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Learning From “Clients From Hell”

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devilishI had a colleague recently recommend that I take a look at the “Clients From Hell” website. Seems the clients stories were full of example of clients who had no clue as to what they hired the professional to do.

It reminded me of how I felt each month when I was in practice, until I realized that the clients and I weren’t speaking the same “language,” and I really needed to understand their needs. Until that point, what I had failed to realize was that clients responded to the way I communicated and how I met their needs.


It was only when I did this “look in the mirror” self analysis, that I realized that the way clients were communicating with me was a result of how I was getting clients:

  • Promises or impressions I made during my sales process,
  • Explanations I had given of what the client was going to receive,
  • Unrealistic, or unfounded, opinions about the clients understanding of my work product,
  • And more factors that I was able to control.

When I started, the one thing I failed to do was to get an understanding of what the clients true needs were. My clients were (a) naive, (trusting, and (c) inexperienced in reading financial statements.

This self analysis and reflection came about as I struggled to increase fees to my existing client base.

The resistance I met, not to fee increases in general, but to clients acceptance of new services, and thus, new billing opportunities for me, caused an inordinate amount of frustration.

The result was that I decided to revamp my basic marketing method, and insert an additional step. Rather than going right into a presentation of my services and how I worked with clients, I began to take some additional time on the front end with an open ended “Client Needs Assessment.”

What I effectively did was move from a self centered sales pitch, to a more client focused approach, gathering an understanding if the clients wants and needs. Even if the client themselves was unable to put their wants and needs into words.

I took the time to get an understanding of how the clients business worked, and what they needed.

And, in almost 100% of the cases, it was not for those financial statemnts that I was so proud to produce each month. In fact, it was usually for something totally unrelated to financial statements, cash flow projections, or any of that crap.

Clients wanted (a) more customers, (b) lower inventory shrinkage or theft, or (c) a lower profile with the IRS. It was always something like that. Small business owners usually always knew if they were making money (by checking their wallet) before I was ever able to print out their financial statements.

It wasn’t until I realized that, and began to get an awareness of my clients needs, that I was able to make proposals that answered those needs and gave me higher billing opportunities. I was even able to systemitize the process and work it into my cold calling presentation.

ABGCourse-300x156You can find out more about how I fit the Client Needs Analysis into my cold calling system by clicking here. It’s a pretty unique system, and a refinement of the system first implemented by the founder of Comprehensive Accounting Services, back in the ’70’s, Leo Lauzen.

Lauzen founded his accounting practice in 1949, and somewhere around the ’70’s, in response to the relaxation of marketing rules for professionals, he introduced a cold calling system with a high pressure close. A system marketed by several big name firms, even to this day.

This high pressure close resulted in a high churn as sales reps were more interested in their close rates and front-end commissions than in the long term health of the practice.

It wasn’t until I added the Client Needs Analysis and changed the focus from a pitch of my services that I was able to add services that resulted in lower churn rates and additional billing opportunities.

Take a look at the “Absolute Beginners Guide To Starting And Building Your Own Accounting Practice When You Are Flat Broke” training course for yourself and see what I mean. It’s only $27, and contains a million dollars worth of training and advice.

Best to you,

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