So much is on the line when talking with potential clients because you either leave a bad impression or get them on board with you. That is why many find it nerve-wracking, especially when the conversations start to get boring or dull. How then will you close if they look like they want to get away from you? In this episode, Michelle Weinstein and her partner in crime, business growth strategist Denise Mandeau, help you overcome these awkward situations and get your potential accounting clients to say YES. How, do you ask? By only asking the right questions! Not only will you get their sweet YES, but you will also get it from the client that is right for you and who is willing to pay you what you’re looking for. Follow Michelle and Denise to connect with your leads and build a rock-solid relationship that will last long-term.
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Asking The Right Questions To Get A Potential Accounting Client’s YES With Denise Mandeau
Welcome to the show. I’ve got my partner in crime, Denise. Thank you so much for being here. Can you please introduce yourself to everyone that might have forgotten who you are?
I’m Denise Mandeau. I am Michelle’s partner in crime at the Abundant Accountant here on the East Coast representing here in New Jersey. We’ve got lots of love where it’s circling the whole country here. Michelle and I have been working together for a couple of years.
That’s a long time. All of you who’ve owned an accounting firm for years, you can understand what I’m talking about. You work a lot and you’ve got a lot of clients. In our world, time flies. I love having Denise on The Abundant Accountant Team and Pitch Queen Family. I don’t use my real name, Michelle Weinstein and I’m not related to Harvey. I like going by The Pitch Queen. You are at the right department of your accounting firm for the time that we’re here. In this episode, we are talking about the three questions to ask your potential clients to get a yes. I went to this Hostage Negotiator Class and they always talked about getting a no from a client. We’re going to talk about the opposite. We’ll do another episode on how to ask no related questions because it’s interesting and fascinating and it works like a charm. It’s a different way of thinking.
That is what Denise and I are talking about because I know a lot of you struggle with knowing what to ask potential clients. You may feel your conversations with your prospects are boring and dull. Has that ever happened to you? If that sounds like you, then you’re like many of the accountants that we’ve worked with. Being able to connect with your leads and ask them the right questions are super crucial to having them say yes to you, your services, your increased fees, and working with you. In this episode, we are going to have a discussion and conversation about why asking the right questions is so important. We will give you three examples that will get you closer to acquiring new and right clients that also pay you what you’re looking for. Does that sound like a good idea, Denise, on what we’re going to chat about?
That sounds awesome because even for you and me, we have to figure out what to ask people that would have them be engaged and excited to have the conversation. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
It’s always about the other person. In Hostage Negotiation Class, it was even more about the other person because it was so interesting. If you guys have never read the book, Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, it’s a definite one. You should hop on your Amazon. Hit purchase on Audible, Apple Books, or whatever you call it. He’s like, “Michelle, do you think that I had anything in common with someone who’s holding people hostage?” I am thinking about the questions, what to say to them, what to ask them, the prep work that they do, and how many people help them on a team. It’s fascinating.
What was even more interesting, Denise, is he didn’t have any common ground. He was like, “Do you think I have anything in common with them, Michelle?” I’m like, “I guess not. You’re not kidnapping people and holding people hostage. You don’t have anything.” What it came down to was that this has nothing to do with you. He had to put all of his energy, focus, and work into making it 100% about the other person to be and live in their shoes and listen to a way that you’ve never listened before to enroll them into not killing people. When we’re selling our bookkeeping, profit first, and tax planning, we don’t have those kinds of stakes on the line. I’ve always wanted to be in the FBI. That was one of my dream jobs.
I told them, like, “This is awesome. We’ve got to play these games, 60 Seconds or die, get the hostage guy car or without getting him to the car and talking him down.” He talked about having a DJ radio voice. The goal of asking questions and, Denise, maybe you can think of a couple, is when we’re the one asking the questions and listening to a lot, you have control over the conversation. Have any of you ever felt that you don’t have any control over the client conversation when you’re meeting with a new client? A lot of it has to do with, “If they’re the one asking you all the questions, then they’re in control.”
When we ask questions, we can let our prospects and clients talk a lot and then we listen. It has nothing to do with you. Think about what you are listening to when they’re talking. That’s a whole different. We did a listening game at Hostage Negotiation Class and it was four hours long. That’s exhausting. At least, you guys only need to do this for 30 minutes to an hour with your clients but imagine four hours of listening. One of the goals of asking questions, and we’ve got a few of them, is to understand why a prospect is coming to see you. Why are they looking for a new accounting firm? Why are they looking for a new accountant? What are they not happy about? What did the last person screw up? Think about the questions that you could ask in order to get to the real answer. It’s a good one to figure out. There’s always the reason why someone might be looking for a new accounting firm or a new accounting professional. Denise, what are the other goals of asking questions to our prospects?
Being able to ask the right questions, not only will you develop a rock-solid relationship with the person that you want to get to know better and that you may want to have a long-term relationship with. You’re going to get the information and develop that basis or the foundation for your work with them or if you even want to work with them. What people don’t understand, especially we work with a lot of accountants, they want to get right to the sale. They want to get the right to tell people what they need to do and all that stuff without helping the client see because they don’t know what they need. Sometimes they don’t know what they want. You’ve got to help people uncover the truth. By asking the right questions, then you can get to the root of what’s going on and you’re going to uncover more value.
Like what you said, it’s getting to the truth and the bigger picture. We do have an eight-week Sales Mastery Training. We talked about this in our class. In class, we use an analogy of an onion. I’m going to talk about my onion because I use an onion when I make my tacos. I make tacos every week. It’s either tacos, taco salad, or breakfast tacos. When I make my tacos, I could open up a taco truck, but I promised myself I’ll never get in the food business again. Imagine this onion and the crispy outside part, it’s orange and yellow and you have to throw it out. You can’t even cook it. That would be your surface layer question. If you stick with surface layer questions, you’re never going to get the why behind the why.
You’ll never get to the juicy part, the inside of the onion, and that is where all the fun lives. That’s where you can build a deep connection with your clients and be able to serve them and uncover that value because that’s when you’ll be able to see, “I can help these people. I can start talking and sharing how,” because you’ve let them talk and uncover all the different layers of the onion. You’ve got your crispy part and then you’ve got that first rim of the white part but it has a little green on it. I removed that part. When we ask questions, we also want to remove that green outside layer of the onion. We’re going to go a little bit deeper. My onions usually have 12 to 13 layers, but you don’t need to ask twelve different questions. Think about the onion in four parts.
I thought of something too. As you’re peeling the onion, do you ever notice that’s when your eyes start watering more? That’s where you get to the emotions. That’s where people buy, from emotions.
That is a great analogy. People buy feelings which means emotion. I’ve got a lot of new friends with CPAs and some of you want to get to the point like, “Here’s the price and my proposal,” and then you wonder why no one is engaging with you or saying, “You’re too expensive.” It’s because people don’t buy based on price. It doesn’t work like that. People pay a lot of money though to get out of a problem or to fix a pain point that they’re having. They’ll pay top dollar for that. When the onion makes you cry, and when you can imagine that your clients are crying because they’ve overpaid the government by $100,000 or $200,000, now you’ve got to the why behind the why which is the core and the middle of the onion.
If all you take away from this episode is that you want the onion to make you cry which makes your clients cry. You’re getting the onion in the middle and then you’re like, “Michelle loves tacos and she threw out all the other parts.” The middle part which is the juicy part, that is what we’re looking for. The closer you get to what someone’s pain points are, challenges, what keeps them up at night, the easier it will be for them to say, “I need your help. Yes, I want to work with you.” You won’t even need to ask sometimes. If you didn’t even need to ask to work together with that client, you did a great job.
That just happened to one of our students. They were saying the person was like, “I’m ready. Here’s the check.”
Tisha is in our class right now, that eight-week sales mastery training, and that happened. She said, “I can’t believe how much I didn’t talk.” I sometimes make mistakes and talk too much and that’s okay, no one’s perfect. Honestly, the more the other person is talking, the more you get to learn. That client that Tisha had ghosted her, they not only didn’t have the best sales process the first time around so they got ghosted, but she did our follow-up process. She had another meeting and got a new client. That client was worth over 30,000 in revenue every year. Their first month was paid upfront.
What other goals are there in asking questions to prospects? What do we call one of the biggest pieces of the sales process? If you’re wondering, “Michelle, what questions would you ask?’ We’re going to get to that, but we’re talking about the goals. The goals meaning the outcome. When you’re working with a prospect or you’re like Tisha, you followed up with someone who goes with you or you’re reconnecting with someone from a year ago, you need to know the outcome before you can receive the results that you’re looking for, which is a new client.
The goal is to uncover what it is that is their problem like uncovering their pain, their challenges, and what’s important to them. Why are they even here?
It’s like going to a doctor. If he walked in the doctor and they diagnosed you something without asking you, there are eight million questions. Every time I go, you want to roll your eyes and you’re like, “You’re not going to trust that doctor. I don’t think so.”
They can’t help you if they don’t know what’s going on. It’s the same with you as an accounting professional. You’ve got to find out more than looking at their tax return. That’ll tell you some stuff, but what got them there? How did they get there in the first place and where do they want to go? Not like where they are now, but where they want to be and why aren’t they there?
It’s important to understand all that. I should have gone to the doctor but I didn’t have it in me. I got the combination of the flu and the cold all in one, but if I would have walked in the doctor, they would have said, “When did the symptoms start? How long has this been going on? How long have you been glued to your couch?” They’re going to ask you all those questions. My doctor is good at this other important thing that you should know that you need to have prior to asking questions which are remembering to have and build some rapport. At Hostage Negotiation Class, it was funny because Chris is like, “You’re taught to learn, have common ground, rapport, and people buy from people they know, like, and trust.” I’m like, “That’s true.” It has to do with what your business is. For us, meaning the accounting community, you do want to build rapport, common ground, and understand what is important to your client.You've got to help people uncover the truth by asking the right questions. Click To Tweet
I’ll do another episode on this, but quick for fun, you can remember it as form. You want to understand their family. You want to understand about their occupation, how did they get into it. If they’re a neurosurgeon, what inspired them to go down that path? Understand someone’s personal history. Remember those boring history books in school? I don’t remember any of them. I get my history lesson in watching documentaries. You’ve got your family, you’ve got your occupation, you’ve got your R, which is, what do they want to do in their recreational time? Do they like to see? Do they like to go to Italy? Do they like to go hiking like me? What is it that they love to do? What’s memorable to them? Who do they look up to? If you were able to have dinner with anybody you could have, who would you have dinner with? Denise, who would you have dinner with?
I would have dinner with Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey. If you think about it, you’re going to learn a lot about me just by the way I answered it. I would love to have dinner with Richard Branson. If you start to understand these things, that is part of the building rapport process that you can incorporate when you’re asking your questions. Any other goals when asking questions before we dive into a couple of examples because I know everyone wants a couple of examples?
We covered it good.
Let’s go through the first example. We had another client, she was in our last class, Diane. Denise, you can share about that because what Diane learned, she used to go straight to the, “I’m busy. I have a lot of tax returns. I’ve got a lot of clients. I’ve got five minutes for you. Here’s the price.” We skip over the question department. We wonder, “Why did that client tell me I was too expensive? Where did they disappear to? They ghosted me.” We don’t get the results. If you aren’t able to help them then they’re still in a bad position. Here is an example of a question that you can ask a business client.
Let’s say, you have a new client coming into you. They own a business. You’re going to do some profit first consulting, a tax plan, some monthly bookkeeping, some accounting payroll, and business clients, you can offer a lot. One of a good that crusty outer layer question of the onion. That part that I was talking about when I make my tacos. I do throw it away. The important first question is, where are you feeling most stuck or frustrated in your business? Because Denise and I are here, we can role play this so you can hear an example of how this could go with your client. Grab a pen and paper in case you need to take notes. You might have a yellow notepad sitting right next to you on your right or left-hand side if you’re a lefty. Denise, are you ready to role play this? Where are you feeling most stuck or frustrated in your business?
It has been tough already because we’re coming up on the next quarterly estimated tax payment and I need cashflow for my inventory. I’m constantly looking for new places, trying to rob Peter to pay Paul and it’s exhausting.
It sounds like you’re having some financial challenges as it relates to managing your cashflow and having enough to fund your inventory.
How much longer can you keep going that way?
It’s been keeping me up at night. It could put us out of business if we don’t figure out a way to get things rolling the right way.
It could put you out of business.
It could if I don’t have enough inventory to supply and demand. I have people who want to buy, but I don’t have the inventory. I’ve got to find the money to pay the inventory, but I’ve got to pay the taxes. Which do I do first and all of that?
I know that you’re married too. How is this impacting you at home on a daily basis? You said you can’t sleep at night.
My husband is always like, “How come I can’t talk to you? You’re always working.” He’ll ask me, “We need to pay this bill.” “I can’t do that now.” I’m always snapping at him and it’s not good.
It seems like it’s stressful.
If you are reading this, you can email me and tell me what the three pain points are that you learned in that scenario. We took off the brown layer, we took off the green, we went a little deeper, and it’s affecting the relationship at home. We started cashflow problems and then we went into more depth. You can email me at Hello@ThePitchQueen.com and maybe I’ll give away a reward or something. Denise, do you have anything else you want to share on our first example question?
Michelle, you did an excellent job. First, you started a top layer like a 30,000-foot view. It’s a general question. As you were listening for things, a place to go deeper with me to find out, how is this impacting me? What’s going on here? What we’re trying to share with people here is that’s the inside of the juicy part of the onion. It’s like, “What’s going on? If my business could close down and my marriage is not good, how much do you think would I be willing to pay to get out of that?”
If your services were a few thousand a month and that cured you, you would do it. It’s like going to the doctor, they say you’ve got cancer, and if you invest $10,000 in your health, it will be gone. You will do it. You might want to listen for what is the problem but what’s the why behind the why. Why was she having cashflow problems? It sounded like she was borrowing money here and there to pay and make inventory but yet still have cashflow. If it continued that way, her business might go out of business. That’s why I ask, how much longer can it keep going that way? It’s a great question to ask if someone is talking about cashflow or anything that might come to a screeching halt.
I dealt with that problem personally with my last business. It was no fun. I would pay a lot of money to get out of it, but then I wouldn’t be here doing what I’m doing. Another thing is that a lot of times our work also goes home. What if I could have gone down another path? Is your husband also involved in the business? How does your husband support you at this? There are so many different ways you can go down this. This is an example of how you can take it deeper. I could have asked how it is impacting profitability. I didn’t talk about the husband, I could have said, “How is this impacting you on a daily basis?” She said that she was losing sleep at night, “How many hours are you sleeping at night?” If someone tells you 3 or 4 hours night, that means they’re on the verge of burnout and it’s not going to last much longer.
You could have said something like, “Has that impacted your health yet? Are you concerned about that?”The closer you get to someone’s pain points, the easier it will be for them to want to work with you. Click To Tweet
Health is a biggie. A lot of the business owner clients you work with might have some health challenges. We’ve given you more than three examples, but we’re going to keep going. Another example of a question and you’ll be surprised how many don’t know the answers to these. What are your Key Performance Indicators aka KPIs? A KPI can help you guide your feature layer questions. You have to do this work before you meet with a client. You can’t show up and wing it but making sure you can get to the inside of your onion and knowing the specific outcome that are important to your clients. If you understand where they want to go, if you manage their monthly bookkeeping, if you help them manage their taxes and take a proactive approach versus a reactive approach and have them skip a couple of estimated tax payments, then you’re in the right seat. You could also ask to take it a little deeper. Which of these KPIs, depending on what they tell you, do you think would have the greatest impact on your bottom line or profitability, especially if you talked about profitability? Those are a couple of examples. Denise, do you have any other example questions? I know we promised three questions to ask our potential clients to get to yes but we can do one more role play.
Michelle, what was it that had you come here looking for a new accounting professional to work with?
My CPA is busy that they never respond to my emails or ever call me back in a timely fashion. I feel like I’m running my business blind and I have yet to get any reporting.
Your accountant doesn’t respond in a timely manner and you feel like you’re running blind because you’re not getting any reports, is that right?
How does that impact your ability to be productive on a daily basis in your business and make decisions?
It’s hard to make decisions when you don’t have the proper reporting. It feels like I do everything behind the times instead of being ahead of the game. I always feel like I’m behind trying to catch up.
What does it feel like for you always trying to catch up and feel like you’re behind?
It feels like I’m a terrible swimmer on a swim team.
Does it feel sometimes you might even go underwater if things keep going this way?
It is like I’m drowning or I’m swimming on a terrible swim team upstream and it’s double slow.
If things keep going this way, how much longer can you keep swimming and surviving? It sounds exhausting.
It’s exhausting and that’s why I’m sitting here talking to you. I can no longer keep going that way.
What are some things that you haven’t been able to do that you would do but you can’t make those decisions because you don’t have the numbers you need?
I would like to purchase some equipment. I’d like to get better pricing on some of my inventory. If I knew where the cash was in the business, then I could spend a little bit more and make sure I could manage and fund the inventory. I feel like the profitability could increase but I don’t know.
What have you tried to do so far to fix this?
I have booked an appointment with you.
You get the idea here where we’re going this back and forth. What do you think was uncovered as a result of us this little back and forth exchange? How did that feel for you?
I felt like I was being heard. When Denise was talking, she understood that I was swimming upstream, I had fishies flying in my eyes, and I was on the swim team going up a creek. A lot of your clients feel this way. For all of you reading, we’re role playing and we’re making stuff up but the truth is this stuff happens. It’s our job as an accounting professional, especially if you own your own business, you’re a partner in a firm, you are responsible for bringing on clients. This is important to understand because this is the important juicy stuff. Asking the right questions will help you get to the real why. When you get to the real why then people will enroll in your services. Start using these questions to build deeper connections with your clients.
Getting the why behind the why, getting to the juicy part of the onion, and show them by asking questions and being a good listener. You’ll notice how Denise also repeated back a lot of what she was hearing from me so I could confirm that she heard me right. You show them that you understand them. That’s valuable to a client. In addition to that, most of your competitors are not doing this. If you start to do this, your clients will notice it and feel heard. I was talking to Tisha. She said this to us. Her clients felt heard and that they were cared for and that’s what will happen with this. Before we say adios, Denise, do you have anything else you would like to share? Any insight? Something that possibly I forgot about asking potential clients these great questions being curious when you ask it and pretend you’re visiting with your doctor. Anything else?
Practice even for fun with your family or whoever you’re talking to. Getting good at this and having fun with it will take the pressure off so that when you are in front of a prospect or a client, it’s going to feel more natural coming from a place of curiosity. This is not about manipulation or anything like that. This is coming from a place of being curious, understanding more about them, what’s important to them, what’s going on, and how is that showing up for them not just in their business but the rest of it. There’s so much there and helping understand that that’s why I have clients that stuck with me for years. They knew I cared and they wanted to work with someone interested in getting to the source of things. Not somebody who’s not going to respond to their calls or care when they need them and they need you.
They need you. If you need us and if you’re not where you want to be in your accounting practice, Denise and I understand that. A lot of our accounting clients come to us feeling stuck and frustrated. They wing it, they go into meetings, and they’re not prepared with questions. What we’ve found is that they are not charging their worth. It comes from not having a solid system in place. We have a system in place that something the two of us created. We have this information that we’d love to share with you.
If you want to build your firm, feel confident about selling high-value services, you can book a free call with one of us if you’ve been in business, at least two years. You can book that at TheAbundantCall.com and we will talk to you about where you’re at with your sales process, where you could see improvement so you can build your dream practice, work left, have time and money to enjoy more with your family and kids. Once again, head on over to TheAbundantCall.com to schedule your coaching session with me or Denise. Thank you so much for being here with us. It was an honor to be here and put this into practice. Send us your wins to Hello@ThePitchQueen.com and have a great day and we’ll see in the next step though.
- Denise Mandeau
- Audible – Never Split the Difference
- Apple Books – Never Split the Difference
About Denise Mandeau
Denise Mandeau, Business Growth Strategist and has proven success as a Business Owner, Financial Planner and award-winning Sales professional for over 35 years.
She has learned what it takes to produce results and has been working with professionals and sales teams over the last few years helping them to generate millions of dollars in new business. She has personally closed over $1.8 million in new business in the last 12 months. Denise is passionate about teaching others to learn how to sell without being salesy!