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Tom Talks Taxes - May 9, 2022
An interview with Jamie O'Kane, CPA, CTC about paid initial consultations
For this edition, I spoke with Jamie O'Kane, CPA, CTC, a tax planning specialist, about how tax practitioners can get paid to do initial consultations with prospective clients.
At first, I was skeptical about getting paid for an initial talk with a prospect. I now think this is an important idea to consider as part of pipeline management in a tax practice. I just began implementation of a version of what Jamie does in my own tax practice. I believe this will allow me to only spend time with serious prospects who have a high likelihood of moving forward with a larger paid engagement.
Why did you start doing paid initial consultations with prospects?
In the early days of my practice, I found myself running around town or taking hour-long phone calls with prospects who weren't serious about becoming clients or were awful fits. I felt as if I was chasing my tail on growth while not taking care of my current clients. I was frustrated, tired, and felt used. On top of that, I am a horrible sales person. I wanted to connect and help people without having to worry about making a sale. Paid consultations just made sense.
Another complication is that we only work on a monthly recurring revenue model. That is REALLY hard to sell to the types of prospects we were talking to for free.
How much is a paid initial consultation and what do you provide the prospect in exchange for the fee?
Currently our Tax Discovery Session is $445 and includes:
Review of prior year business and personal tax returns
45 minutes dedicated to the prospect
Assessment of their tax concerns past, present, and future
Assessment of their goals and what is important to you
Answers to their top questions
A summary of our findings and personalized action items to move forward with their goals
How do prospects generally react to your system?
Those that are serious about working with us are happy to do the paid session. Those who are price shopping or aren't serious will either not schedule a session or sometimes try to get around it.
How often do prospects convert to paid clients?
Our conversion rate is really high with the paid consults. About 80-90% of prospects who schedule the paid Tax Discovery Session convert to paid clients. We don't count someone as a prospect unless they schedule the session.
What benefits and drawbacks have you experienced from this approach?
I honestly don't think I will be able to give you any drawbacks! Here are the benefits as I see them:
Our system establishes that the client sees our value and is willing to pay for it, can and will use an online scheduling system, can and will use electronic means to provide us with documentation, and can and will meet with us virtually via Zoom call. All of these things are required to be a client of ours.
This approach is a VERY effective and hands-off way to weed out prospects that aren't a good fit. I am only meeting with awesome potential clients.
I get to dedicate time to prospects in a way that provides them real value.
It creates integrity in who gets my expertise and time. I am not giving away what our current clients pay for every single month.
Prospects have buy-in in the consultation. They paid and did the required steps, so they show up ready to engage and receive value.
When you put up barriers to access there is a greater sense of respect from the prospect around our time and expertise.
Here are some concerns that prospects may have:
Paid initial consultations can be really confusing for some people. The most common question we get is whether or not tax preparation services are included in the consultation fee.
Sometimes the paid consultation leads to prospects feeling entitled to more than the stated included items, or to a proposal for ongoing services.
Do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share?
I am so honored to discuss this topic! I truly want to see the tax and accounting industry shift into models that create sustainability and the ability for professionals to thrive. This sustainability can provide the bandwidth to provide the advisory services our clients so desperately want and need. In my experience, paid consultations are a key component to that shift.
Share Your Thoughts!
If you are a paid subscriber, use the comments section below to discuss how you conduct initial consultations in your tax practice.
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