Many practice owners do great at getting organic referrals from their clients. Some have even grown their practices via this type of word of mouth alone. These referrals are usually already sold on the practice, before they even come in, so they are often easy sales.
While all of this is great news for the owner – the only problem is, for these and other types of new clients to the practice, the services are often not priced correctly. The owner finds out what service the client came in to inquire about, but doesn’t always do a complete needs analysis. The prospect typically has needs that he isn’t even aware of. As a result, when the client later has questions, he often feels it should be “all in” i.e. included in the one service he signed up for.
To give an example – a business owner is referred in and the practice owner signs him up for his business and personal returns. Price is either quoted in terms of an estimate for both returns or an hourly rate. However, without knowing what kind of client this person will be – it’s hard to estimate for all the help that may be requested of the practice. The client is left with the impression that either a) the estimate covers everything or b) if it’s an hourly rate, he is often reluctant to contact the practice so as not “to start the clock”. Then of course, the client is not happy when he makes a mistake, due to not getting the advice he needed on time or gets a bill , when he thinks it should be included in the fee quoted.
It behooves both the owner and the client to go over all the typical needs a business client would have throughout the year, not just the tax return fee itself. This would entail “a menu of services” – which each owner can tailor based on his own experience of what business owners typically need from him. An example of what that menu could include are: entity selection or verification that the entity choice is correct, types of deductions the client needs to understand he can/cannot benefit from and how to track, how to pay themselves, best accounting software to use, cashflow planning etc.
A package or bundle of services needs to be presented to clients – mainly due to the fact that they can’t ask for help with what they don’t know they will need help with. Practice owners have a high responsibility to go over this at the outset to a) make sure they are not giving away services later and b) avoid problem clients who presumed it was just part of the service and are reluctant to pay for it separately.
Of course, when you go over this in the initial complimentary consultation, some may be too price sensitive. But this is a good way of isolating this type of client and determining whether you want to engage with them. Even if you do engage with them, you can always go back to your menu of services later – when they run into issues, as the ground work will have been laid.
This is often easier to do with new clients to start with, than with existing clients. Of course, existing clients should also be given the option to add the services they need.
All of this does require a bit more of ‘a sales process’. A practice owner who is used to signing up new clients for bare minimum services, who wants to move to a more value based service relationship, will often require some skills to achieve this. The pay off in terms of a smoother running practice due to more predictable billings, as well as happier clients, whose needs are being fully met, is well worth it!