Creating Proposals That Sell

March 16th, 2021 by Joshua Lance 6 minutes read

Bringing on new clients is a critical part of running an accounting firm. New clients help you grow your practice, further develop your expertise, and ensure the long-term success of your business.

However, many accounting firms struggle with this. They often find themselves bringing on the wrong type of clients for their practice, clients that are just looking to pay the lowest price possible for the maximum amount of work.

So how can you solve this issue? By fixing your proposal process.

Let’s take a look at how you can create proposals that not only sell, but that sell the right type of services: namely, advisory services.

Start with a strong sales process

You need to devise a standardized sales process that covers the following three goals:

  1. Identifies your prospective client’s needs

  2. Qualifies the client

  3. Determines the appropriate scope of services

By creating a standardized process, you can ensure that each new client is treated in the same manner—and that you ask the right questions from the get-go.

You’ll be safe in the knowledge that you know exactly what the client is after, that they’re the right sort of client for your business, and that you’ve agreed upon a set of specific services going forward. Once you’ve gleaned these insights, you can then produce a proposal that binds all this information together in one single document.

There are a few simple steps to follow when devising your own sales process.

First, ask clients to fill out a new client profile form. This allows you to successfully qualify the client and ensure they’re right for your firm (and vice-versa). Once they’re qualified, you can then provide an in-depth needs assessment where you dig into precisely what the client needs/is looking for.

Handy hint: Be sure to ask probing open-ended questions, such as: “What are your organization's goals for five years’ time?”

For instance, a client might only say they need a tax return completed. When you do a little digging, however, you realize that they’re thinking of expanding and so would also benefit from forward-thinking financial planning advice.

Once the qualification and needs-assessment processes are finalized, you can then craft a proposal that directly links your prospective client’s needs, goals, and desires with the services that you can offer—and what this will cost them.

Proposal best practices

There are a number of best practices to follow at all times, regardless of the proposal in question.

1. No instant proposals

    As tempting as it might be to fire off an immediate proposal, take the time necessary to properly qualify clients and to get to know their specific requirements. This will ensure that you only ever work with clients that you know are actually right for your firm.

    2. Make sure it’s professional

      Proposals represent your firm—therefore, they should be free of spelling and grammatical errors. Why would you trust somebody to handle your business’s complex financial and compliance-related requirements if they can’t even spell check a proposal?

      It’s crucial for accounting firms to show that they’re detail-oriented, timely, and accurate in everything they do. This will help build valuable trust with clients before you even begin working together.

      3. Show your firm’s unique personality in an engaging manner

      Consider including pictures of your team or engaging videos that go over your services in detail. This will set you apart from the competition, giving you the opportunity to demonstrate why your firm is right for the client.

      Your proposal should look and feel like it was custom crafted for this particular client. Lift the lid on your team’s personalities and capabilities, directly linking your in-house expertise to the problems that you can help your clients solve.

      4. Provide a clear scope of services

      Your proposal should clearly outline the services you’re offering and what’s included/not included in those services. These explanations need to be detailed enough to leave no room for misunderstanding/misinterpretation further down the line, which helps prevent accidental scope creep.

      Don’t be afraid to offer up two-step proposals. For instance, you might need to conduct an initial diagnosis where you identify what a client actually needs before sending over a second proposal outlining where your firm can help.

      If you do provide two-step proposals, however, then clearly communicate how this process will work to the client beforehand just to avoid any unnecessary confusion.

      5. Outline your pricing

      No matter which methodology your firm follows, it’s important that you clearly outline your pricing in your proposal. List how much each of your services will cost and also define your billing schedule upfront.

      This is another golden opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition. Clients crave clarity above all else—they want to know how much it will cost to work with you, and when they’ll be required to pay up.

      If possible, avoid providing ranges at all costs. Clients generally assume the lower end of estimates and may kick up a fuss further down the line if services cost more than they initially imagined.

      6. Identify next steps

      Lastly, identify what happens once the prospective client signs on the dotted line. For example, you might go through the following process:

      • Get both parties to sign an engagement letter. This ensures you’re all on the same page and gives you something to refer back to if you run into disagreements going forward.

      • Obtain payment details from the client

      • Gather all necessary information to begin working with them (previous tax returns, login details for existing accounting software, etc.)

      By having a well-defined onboarding process in place, you’ll fill new clients with confidence and ensure that you provide fantastic customer service right from the very beginning of your working relationship.

      7. Don’t be afraid to follow up

      As frustrating as it is to send off a detailed, engaging proposal, your prospective clients likely have hundreds of different things going on. Don’t be afraid to follow up if you haven’t heard back from them after a few days. This will show that you actively care about working with this client and will ensure your firm remains front of mind at all times.

      Plus, you can also use this as an opportunity to ask whether the client would like any additional information from your firm or if there are any parts of your proposal that you can further clarify.

      Perfect your proposals process going forward

      If you can’t effectively communicate your expertise, you’ll struggle to bring in high-paying clients—especially if you’re looking to sell high-value, but slightly intangible, advisory services.

      However, by having a strong sales process in place and following the 7 proposals best practices listed above, you can ensure that the proposals you send out effectively sell your firm’s wide-ranging expertise.

      Set your firm apart and consistently bring in the right sort of clients. If you’re struggling to find the right type of clients or to sell certain services, the steps outlined in this post will help you reinvent your proposals, transforming your firm in the process.

      To learn more about how Practice Ignition helps firms perfect their proposals, book a demo today.

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