Income tax season is when clients are most receptive to tax, estate,
business, and financial planning. Yet that is when you have the least time available
to deliver these services. It's ironic that your clients are the hottest
prospects just when you don't want them to be.
What to do... What to do...
Use the tax season to set up later appointments to address these important
issues with clients.
For example, my latest book Target Marketing: How to Gain Profitable
New Business1contains a checklist, 60 Clues to Tax
and Financial Services on your Client's 1040. Since the book was
published earlier this year, I have expanded the list to 84 clues.2
Here's how to use the list:
When clients come to deliver their data or to pick up their return, sit down
with them and say, "If it's alright with you, I would
like to review your data/return with you to see if there are opportunities we
are overlooking or threats we should address. Would that be alright?"
Nine out of 10 clients will be glad you take the time to review their data or
return with them. The review should take about a half-hour with most
By the way, those bold-faced phrases, "If it's alright with
you" and "Would that be alright?"
are very important. They let clients feel in control of the interview and its
outcome. You don't want to ram anything down your client's throat, so
"ask to ask." Okay?
You can apply this interviewing technique to non-tax and business clients
also. The Target Marketing book also has checklists for a Business
Client Meeting Agenda, an Individual Client Meeting
Agenda, and a Business Goal Sheet and Action Plan.3
KEY POINT: If nothing keeps your client awake at night, maybe you
have not asked the right question.
Here's a variation: "If it's alright with you, I would like to ask
you a few questions to see if there are financial/business opportunities we
are overlooking or threats we should address. Would that be
Then go over some of the items on the checklist.
Clients are willing to pay significant fees if you can save them potential
taxes or improve their financial position or business. Tell clients during
the interview that they may have an estate, business or financial
EXAMPLE: Every client with combined net worth and life insurance
coverage of over $675,000 is a potential estate planning client. But too many
CPAs do not even know each client's net worth. And even fewer know each client's
life insurance coverage.
As you know, life insurance is the most heavily taxed asset in America. So
much insurance is included in the estate - starting at 35 percent! It is
simple to set up a life insurance trust. Yet few CPAs take the time to investigate.
You owe it to your clients to identify every one with a potential tax,
financial, or business problem.
EXAMPLE: "Jim" reviewed clients' 1040s for dividend and
interest income. He identified an elderly couple with a $400,000 estate tax
liability when the second spouse died. Setting up an A-B Trust protected the
clients' estates. When Jim met with the clients to discuss his
recommendations, the husband was delighted at the savings and happily paid a
fee over $1,000 above the CPA's standard charges, and indicated he would have
been happy with a fee of $15,000! KEY POINT: Since people buy solutions to
problems, if your client does not have a problem, you do not have a prospect.
For clients to act, they must be dissatisfied with their current
state of affairs. Use the interview to find, awaken, and stimulate that
dissatisfaction about the current situation to convince the client to
make changes, such as planning his or her estate or retirement.
Dig your well before you're thirsty
If you wait until summer to talk to your clients about tax, estate,
business, and financial planning, they might think you were looking for their
business only because you have a vacant appointment book. That is bad for
The fact is that clients need these value-added services all the time -
you just don't have the time during the busy season.
Instead, talk to them during the tax season - just set up the work
appointment for after the busy season.
Do it this way: "Well, Charlie and Janet, it looks like you may
have an estate tax problem. I won't know for sure until I get more
information and do some research. Let's set up an appointment for May 17 to
discuss this. Would that be alright?"
About the toughest response you will get is "How much will that
cost?" In which case reply, "Nothing. The meeting will be our gift
to you. If it turns out that you do need an estate plan, I'll be happy to
discuss prices with you after I know more about how much work we need to do. Fair
That "fair enough" comment is also a valuable communications
tool. It lets clients keep control of their situation and assures them you
will not run up a bill without their agreement.
When you meet in the summer, decide whether the client needs the service
and discuss prices. If you get a price objection, try this response:
"I'm fortunate. I am in a financial position where I do not need your
money. But that is not as relevant as the fact that you need this service. It
will help you achieve your financial goals and sleep better at night knowing
that you are taking the right steps to secure your financial future.
"My experience has been that when you really need something, you are
going to pay for it whether you buy it or not. And it will usually cost you
more and be more painful if you don't buy it."
I hope you find these observations helpful. If you would like a copy
of the 84 clues, write, fax, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If your profitability or growth is not what it should be, or if you feel
like "I don't own my business; my business owns me!" maybe
we can help you like we have helped hundreds of other businesses. Call us for
a no-obligation free consultation valued at $400. And you will always make a
profit on our services. Remember: Our service doesn't cost . . . It pays! We
are not an expense: we are an investment!
1 (c) 2000 by Harcourt Professional Publishing. Available for $74.00
at www.hpponline.com with money-back guarantee. Available for $54.20 at www.amazon.com.
2 If you would like to have a copy of the clues, I'll send you a
printed copy for a nominal charge, or I'll email you one for free.
3 I can't send you those, but you can always buy the book or develop