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Guest author Adriaan Basson shares why client selection is critical to your success.
YOUR BUSINESS 3 mins 20 Jul 2020 by Angela Gosnell
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Ignition customer and founder of South African firm Wingman Accounting, Adriaan Basson, shares why Wingman takes such care when choosing their clients – and what to do when you know a client isn’t right for your firm.

Start right away

According to Adriaan, the key to building a brilliant client base is by being extremely selective from the get-go. Accounting firms, like other businesses, can sometimes fall into the trap of saying yes to every bit of new business — it’s hard to turn down the chance to earn more money.

However, this may in fact be harmful to your firm’s long-term future.

As Adriaan puts it, “You can really accelerate your growth by being ultra-selective on who you let through the gate. We tend to want to bend over backwards and almost do a summersault for our clients, but I think if you want to be a successful firm, you have to turn that around somewhat.”

Consider the Pareto principle

You’ve likely heard of the 80/20 rule, or to give it its technical term, the Pareto principle. This essentially states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. But how does this apply to accounting?

According to Adriaan, “The 80/20 principle is true – I’ve found that you always end up spending a whole lot more time on the clients that you don't love working with and that don’t really bring you much revenue”.

Does this sound at all familiar?

If so, don’t worry – this is partly natural. If you spend countless hours handling incredibly complex issues for a particular client, of course you won’t enjoy this work. That’s a given. However, if you’re not receiving much revenue in return, then it’s potentially time to rethink your approach.

There’s little point in consistently putting off profitable work that you enjoy doing just so you can keep one lower-value client happy.

Difficult conversations

Firing clients can be awkward – we get it. People tend to take rejection personally, even if it’s a purely business-related decision.

For Wingman Accounting, the firm’s strong sense of values helps mitigate this somewhat: “We're pretty clear about what we stand for. When it comes to the other party not standing for the same things, it actually takes a lot of the sting out of that conversation. It's not a personal thing – it’s just that the two companies’ values don’t seem to match up. It is what it is.”

Imagine that you’re an innovative firm that embraces new technology. If one of your clients is constantly kicking up a fuss and asking you to revert back to your old ways of working, then this clearly goes against what your company stands for.

Having strong company values makes it easier to discern which clients to keep and which to potentially fire. If you do this with the utmost professionalism, giving a clear reason as to why it’s not working (and potentially even recommending an alternative firm), then these conversations don’t have to be so difficult.

As Adriaan states: “We keep it really clean – this means that we've even received leads from clients that we’d previously fired!”.

The same principle applies to prospective clients. “Avoid the urge to hard sell your services to anyone and everyone. Instead, try to view sales as a process of finding alignment with the right clients.”

It’s time to build a client base that you love working with. If you do, you’ll begin to truly enjoy your work, you’ll go the extra mile for your clients, and you’ll never stop getting better at what you do.

Over to you

Ready to take your practice’s customer-centricity to the next level? If so, it’s time you implemented Ignition.

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Meet the author

Angela Gosnell
Angela Gosnell

Global Content Marketing Lead 

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Published 20 Jul 2020 Last updated 21 Jul 2023