How to Introduce Practice Ignition to your Clients

January 17th, 2018 by Jana Paulech, Ph.D. 36 minutes read

So, you signed up to PI because you KNOW there is a better way to engage your clients… maybe you have problems with not having formal engagement letters that detail the scope of services (leaving you open to costly scope creep)... maybe you have issues with clients not paying and are tired of chasing invoices… or maybe, you really just hate editing word docs and want an automated system….

Whatever the reasons you implemented PI, now we come to the stage of introducing it to your clients… (Cue dramatic music)

We have have helped A LOT of practices successfully implement PI and introduce it to their clients, and we see time and time again the practices that successfully convince all of their clients to engage with them through the system achieve so much more efficiency -

  • One View - One place to check and manage the details and ensure things don’t ‘slip through the cracks’; one place to go to see a FAST snapshot of current and future revenue (don’t trawl through excel spreadsheets)...
  • One Process - Streamlined operations and reduced administrative overhead (and process failures) with a single process followed for ALL clients - not a process that changes with the wind...
  • One Voice (to your clients) - Ensure every promise made is recorded and delivered - insulate yourself and your clients from the risks of ‘hand-shake’ arrangements (or out of date one's) and prevent client dissatisfaction and attrition…

Note: These benefits are elaborated on by one of our practices in this story.

So, we thought that we would share with you the most successful process that we have seen to introducing PI and convincing your clients that this is SO much better than what they are used to to help you achieve all the above benefits and more!

Playbook for Introducing Practice Ignition to your Clients

This is why we have come up with our first Practice Ignition Playbook - essentially a step-by-step guide that amalgamates a lot of the things we have seen to work in one place.

We have also included a few pieces of collateral (think email templates, conversation guides etc.) to help make the whole process easier - feel free to use and edit as you see fit - and if you come up with something really great, let us know as we would love to hear about it!!!

Without further adieu, let’s get into how...

Guiding Principle:

The guiding principle of any change management initiative is don’t make the change seem too big, but do make it seem very valuable to the person you want to change (i.e., THE CLIENT) - always communicate the value to them FIRST and then make sure they know how to affect that change (pretty easy in PIs case).

STEP 1 - Define Your Goals

All good change management initiatives start with setting detailed goals - and then tracking how you are going.

A few tips here:

  • Keep it SMART: Always keep in mind the SMART principle when you are setting goals - Specific, Measurable, Achievable (Actionable), Relevant and Time-bound.
  • Consider Cascading Goals: We already spoke about the power of having all your clients on PI, but, depending on your business, this may take some time. Think about defining a set of cascading goals - these can be helpful in breaking down your goals into manageable chunks and also lets you easily track how you are going. Cascading goals may not always be necessary - particularly if you are just starting your business or don't have many clients yet.

The best way to show you what we mean is with an example….

An example of a poorly defined goal:

“I want to use PI for all my engagements.”

An example of a well defined (SMART and cascading goal):

“I will have 100% of my clients on PI engagements and payments within 6 months time (Due date: insert date here).

This includes:

  • 100% of all new business clients - i.e., all new clients will receive a PI proposal immediately as part of my new process.
  • 100% of the current 100 clients I have engaged as of today.

To achieve the transfer of current clients, I will:

  1. Migrate the 35 clients I currently have on monthly fixed fee agreements. These clients will be on PI in 2 weeks time (include date).
  2. Migrate the 25 clients who could easily be transferred onto monthly fixed fee arrangements (e.g., recurring work that occurs throughout the year). These clients will be on PI in 6 weeks time (include date).
  3. Migrate the 10 clients who have recurring work at a non-monthly cadence (e.g., quarterly) onto PI within the next 3 months (include date) - in sync with their next piece of quarterly work.
  4. Migrate the 15 more difficult clients and 15 annual/adhoc clients onto the system within the next 6 months (Due by: include date).”

You can see the second example is already much more specific and includes a timeline - by breaking down further into cascading goals this also makes the overall goal more actionable and achievable. But note, each cascading goal is also specific (e.g., includes client numbers) and time-bound.

The last piece of information you may want to include is who will be made available to help these goals (if you have a team) - e.g., I will have Jane to assist here and John to assist there.

You should be able to set the overarching goal from the outset, by thinking about your resourcing and important drivers in your business - for example the impending renewal season or slow(er) periods of the year.

Once you have set the goal is then important to come back and review how you are going on your goals regularly. If you have to extend your timeline make sure you do this consciously and update your goals with a new timeline - don’t let your goals just slip away!

In order to set your goals, especially cascading goals, you may have to do some thinking about the makeup of your client base - step 2 will help with that...

Summary of Step 1:

  • All good change management initiatives start with setting your goals. Ensure goals are SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable (Actionable), Relevant and Time-bound
  • If the goal is large, or seems ‘unmanageable’ consider adding cascading sub-goals (with their own timelines) to help make the overall goal more achievable/actionable
  • Review how you are going regularly - make sure your goals don’t just slip away

STEP 2 - Define (Segment) Your Client Base

Have you segmented your client base? If not, it may be one of the most valuable things you do in your business to get your client priorities straight.

For reaching your goals for PI, it may be sufficient to do quite a rudimentary segmentation of clients. But, as client segmentation has value for your business well beyond the change to PI, we have included some ideas below for a more advanced (relationship-based) segmentation too.

Simple concepts for segmenting your clients for moving clients onto PI

The simplest framework for deciding which clients to prioritise first for introducing PI includes just three considerations:

  1. Which clients will be easy to move? (low-hanging fruit)
  2. Which clients have to move? (highest risk)
  3. Which clients will be difficult to move?

Tip: As you go about defining these groups, ensure you go back and define cascading sub-goals for each of these groups (similar to the example in step 1).

Clients who are easy to move to PI

Generally, this does tend to be a larger segment than most of us give credit to! It may seem that you have a lot of difficult clients, but we speak from having seen 1000s of clients transitioned onto PI that most clients won’t have too much trouble if you are clear in explaining the value of the change in their terms and how easy the ask is of them (we deal with this in step 3) - in fact some clients will even thank you!

Review 1
Richard Bull - Xero Business Community Reviews

Some ideas of clients who are traditionally easy to move onto PI include:

  • Clients who are tech savvy and value innovation/automation
  • Monthly fixed fee/recurring clients
  • Clients coming up for contract renewal/new business clients
  • ‘Good’ clients - you know the ones! (If not, have a look at the advanced segmentation below)
  • Clients with a ‘simple’ engagement scope - e.g., personal tax clients, clients on standard packages, clients whom you just provide one standard service (e.g., annual accounts)

These clients should be targeted for fast transition onto PI, as they are the easy-wins to automate and streamline. The communications to these clients will likely also be easier as the change will make a lot of sense to them, and you can even use a couple of these clients as ‘guinea pigs’ for the system. Engaging 'good' clients to help you roll-out a new system can be a clear show that you value their relationship higher than others.

Clients who you 'have to move' to PI

This segment reflects the reality that there are risks in every client base that need to be mitigated. Too often business owners in relationship-based services businesses expect to have to shoulder 100% of the risk on themselves as otherwise the client will leave…

Let me ask you, if you owned a store and I came in to your store and decided I wanted to take a new phone but not pay for it, would you still keep me as a customer? No! You might even call the police!

Risk is shared in this relationship - I pay you for the phone (taking on financial risk) and you and the manufacturer guarantee my rights as a consumer that the phone is functional and fit for purpose.

So why is it that once a services relationship is involved this risk is not equally distributed also?

In the context of professional services, the exchange of risk looks like this:

  • You, the professional advisor, guarantee your services are fit for purpose. You risk under-quoting/mis-quoting based on the information made available to you by the client at the time of scoping the project. (Note: hopefully you mitigate this somewhat with a clear scope or clauses for ‘out-of scope’ services)
  • Your client risks their finances on the guarantee that the work they are engaging you for will be done accurately and on time.

Indeed, sharing risks through effective disclosure/agreement (i.e., a relevant and signed engagement letter) and upfront automated payment may be one of the reasons you bought PI!

So it should be unsurprising that some of your riskiest clients should also be targeted for prioritised migration onto PI. In fact, clearly articulating this exchange of risk to these clients should be part of the conversation.

A few examples of clients who traditionally present too much risk to your business not to move are:

  • Where you need to take on-time payment out of their hands:
    • Debtors - you probably have in your head the guys that are always tardy on payment. Get these guys onto direct payment (debit from account/credit card) so as to take when they pay you out of their hands
    • Clients on a payment plan - sometimes you make accommodations outside of usual for clients who have cash flow issues (e.g., discounting, delayed payment etc.) - ensure your accommodation is met with on-time payment
  • Where you have a high legal risk:
    • Clients who have never signed an engagement letter
    • Clients who’s engagement letter is so out of date it is not relevant e.g., scope has changed, price has changed etc.
    • Clients who traditionally have had a hard time understanding and sticking to scope (either because the work is complex in nature or because of personality) - often this is where clear definitions and a signature come in most handy
  • Where the risk to your time is just not worth it:
    • Low (dollar) value work - small pieces of work may seem low risk, and thus often don’t even get a formal letter… but the risk to your time is HUGE if you are chasing/waiting on payment and/or if the scope of work is not agreed and blows-out subsequent to this (clients may even refuse to pay for extra work if the scope was not made clear ahead)

Clients who will be difficult to move

Now, every client base has some bad apples… but we can assure you from seeing PI introduced across tens-of-thousands of clients, most won’t be in this category with appropriate communication and follow-up (see later steps 3 and 5).

Some examples of clients who are often considered ‘difficult’ to move are:

  • Older, legacy clients - “...they've been working with us for 15+ years and they don’t want to change…”
  • Consider themselves ‘good’ clients as they always pay on time, and don’t like/don’t trust technology - “...they don’t understand the system and don’t think it’s necessary…”
  • They are just problematic, fussy… (insert adjective here) - “...they just don’t like it…”
  • Techno-phobic - “...they don’t have email and pay by cheque in person…”

Some of the examples above are easily accommodated - for example for technophobes, consider a mailed PI contract that is sent back signed with their cheque and then accepted internally on PI so all revenue is tracked in the system and scope is easily referenced/updated. (You may want to charge a disbursement for the additional effort though).

Other clients, however, will need special attention and more gradual change. It is important here to consciously weigh your effort against the total value of the client (consider not just what they pay, but what they cost to serve). If they are difficult in this respect (moving to PI), it is likely their difficulty extends to other areas of the relationship (and is costing you money)...

If they are a high net value client, they will likely be worth the investment in time to get them accustomed to a change (which then becomes the norm). These clients will need some personal ‘counselling’ and maybe even hand-holding through the process (see step 4 for some ideas here) - but it is important to ensure this type of personal counselling doesn’t become the norm for all/most clients (unless you have lots of time to spare!).

A Note on Legacy clients

There is frequently an unspoken, even subconscious fear in some businesses of their own ‘legacy’ clients. For most businesses, this comes from failure to realise or ask why a client has been with you for so long, and also why you have kept them so long.

Really there are only three real reasons a legacy client sticks around:

  • They like your service - if they like your service, why would they leave based on the fact you ask them for a legitimate boon?
  • They have exhausted all their other options - if so, you have a captive audience as you are the only one who will put up with them!
  • They are too lazy/afraid to move - similar to switching banks, some service providers captivate their audience as they ‘know where the skeletons are hidden’ or are just really cumbersome to change (“I don’t want to go over all this with someone new”). Particularly services to do with financials and/or in-depth business knowledge/relationships can be this way (e.g., consulting).

Another question to ask is why you have kept them for so long:

  • You like them - this is a good reason to keep a client as long as both sides of the relationship are respected
  • Nostalgia - they were one of your first clients and have just kept paying (I am sure you can think of newer clients that are much better for you/your business though)
  • They pay you well - realistically though 90% of the time legacy clients are paying less than your newer clients and frequently haven’t faced a significant price increase since they joined

If both sides of the relationship are bullet point one in the two lists above - you have a good and true long-term client relationship and you should not fear trading on this now and again to help you achieve the business benefits and efficiencies of process automation.

If, instead, the relationship sits in any of the other categories, you may want to consider asking yourself some of the relationship-based segmentation questions below and determining the true potential of the relationship - remember time you spend with legacy clients is time not spent on other important parts of your business.

Remember, difficult clients should be a small minority of your client base - and if you consciously decide to keep them, you won’t be unhappy to spend the time to.

If you really have most of your clients in this category, you may want to seriously consider your business model, appropriate pricing for this very high level of personal service, your sales pipeline and methods of lead generation.

More Advanced Idea - Relationship-based Segmentation

Do you treat all your clients the same?

If 10 clients come to you today asking for your time, but you only have time to help 5 of them, how do you decide who that will be?

...The ones that came first???

...The ones that yell the loudest???

Not all clients are created equal, but the difficulty is usually figuring out which ones are the most valuable to your business and ensuring you invest the most time in the right places to make sure clients help to grow your business rather than stifle it!

This is why the idea of client segmentation is so valuable - it gives you an objective way to determine your approaches to what may initially feel like a complex client base.

There is no shortage of advice and models for segmenting your client/customer base, but we really like the simple 4-square approach adapted from the BCG matrix below (not least for the cool segment names). The tier of a client in this approach is based on their current value AND their potential future value - with future value not necessarily a function of revenue but more alignment with your business and strength of good intent in the relationship.

Current Value

Consider questions like:

  • How much revenue do they contribute in comparison to my highest paying client?
  • Do they pay on-time, everytime?
  • How many years have they been with you? (consecutively)
Future Value

Consider questions like:

  • What is the opportunity for continued growth of that client? What is the growth trajectory of their business? Are they eager for growth? What is their likelihood to grow business with us (are they loyal, are they penny pinchers)?
  • How closely aligned are our working styles/personalities/priorities? Do we work well together, are our goals aligned? Do we communicate with each other in similar/complementary ways?
  • What is their ability to add to our business outside of direct revenue? Will they provide good quality referrals? Do they have a network that they would help us tap into? Do they have unique knowledge that they would share with us? Are they interested in innovating with us? Is there a ‘halo-effect’ of doing business with them (i.e., others will want to work with us because we work with them) and will they help us access it (e.g., with case studies/testimonials/co-branding)?
  • How much do they value our perspective and advice? Do we have a truly advisory relationship with them or do they just come to us to get their work done? Do they value our time and not waste it? Do we communicate frequently, easily and freely or are we always chasing them?
Segmentation
Example of a relationship-based segmentation model

Clients with high current value and high potential for future value are ‘Stars’ - they are your most obvious 'good' clients - where their current value with you is matched with a strong and valued relationship, loyalty and high growth potential.

Clients in the ‘Rockets’ category may not spend a lot of money with you yet, but there is good intent in the relationship and also good signs for growth. They may be a bit of an unknown quantity, but there is a strategic benefit in continuing to invest in these guys to try to realise the future potential they could (and want to) bring.

Clients in the ‘Cash Cow’ category tend to be legacy clients who may spend a lot of cash with you but are unlikely/unwilling to grow that much further and tend to treat the relationship within a classic customer-service provider relationship.

Finally, the ‘Dogs’ category is all those clients that are almost completely transactional - there is no strong relationship, they really only bring small, ad-hoc work and their is no evidence for the potential or intent for growth of this on their part.

A few general tips:

  • Heavy investments in relationship management (e.g., dedicated senior staff/management time) should only really occur with ‘Stars’ as this is where it will pay off the most
  • Find ways to streamline client service and provide an effortless experience for ‘Rockets’ so heavy client investment isn’t necessary, but you are still growing the relationship efficiently and helping them become ‘Stars’
  • Find ways to manage 'Cash Cow' clients that don’t unfavourably eat into the margin you get from them. They are likely to want to eat up your time, but remember, it is most likely they won’t stick around forever or help you grow…
  • Strictly manage any time investments with Transactional clients - remember any time you spend here is less time serving and/or finding potential Stars/Rockets! If you are in the position to, these are also the clients you should not be afraid to lose first as your business grows to be more profitable.
  • Re-segment clients on a regular cadence - this is a good annual exercise as a review of your client base and pricing. Ensure all new business clients are added and segmented throughout the year.

Summary of Step 2:

  • Consider segmenting your client base (particularly if it is large) to make it easier to move clients sequentially onto PI. A good simple segmentation is clients that will be easy to move, clients who you have to move (high-risk or low-value) and clients who will be difficult.
  • Prioritise moving easy and high-risk clients first and give some time to yourself to plan for how you will engage difficult clients (some ideas are given in step 4)
  • A relationship-based client segmentation model can be a great tool for your business (even beyond introducing PI). It helps you identify where spending time with clients is most likely to get the best returns and helps you avoid spending too much effort on low future value clients. Remember to re-segment your client base regularly and add new clients as they come on.

STEP 3 - Communicate Early and Often

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One of the most important things you can do when changing a process is to communicate early and communicate often. But ensuring you communicate the right information is important too!

There are really three things you want to communicate to clients:

  1. How will this benefit them?
  2. When will this happen?
  3. What do they have to do?

Importantly, you also want to communicate in that order - always lead with what is the benefit to them. Then, make sure you set a clear timeline for the change (not too far out, but give them some time for queries). Finally, go into the detail of 'what' clearly - what will they receive, what will it look like and what do they have to do. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) and a visual example of how they’ll accept their PI proposal may also be something you want to offer.

Depending on your client base, you may also need to communicate a few times or maybe by different mediums or even perhaps a slightly different message. If you only have a few clients this may be easy to keep track of, but if not, you may want to write out a quick plan...

Plan your communications by client segment

Now there is no hard and fast rule here, but generally you will want to limit high-intensity communications (e.g., meetings) to high value clients. Other clients you may want to call - but always ensure you provide information in writing too.

Have a look at the quick example plan mocked up below. You can see the medium of communications changes with each segment, and everyone also either receives written instructions or a meeting to go through it in person (only for the most difficult or valuable clients).

Comms Plan
Example of a communication plan by client segment

Pro tip - If you are sending emails, you may also want to consider having visuals and/or short a video to explain the points mentioned - How, When, What. The advantage of a video - besides being a nice personal touch - is you can show them what the whole process looks like go through some FAQs all without a long wordy email!

Best practices for communicating change

Now let’s help you out putting together your comms - we have a few templates for you that you can use/edit too! Remember the points from above - always start with the benefit to them before discussing the when and how. Also, it never hurts to get a bit excited. :)

Tip: If you want to make a video for your clients, you can use the samples below to write yourself a little script and get recording! We recommend a fantastic (FREE!) app called Loom to create these videos. Here’s an example video that our Head of Customer Success, Tom created: Click here to view the video

Screenshot 2018 01 11 17 02 37

Letter/Script Sample

"Hi there/client name,

I wanted to tell you about an exciting development your tech savvy accountant/bookkeeper/service provider has implemented to streamline how we work together!

In the next few weeks, you will be receiving your engagement proposal from me electronically - this proposal is {insert relevant context} - the exact same as the one you signed earlier this year/a renewal of our previous agreement/an amended agreement based on some changes.

There are a few exciting benefits to this system for you:

  1. One step electronic sign and accept from any device, anywhere - you don’t need to download anything, all you need is a web browser and access to your email. No more manual signatures, scanning, sending/mailing back, and when your done you also get a copy emailed straight to you!
  2. Easy communication - send any queries you have directly as comments on the proposal (you don’t even have to look up our email). We will get informed that you have left us a query and reply back - all of this is tracked right against the proposal too!
  3. Spend more time on what matters - efficiently getting this admin out of the way electronically helps us spend more time on what matters - helping your business!
  4. Your advisor is staying on top of tech! I am/we are always on the search for new software to improve the efficiency of your business - and if you like what you see, I can help you implement it for your business too!
Be on the look-out in the next 2 weeks for an email in your inbox that says “{INSERT PRACTICE NAME} has sent you a new proposal”. There will be a link in this email to your proposal which will look something like this….
Real Proposal Example

All you will need to do is:

1. Review the summary and engagement letter terms - tip; click to expand for more information in the service summary at the top

2. Update your payment details securely (don’t worry the software has bank-level security and encryption and we will never see your payment information

3. Accept - check the box “accept the above terms”, type your name and hit the “Accept Proposal” button

That's it! Simple! Then we can get on with business!

Thanks for your help and if you have any queries or feedback, I would be happy to hear them - just contact me by {INSERT PREFERED CONTACT METHOD}

Yours Sincerely,

{NAME}”

Have a look at some more templates for different situations:

Another thing you may want to include in you email (e.g., as an attachment), video or call are some frequently asked questions with answers...

Frequently Asked Questions

Why am I signing an agreement?

[if relevant] It is a requirement of our professional association [insert here] that all work undertaken is covered by an up-to-date and relevant engagement letter. [If not relevant you may want to include something like - It is a best practice in our industry that all work undertaken is covered by an up-to-date and relevant engagement letter - we always endeavour to operate at the highest standard of doing business]. This letter ensures we both have a common understanding of of what is required to be delivered, for what charge and also lists our general terms of doing business and also anything specific to the services you have requested.

Why do you want a Digital signature?

Electronic signatures are a far more efficient way of collecting your agreement and allow you to sign anywhere without the use of a printer, paper, scanner - this saves you and us time, not to mention the environmental benefits of going paperless!

Can I print and sign this proposal manually?

While we’d prefer that you sign the proposal with the digital signature tool, you can print a copy of this proposal by clicking on the “view PDF” link in the bottom right of the “terms” section of your online agreement. We would of course encourage you to sign electronically to save time and the environment.

Do I get a copy of the agreement for my own records?

Yes, as soon as you sign and accept your agreement, you’ll be emailed a copy of the proposal as a downloadable PDF for you to store wherever you like.

What if I need you to change the proposal before I accept it?

No problem. Just let me know in the conversation tab at the bottom of your online proposal, and I’ll be able to make any changes to your proposal before you accept.

What if I need more/different services?

  1. If you need to add more/different services before you accept the proposal: Just let me know in the conversation tab at the bottom of your online proposal, and I’ll be able to make any changes to your proposal before you accept
  2. If you need to add more/different services after you accept the proposal: Please contact me to let me know what you need and we will happily issue a “change of service request” for your review and acceptance. We will not commence work, or collect payment for, additional services until we’ve received acceptance for your change of service proposal. Please note you will not have to re-enter your payment information (unless you’d like to change the payment method).

Why does the email look different to the ones I normally receive from you?

(Include only if sending emails directly from Practice Ignition not via a link in your own personal email)

The email containing a link to your electronic proposal is sent directly from our proposal and billing system - Practice Ignition - and not through our email client (Outlook, gmail etc.). The email will have our branding, but the email address may have a [email protected] address. If you wish to reply back to us, please click on the link in the email and leave a comment on the proposal. We will then comment back and you will receive our reply by email - this conversation will also be added to the bottom of the proposal.

Why are you asking for payment details? How are my payment details stored?

As part of our new proposal and billing system, this will automate our invoicing, collections and reconciliations process. The good news for you is that you will not have to worry about remembering to pay invoices and will only have to re-enter details if you wish to change your information. This will also allow us to spend less time administering and more time working with you!

When you enter your payment information it is stored securely and safely in compliance with PCI DSS standards and we don’t manually store or have access to any of your payment details.

Can I change the payment method anytime?

Yes you can. Please contact me and we’d be happy to help you. Please note we collect payment for monthly services on the [1st] of each month. Please contact me at least [24 hours] prior to the [1st] to ensure your next monthly payment will be taken from your preferred payment method.

What if I want to ask a question?

You can ask questions directly on the proposal at the very bottom. You’ll be notified of my responses via email and you’ll be able to view those responses and continue the conversation at any time on your online proposal.

What does the payment summary mean?

The summary shows you:

  • The services we will perform for you during the period of engagement stated on your online proposal (click on each service to expand them for more detail).
  • The fee for each service
  • How frequently you will be asked to pay for the services performed:
    • What does on acceptance mean? Services under “On Acceptance” will be charged immediately, as soon as you accept the agreement.
    • What does Recurring mean? The fees for these services will be collected once a month on the [1st], throughout the engagement period
    • What does On Completion mean? The fees for these one-time services will be collected once you have been notified, and agreed, that the work is complete.
    • What does estimate mean? Just like on completion, the fees for these one-time services will be collected once you have been notified, and agreed, that the work is complete, however the final fee will be determined once the work is complete.

Download an editable version of these frequently asked questions here.

If you have time, you may want to record a quick video specific to your clients proposal explaining some of the details - this can be particularly useful if it is a complex agreement with multiple parts and billing types. Again, Loom (www.useloom.com) is a quick, free and easy way to create personalised videos of this nature.

A note on price increases when sending a new proposal through Practice Ignition:

If you are adding a price increase to your services in addition to sending out a new engagement letter, you may want to add additional communications around this - particularly why you have increased price. Ensure you relate the reason back to the extra value the client is getting, not increased cost of doing business/administration. If the client does have administrative overheads (e.g., manual mailing, printing etc.) these may be better handled as additional disbursements with a conversation around how these could be reduced (e.g., electronic signing, email etc.)

If you are not adding a price increase, ensure to outline this too by saying the proposal is exactly the same as what they signed before but may be presented differently. Here the FAQ response explaining the payment summary can be particularly useful.


Summary of Step 3:

  • Consider the change message you will send to each segment, the medium in which you will send it, and how you will follow-up. If you have a lot of clients a communication plan like the one above is a good idea
  • When communicating change, always communicate the BENEFITS TO YOUR CLIENT (not to you) first and then the 'when' and the 'what' of the change - be specific about what you want them to do
  • Consider personal mediums outside of email/phone like a video to help explain - be prepared for questions or even send/speak through a list of FAQs with answers

STEP 4 - Allow Time for Personal “Counselling” with Difficult Clients

For the small minority of clients that you know will be really difficult even with the proper communication in place, you will likely have to offer them some personal ‘counselling’ that may be best done in person.

The general communication guidelines still apply - always focus first on the value they can get from the system, but a timeline may be harder to set for these guys as it will depend on when you can meet with them to discuss their proposal (and describe the ‘what’).

Ahead of meeting with them, ensure you have put their proposal together and set a clear agenda for the session that includes explaining their proposal. This meeting need not be specifically for this purpose and can be tacked on to an already scheduled meeting, but it is important you put it formally on the agenda.

In the meeting walk them through their proposal - use the accept in person feature - and ensure your goal is to get them to sign it right there in person.

Remember, if they are a ‘legacy’ client, it is likely they are sticking with you for a reason. If they value your service (and should if they have been with you for so long), it is not too much to ask them to formalise your relationship in this meeting.

When you have done this with them once, it is likely they will be able to do it themselves the next time it comes to send out an engagement letter.

A few tips:

If you face some pushback, ensure you take some time to really understand why they are pushing back. They may think that you are trying to increase your prices (even if you are not) - this is especially true if they have not signed anything in a long while. Explaining their proposal should assuage this fear, if not, consider asking some open-ended questions to delve into their objection (e.g., can you please explain in more detail the nature of your objection?).

Finally, it is also okay to fall back on regulation if it fits well with your story - it is a requirement of {insert professional body} that we have a signed and annually updated {or insert alternate cadence} letter of engagement. Historically, the industry is notoriously lax in this, but I need to insulate myself and my business from a potential audit, so please help me out here. (Queue client: “Oooh… it’s a regulatory thing! I get it! Better comply then.”)

Summary of Step 4:

  • Every client base will have a few difficult clients - but these should not make up the majority of your client base.
  • Consider personal ‘counselling’ of these clients in person or virtually to take them through the change and walkthrough their new proposal. The goal of this meeting should ideally be to get the proposal signed in the meeting.
  • Always make sure difficult clients are worth your extra effort (e.g., where would they fall on the relationship segmentation above) - remember the more time you spend with low net value clients is taking you away from other important areas of your business (e.g., getting new clients)

STEP 5 - Follow-up, Stay Firm but Open to Feedback

Some clients may accept straight away, and others may take some time… for those that do take some time, be sure you follow up.

Have a look here to see some suggested ways to follow-up with your clients either by re-sending the proposals in bulk or by using a personal comment. If they still don’t come back to you, try calling them after re-sending the proposal - also, if you have a meeting with them already scheduled, be sure to re-send ahead and get them to sign in the meeting. You could even text the link to them!

Send A Proposal Via Text Pi
Texting a PI proposal is a breeze with contract links

Keep in mind that we see, on average, proposals come back within 1-3 days - so following-up within the week is a good idea to either get feedback or a signature (remember to check if they have viewed the proposal and when).

If you face some push back from clients, it is important to stay firm - but most requests can be accommodated if you want to:

  • If they don’t want to pay through the system and are good payers and loyal clients, consider this accommodation but be sure to get something in return - e.g., can you sign today if I remove this? If they don’t want to pay through the system yet never pay you, you will not want to make this accommodation…
  • If they can’t sign electronically, accept on their behalf or have them come in in person to accept (use the accept in person feature) - you can also enter their payment details for them if they need. Note: If you do accept on behalf of a client, make sure you add an internal message in the conversation tab of the proposal in PI, to ensure you record the reason for internal acceptance in the proposal history.
  • If they just don't want to sign anything, it is important to have a stance on this too - are you happy to service someone who is not happy to formally engage with you?

Also feel free to lay down the law! Asking for a relevant, signed agreement and details of payment upfront should be your policy going forward and it is a sound one for your business. Remember, if the time you could spend accommodating a single, difficult client could instead be spent winning two new ‘easy’ clients who will follow your new process, then consider what is the true benefit for you?

But largely, you should find (as many of our practices already have) with the right communication (and some extra love to the high-value yet difficult clients) your clients will readily accept this as the new norm when doing business with you!

“… One of my new clients who received and accepted my proposal via Practice Ignition was so impressed that they have implemented Practice Ignition for their law firm.”

Susan McCracken
Review2

“… it has enabled our clients to also save time and effort faffing about with returning signed engagement letters for whatever business type they may belong to…”

Karrim Mansoor
Review3

“... Clients love the simplicity. “

TaxAssist UK
Screenshot 2018 01 10 12 51 26

“... every time I have used Practice Ignition my new clients are impressed with the professionalism of it.”

Redline
Screenshot 2018 01 10 12 52 45

“... Clients love the electronic signing of our engagement letters and with PI we never forget to invoice. We preach the importance of fully integrated systems to our clients - PI allows us to practice what we preach in our own business."

Adriaan Basson
Screenshot 2018 01 10 12 53 50

“... We've had feedback from our clients that they love it [PI] too!”

Chloe Waight
Screenshot 2018 01 10 12 54 39

(See all Xero app marketplace reviews here and all Quickbooks Apps.com store reviews here. For more PI Customer Stories, click here).

Summary of Step 5:

  • Ensure you follow-up appropriately on sent proposals - within the week is a good idea given most proposals have some sort of feedback
  • Re-send the proposal before calling or meeting with a client if they haven’t signed - you can also text it to them
  • Stay firm in the face of push-back - remember this is a way to protect your business and also improve efficiencies! Most minor gripes can be accommodated, but consider your position on this ahead of meeting with them as it may mean more administration for you (e.g., will you charge a disbursement for hard copy printing etc.)

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