How to Have a Successful Discovery Call

Last week we talked about how to pre-qualify your potential clients to make sure they’re a good fit and weed out those who aren’t serious. This week we’re going to talk about the discovery call process for that next layer of pre-qualifying.

But first, I need to be transparent and let you know that some links are affiliate links which means if you buy, I may receive a small commission from the sale. This does not cost you anything. I only recommend products I 100% believe in.

Pre-Discovery Call

Start with a list of questions you ask to learn more about the client’s business

As part of my vetting process, my prospects are required to fill out a questionnaire when they book a discovery call with me through Acuity Scheduling. Dubsado also has a lead-capture form capability that you could setup with a questionnaire when they schedule a discovery call. You could also utilize google forms and link it up with another scheduling service if yours doesn’t offer a questionnaire form. This helps me utilize the time with them better, digging into their pain points and asking clarifying questions to make sure I know as best as I can what the job will entail.

This is a good starting point, but take it and make it your own. Ask questions that matter to you and the type of client you are trying to work with. If they aren’t willing to fill out a simple questionnaire, it may be difficult to get information out of them later on.

Some questions are setup with drop-down menus, some are yes/no choices, and some are free-forms where they can type out an answer.

  1. What is your business? (Name, industry, core services/products)

  2. What type of entity? (LLC, Sole-proprietor, S-Corp, C-Corp)

  3. How long have you been in business?

  4. What accounting system do you use?

  5. Do you have employees (payroll)?

  6. If so, how do you perform payroll?

  7. Are your tax returns current?

  8. How many bank accounts and credit cards does the business have?

  9. Do you have inventory?

  10. Do you report Sales Tax?

  11. How many transactions come through your bank accounts each month?

  12. How much time are you spending on your books?

  13. How do you record sales/invoice your customers?

  14. How do you pay your bills?

  15. Do you need cleanup work?

  16. Is there anything else you would like us to know about your situation? Pain points? Growth Goals?

  17. Which services are you interested in (I give a list of services we offer that they can check off)

Mindset is everything

After the prospect fills out the questionnaire and schedules the discovery call, it’s time to have that call. But first you need to do a little mindset work. Your first few discovery calls may be pretty nerve-racking. Just remember that you are the expert but you do not need to have all the answers. Try not to get caught up in preparing for everything they may ask you.

The best thing you can do is to go into the meeting with an open mind, ready to learn about the client and just listen. Go in with the mindset of true discovery. You’re not there to “sell” or “win the client.” Don’t go in thinking that you need this client for the money. You don’t want to seem desperate. Be open to the meeting going either way.

The Discovery Call

Structure

You want to make sure to have some sort of structure to work with and keep things moving. Taking control in this manner will set you apart and the prospect will understand what it’s like to work with you. Clients expect bookkeepers and accountants to be organized, so this is an important first impression. Likewise, this is a good way for you to see how easily the client gets off track and how easy or difficult they may be to get back on track. So what should the structure be?

  1. OPENING

    Give the client a short background on the type of bookkeeper you are and how you expect the meeting to go. Let them know you appreciate them answering your questionnaire questions and ask permission to ask more detailed questions:

    “I appreciate you taking the time to meet me today. I really appreciate that you took the time to fill out the questionnaire. That helps us have a more productive call today, where I can dig into things a little deeper if needed. Does that sound ok to you?”

  2. QUESTIONS

    Hopefully they answered some questions on that questionnaire in a way that you get ask for more information or clarity:

    ”I see that you feel you may need some cleanup work. Can you tell me more about that?”

    I see you answered that you don’t have an accounting system. How is that working out for you?”

    Or they wrote something about their pain points or their goals and you ave something to work with here. If not, you could ask them:
    ”So tell me, how did you get into this business?”
    ”What are your goals for the upcoming year?”
    ”Tell me how you’re hoping we can help you achieve your goals.”

    The key here, is to ask open-ended questions that will get the client opening up. Try to stay away from yes or no questions if possible.

    Generally, by some of the questions you asked above, they’ll start to feel the pain, whether it is that they aren’t getting the level of service you can provide, or that they aren’t paying attention to their numbers, or they’re extremely behind. Once they realize they’ve got some pain points, they’ll realize they need your help.

    Sometime during the meeting, they may have some questions of you.

    What if they ask you something you don’t know the answer to?

    It is perfectly acceptable to not offer any free advice on the discovery call. You are there to discover whether you are a good fit to work together. You aren’t there to answer all of their questions. Sure, if you want, you can offer them a couple golden nuggets, but not required.

    If they ask your advice about something specific, it is perfectly acceptable to say “There are many factors that play into that, and I’d rather make sure I have all the facts before providing advice. If we decide that we’d like to work together, I can certainly evaluate that for you.”

    If they ask you how you would handle something specifically, you can say “I would first evaluate all the facts, do some research around xyz, and present you with the options.”

  3. TALK ABOUT HOW YOU CAN HELP

    Then go into how you can help them address the pain (that is, of course, if you feel like they are a good fit for you). At any point in the discovery process, you are allowed to end the meeting if you don’t feel they are a good fit.

    Here is where you will talk about your process in helping clients.

    “For cleanup jobs, we ask for access to evaluate the books prior to providing a quote. Once we’ve gone in and done a diagnostic, we will schedule another call with you”

    “Once we decide that we’re both a good fit for each other, we’ll send over a proposal . Based on our discussion today, we’ll give you three options: Tier one is the basic level of service that will give you everything you need. But if you’d like more frequent reporting and up-to-date numbers, Tier 2 would be more ideal. If you’re ready to go all in and have us take over every piece of the accounting function, Tier 3 is where it’s at. {You can go into more detail on the levels of service you provide and give prices if you want or let them know you like to sit down and tailor the pricing after the discovery call} . Once you choose a package, we’ll send our engagement letter and first invoice. We require payment upfront each month and offer autopay. We’ll then send over a request for documents and access to your software so we can get started. How does that sound?”

  4. CLOSE THE MEETING

    At this point if they are the right fit, you’ll both be in agreement on moving forward and it will just be a matter of paperwork. Getting this down takes practice, so don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first couple times. Just note where you went astray and adjust for next time.

Sign on the client

Once you’ve closed the meeting, make sure you have a followup system for getting them to accept a proposal and sign the engagement letter. Then it’s onboarding time! I like to let Dubsado do the heavy lifting of the followup and proposal process, and you can read about it here

Recap

  • Vet your prospects with a questionnaire when booking discovery calls

  • Adjust your mindset for discovery and helping the client, not the need to win this client

  • Hold a structure for your discovery calls: Opening, Questions, Solutions, Closing

  • Ask open-ended questions

  • Talk about how you can help and what your process is

  • Close the meeting with an agreement to move forward

  • Let a system like Dubsado do the heavy lifting of sending the proposal and followup

If you would like more in depth steps on the Discovery call process, setting up Dubsado, mindset work, and much more check out The Bookkeeping Business Accelerator.

TELL ME…

Have you implemented a discovery call structure or a required questionnaire? What have you found to work the best?

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