How to run discovery calls that save time and eliminate price shoppers

discovery callWhen you go to an A&E department, what is one of the first things that happens?

You get triaged.

By asking a series of questions, they figure out the priority for treating you based on the severity of your condition and your likelihood of recovery without being treated. Then, once they’ve done this, they know what the best way to treat you will be.

Discovery calls work in a similar way (although they’re not quite a case of life and death!)...

A discovery call is the ‘triage’ that you do when new prospect enquiries come into your accounting firm. It’s a chance for you to check that the prospect meets your ideal client profile, is somebody that you can definitely help, and also it’s a chance for you to figure out if they’re a time waster or a price shopper early on. 

So why would you run a discovery call?

Have you ever had an initial meeting with a prospect, and within minutes of sitting down with them, your gut feeling tells you that they either:

  • They aren’t the right type of client for you?
  • They’re just looking for some free advice? 
  • They’re price shopping and trying to find the cheapest quote?

I’m sure we’ve all been there - and these meetings can be a real waste of time, something I’m sure you don’t have lots to spare. 

This is where using a discovery call can be incredibly helpful. 

It’s a simple 15-20 minute screening call where you can figure out if the prospect is somebody worth spending 60-90 minutes with in an initial meeting with, or not. 

And in this short guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know about running discovery calls in your accounting firm...

Who should you do discovery calls for?

Not all client enquiries are created equal...

Some come in the form of referrals or enquiries as a result of your marketing efforts, and these will typically be warmer and possibly more aligned with the types of clients you want to work with. Other enquiries might come from people searching Google, or walk-ins to your office, and these will typically be a bit colder. 

At a minimum, we’d recommend that you run discovery calls for all cold enquiries so that you can spend 15 minutes figuring out if they are right for you or if they’re just time wasters. 

Equally, there is no harm in running discovery calls for some of the warmer enquiries as well. Just because somebody is a referral, it doesn’t mean they will be an ideal client for your accounting firm. 

How do discovery calls work?

The process for running a discovery call is really straight-forward. Spending no more than 15-20 minutes on the phone, you want to ask the prospect a series of screening questions to figure out if they’re a good fit for you or not. 

These could include things such as:

  • Quick intro to yourself and your firm (less than 2 minutes explain who you are, the types of clients you help and the results you get for them) 
  • Client profile and business i.e. nature of business, size, turnover, employees etc 
  • What are your goals in the next 3-5 years?
  • What are some of your current pain points? 
  • Out of all the other accountants, what prompted you to speak to me today?
  • How much do you pay your current accountant? (could indicate if they’re price shopping or looking for somebody cheap)
  • Why are they looking for a new accountant? 

The key here is to ask a series of open questions that get the prospect to talk. Try and avoid asking questions with Yes/No answers as these will result in you doing more talking than them!

One of the challenges to avoid here (which as accountants can be incredibly easy to default to) is to go into advice mode. This discovery call is not about giving advice, that will come later. This is about spending time to figure out whether this person is somebody you can help and/or want to help. You have to spend time diagnosing them before you can move into prescribing them. 

To save time in the call, we’d recommend sending out an initial questionnaire to be completed before you speak to them. This could just be something really simple in a google form that contains questions such as: type of business, size, current accounting system etc. 

The benefits of sending out a questionnaire beforehand include:

  • Instead of asking these questions in the call you can discuss the answers, making better use of your time
  • It indicates the type of client they might be. If they can’t be bothered to return a short questionnaire before speaking with you, what might they be like when you chase them for invoices, receipt and other files you need when doing the work
  • It weeds out any price shoppers. People shopping for a price might be less inclined to spend time completing a questionnaire than the more serious enquiries 

Possible discovery call outcomes

In its simplest form, a discovery call will have 2 main outcomes:

  1. They aren’t an ideal client or somebody that you want to work with
  2. They are an ideal client and you want to work with them

If they aren’t an ideal client, then you have a few options to let them down gently:

  • If you suspect they’re price shopping, then quote your average or minimum fees in order to disqualify them 
  • If they’re not the type of client you work with, refer them on to another firm or somebody you know can help them 
  • If they’re not quite an ideal client yet but could be in the future, let them know what position they need to be to qualify i.e. a certain size 

If they are an ideal client, then the next step would be to arrange an initial meeting with them where you can spend more time understanding their business and pulling together a proposal. 

Systemising your discovery call process

Discovery calls can be one part of your prospect enquiry, sales, and onboarding system. 

Here are some ideas on how you can systemise this process:

1. Use appointment scheduling software

Getting diaries to match can sometimes mean going back and forth in a game of email tennis. By using appointment scheduling software, prospects can see what availability you have and book in when it works for both of you. 

You can also choose to insert a link for this on your email signatures, social media profiles and website as additional ways for people to book in with you. 

Top tip: We recommend using Calendly for appointment scheduling. You can integrate it with Zoom (if you want to conduct the discovery calls via Zoom) and also integrate it with Zapier. This will allow you to set up additional actions once they have booked in e.g. sending them a link to the questionnaire via google forms or adding them to an email sequence in Pixie. 

2. Email sequence for getting people to book a call

Just because you get an enquiry (warm or cold), it doesn’t mean they will book a time to speak to you straight away. For this, we recommend setting up an email sequence to follow up with enquiries reminding them to book a discovery call if they want to take the next step. 

Here’s an overview of how this could work using a simple website contact form, Zapier and Pixie:

  • Prospect submits an enquiry via a form on the website 
  • Using Zapier, a record and job is created for the prospect inside Pixie for you to email them a link to book a discovery call 
  • If they don’t book one, they then receive a series of 4 emails from inside Pixie to follow up
  • The last email says something like “I haven’t heard back from you, we’re closing the file. If I’m wrong, then get in touch”. 

Are you ready to start running discovery calls in your accounting firm?

Discovery calls can be a great tool for saving time with non-serious enquiries and also highlighting people that are price shopping or looking for some free advice. 

By spending 15-20 minutes on a call upfront, you can save hours of wasted time down the line. Time you can spend instead with ideal prospects and clients. 

Want to learn more tips, systems and insights for accounting firms like this?

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