in a different light. No time to sit back after all; don’t let your competitors beat you to it.