Creating a dream client list

What will your ideal client base look like in two to three years time?  Invariably many firms say it will be different to their current one.

So how can firms gain their dream client portfolio?  First, it’s important to understand the overall aim.  This should link into the firm’s objectives and cover the following:

  • The type of work that fee-earners want to do;
  • The level of fees needed;
  • The industry sector they want to proliferate;
  • The profile of the clients they want.

The next stage is to look at the existing client portfolio and see how far off from the dream it is.  The gap will guide firms in deciding which clients need to be kept (and protected from competitor advances), which do not fit and need pruning and how many clients are needed.

Drawing up a target list

If fee-earners need to win new clients, they need to build a target list.

A word of warning though; successful practices tend to be more targeted and build in-depth knowledge of their target prospects.

This generates a greater success rate and longer client relationships.  We therefore suggest fee-earners start with a target list of about eight, replenishing the list as necessary.

Setting the priorities

It’s all very well listing the prospects wanted, but just because they meet the firm’s criteria doesn’t mean the firm meets theirs.  For example, the prospect may be known to be acquisitive or they may be experiencing change in management/ownership.  If there’s no trigger, there’s no opportunity at this time.  Filters are those factors that make it easier to approach a prospect.  For example, the incumbent advisor is too big/small to serve their needs or the firm has a track-record in their marketplace.

When targeting a new client, the accountant needs to know as much as possible about them.  Otherwise, any offer made will be ill-informed and unsuccessful.  Information gathering can draw on many sources such as published information, sources within the firm, other suppliers and even people within the client company.  Such information will be  a guide to understanding the prospect’s business and competition, current business issues and key industry developments.

With the information, the accountant can create a plan on how to target and win these new clients.  This involves asking whether the firm has the right expertise and resources to service the client?  Is the quality of service superior to that of competitor’s?  Without a competitive advantage or a compelling ‘story to tell’, it is unlikely that the firm can differentiate itself and be successful.


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