Brought to you by
fathom
Share this content

13 questions you can ask to pre-screen leads for your advisory firm

27th Aug 2019
Brought to you by
fathom
Share this content

How much time does your firm spend on the phone talking to potential clients, only to cross them off the list? One popular method which accounting and advisory firms employ for lead gathering involves asking them to fill in a short online form – entering their name, phone number, and email address – and then calling each individual lead to see if they are interested in your services.

Not surprisingly, this inefficient process can be a waste of time, and can also waste the time of potential clients. You’ll likely end up with many leads who aren’t a good fit for your firm or who simply aren’t interested in your services. Surely there must be a better way?

There is. Several Fathom partners are seeing excellent results by offering a pre-screening questionnaire to potential clients to better qualify their leads. Leads receive the pre-screening questionnaire after they fill in a contact form on your website, and only after it’s returned do you jump on the phone for your discovery call.

In this article, we have a look at the benefits of a pre-screening questionnaire, how you can compile yours, and how to use it for the best results.

  • What is a pre-screening questionnaire?
  • Benefits of a pre-screening questionnaire
  • How to use your pre-screening questionnaire to qualify leads
  • Questions for your pre-screening questionnaire

What is a pre-screening questionnaire?

A pre-screening questionnaire is designed to qualify leads and give you a better understanding of the potential client, before you reach out to them for a discovery call. A well-designed pre-screening questionnaire will be short enough for potential clients to complete and long enough to capture everything you need to prepare for the discovery call.

Benefits of a pre-screening questionnaire

Think about how your website leads normally come to you. They’re browsing the web, perhaps reading articles on your blog or looking for the answer to a question. They land on your website and fill out their email, phone, and name for more information. This is when your team gets in touch via phone. 

It takes a fifteen-minute conversation with that lead only to discover they’re not ready to commit, or they’re not looking for your services, or their company isn’t a good fit for you. Multiply that by all the leads coming through your website, and you have a lot of time wasted qualifying leads that could be spent on more profitable activities.

By sending out a pre-screening questionnaire, your team can quickly scan answers and determine which leads qualify for a discovery call. Those that qualify will receive a phone call. For those that aren’t qualified, you can initiate a quick email or phone call to end the relationship, or send them into another sales funnel.

Other benefits of a pre-screening questionnaire:

  • Not knowing enough about the prospective client before calling them can be awkward and feel like a one-sided interrogation.
  • If a potential client doesn’t want to give 10 minutes of their time to fill in the pre-screening questionnaire, this is a red flag that they’re probably not ready for your services.
  • Calling a client immediately after they fill in your website form can come across as pushy. Having the pre-screening questionnaire adds another step in the process that demonstrates your professionalism.

How to use your pre-screening questionnaire to qualify leads

For the best results, your pre-screening questionnaire should be a stage in-between the lead filling out a simple form on your website and receiving their discovery call. 

It’s tempting to make your questionnaire part of your website lead generation form, but research suggests this isn’t the best approach. According to marketing expert Neil Patel, long sign-up forms present friction, and the more friction the user experiences, the less likely they are to sign up. At this stage of the process, leads don’t trust you or aren’t invested enough to fill in a bunch of different fields. Keep your lead gen form as simple as possible – the bare minimum of information you need to capture a lead (usually, this would be first name, last name, email, and phone number, and business name or website URL).

Once your lead has entered their details, they’ll be sent an email inviting them to fill in the questionnaire. This email should be personalised to the potential client, using the information they supplied when they filled in the lead gen form. You can automate this process, including booking discovery calls after the client has filled in their answers, using a service like Calendly. You can use tools like Google Forms or Typeform to create your questionnaire.

 

If you don’t receive the completed questionnaire within a few days, send a follow-up email. You can also automate this. You may wish to send a third follow-up email after 2-3 weeks. You could use the technique known as a ‘break-up’ email to provoke a response (HubSpot has an excellent resource for writing break-up emails, as do our friends at Practice Ignition who provide a number of templates you can use).

When you receive completed questionnaires, read through the answers and decide if the lead is a good fit. If they are, schedule their discovery call. If not, send them a personalised follow-up email. Give a brief explanation (not taking on more clients at present, firm too small/too large, budget too low, etc) and if possible, refer them to another reputable firm that offers the services they might be looking for.

Questions for your pre-screening questionnaire

What questions should you be asking to pre-screen your clients? We’ve compiled a list below of potential questions. You don’t have to ask all of these (and probably shouldn’t!). Choose questions that are relevant to your business and describe the types of clients you want to work with. Try to keep your questionnaire to less than eight questions/less than ten minutes to answer.

Open-ended questions are preferred, as they encourage descriptive answers that can reveal a lot more about your clients than yes/no answers.

What services are you looking for?

This would be a multiple choice drop down listing different services. It will help you understand a company’s needs and goals.

Tell me about {Business Name} and the product/services you offer.

Leading with this question will help you understand the business in the prospective client’s own words, without a marketing spin.

Are you the decision-maker for this company? If not, who is?

It’s important to ensure you’re speaking with the right person.

Have you ever worked with a business advisor or advisory firm? If yes, what services did you receive, what was done well, what was done poorly?

The goal of this question is to raise red flags about the company’s willingness to seek help and pay for advice and guidance. It may also indicate how easy the company is to work with - have they had a number of advisors/advisory firms? If so, this could be a red flag.

Do you currently have an internal accounting team? If so, how many members?

These questions will help you understand the types of services the company could be looking for. It also indicates company structure, how many stakeholders there are, and who they may be.

Our advisory services begin at $## per month, does this fit within your budget for advisory services?

It’s important to ask about budget if you don’t list your prices on your website. Your price bracket alone may disqualify leads.

Do you currently use cloud-based apps or have you used any in the past? If so what were they?

This informs you about the firm’s willingness to change and adopt technology. It will also inform you about current systems and company priorities. According to research, businesses who use Xero with at least one integrated app grow revenue at an average of 5.5% per year, compared to only 3.6% for businesses using no apps

Which cloud-based accounting platform do you use (QuickBooks Online, Xero, MYOB etc.)?

The information here will inform you on the ease of implementing advisory services. If the company does not use a cloud-based accounting platform, then it’s another hurdle for you to overcome if you only work with clients that use cloud-based accounting. Many advisors will want their clients using a particular accounting platform (e.g. QuickBooks Online, Xero or MYOB), as the firm will have an app stack that they’d use to provide their services to the client. It’s not unusual for advisory firms to only take on a client if they have or are willing to change to the advisor’s preferred cloud accounting platform.

What’s the number one business problem we can help you solve?

This question identifies the front-of-mind needs of the client and can help you figure out if you can quickly add value.

What are your short-term business goals (achieve within one year)? 

Outlining short-term business goals indicates a company’s urgency and motivation to change. Understanding the company’s focus can influence the services/package you present during your pre-screening call, as well as giving you an indication of the value of this client. 

You can also understand the urgency of the relationship and the resources needed to achieve the goals.

What are your main concerns related to your business?

This is another question that indicates urgency and highlights the current focus of the company. You may gain valuable insights on the rate of growth, competitive factors, lack of process, lack of strategy, specific business shortfalls (cashflow, profit, growth) and any opportunities for your advisory to shine.

What’s the main reason you want to engage with us?

This question encourages the client to engage with the process and reminds them why they wanted to speak with you in the first place. It can also provide valuable data about where your leads are coming from. Many firms create a drop-down box for this question. Just remember though, this isn’t about you, it's about the client. Just be conscious of how many marketing style questions you ask.

Is there anything else you’d like to discuss on our call?

This offers the client space to ask particular questions or to point out a specific referral.

Get more ideas for pre-screening questions from AccountingWEB and Austin L Church’s blog.

Choose the questions that will provide the information you need to qualify leads. You’re able to refine and adapt your pre-screening questions in order to get the best possible results. With your pre-screening workflow running, your team will save valuable time and your leads will be nurtured and primed to find the answers they need.

Once you’ve qualified a lead with your pre-screening questionnaire, the next step is to jump on a discovery call with your potential client.

For more posts like this and more, please visit our blog.