Prospecting is probably the least understood aspect of practice development among accounting firms. Yet it is the most important stage in acquiring new clients. If accountants lack a prospecting program, they risk limiting themselves to the people they happen to meet as a source of potential clients.
Despite the fact that seeking and securing prospective clients is the key to successful practice growth, most accountants approach it with considerable caution. Accountants are trained to render independent opinions and avoid becoming too close to the people for whom they work for in case it affects their professional judgement. One of the consequences of this is that they tend to lack people skills and communication skills.
Prospecting could not be more different from an accountant’s normal work. It involves chasing tenuous leads before identifying a valid prospect. Because of the tentative nature of the initial results, accountants cannot point to numbers to claim success, or even demonstrate where they are succeeding or failing. Prospecting can also require extensive participation in non-occupational activities, such as meeting people at club and industry gatherings, proving personal competence in unfamiliar arenas, or learning to promote the firm’s professional reputation in unfamiliar circles.
Despite all of this, accountants who are seriously committed to firm growth can become accustomed with prospecting and succeed at it. Quite simply, the more prospecting an accountant does, the greater their chances are of securing new clients.