Client Relationships

The Power of the Un-Sell

The Power of the Un-Sell

Curating the Right Clients

We have all heard of tons of sales techniques over the years. We may have used some of them, and we may have had some of them used on us. Sometimes those conversations are easy, as the buyer has already decided what they want. Often there is more discussion needed in order to come to a mutually satisfying agreement, and these conversations can be uncomfortable to both sides. In the end, the point of sales is generally the same: close the deal. Get the buyer to agree to give the seller money for goods or services.

At Priestess Of Profits, we’ve learned to go about sales in a very different way, and we are really enjoying it.

We call it the “un-sell.”

We have decided that having the right clients is much more important than closing a deal. Rather than entering an initial consultation appointment with the intention of making sure we get a contract signed, we set the intention to make sure that the relationship is going to be a good fit for both sides. We allow room for hope and excitement for the potential opportunity, but we do not get attached to a particular outcome.

Transparency is key when using the un-sell technique. We are completely honest about wanting to make sure that they have the best fit for their needs, even if that is not with us. There is no blame or fault in not being a fit. We collaboratively work with the client to see if there may be any areas in which our needs are not in alignment, which is a great learning experience for both sides.

If it is going to turn out that a client is not a good fit, it’s much better for both sides if we learn that as early on as possible, before we have invested time, money, and energy into developing the infrastructure of our working relationship.

The un-sell is an active approach, not a passive one.

In this initial meeting, we like to joke about “lighting all the fuses” on the potential bombs that could blow up later. We see what “pops” early on, rather than forcing something to work that does not feel natural. We also triage for compatibility in our onboarding questionnaire, before ever scheduling the appointment. Nonetheless, some nuances of personality and more specific questions are best assessed in a personal interaction.

Over the course of the un-sell conversation, generally the client is so impressed with our integrity and honest approach, they are looking for ways that they can shift their systems to make our model a better fit for them. The un-sell reverses the usual flow of the conversation to one where the client is courting us for our services, rather than having us courting them for their money. The lack of pressure from us creates a slight vacuum, and the client naturally fills that vacuum.

Provided that it is a good fit, we then begin the discussion about timeline, pricing, and next steps. Those discussions are easy once the foundations of trust and mutually beneficial value have been established.

This leads to the deep, long-term relationships that we love.

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Client Relationships, Firm Development

Client Imprinting

Client Imprinting

How to Avoid the Baby Duck Effect

What the heck do baby ducks have to do with business? As a biology major I focused on vertebrate zoology and animal behavior. I got to learn about how animals, particularly baby birds, imprint on a stable, recurring presence in their environment. Usually in nature it is their mothers and siblings, but in an experimental environment it can be anything: a person, another species of animal, even a toy car or rubber ball. What is really fascinating is that I see similar behavioral patterns in adult humans in business all the time. To get all fancy and scientific about it, I’m going to call it Client Imprinting. On the day-to-day, I like to call it the Baby Duck Effect.

What is Client Imprinting?

Client Imprinting is the phenomenon in which a client feels particularly attached to a particular member of your team. Like a baby duck feels a particular affinity towards its mama duck, these clients have created an emotional bond that makes them feel more secure in the business relationship with a particular individual.

Client Imprinting shows itself in a variety of ways. Despite the fact that any number of people on a team can answer the client’s question, the client always requests to speak to the same person. What if that team member isn’t available and isn’t going to be available for a lengthy amount of time? Often the client will want to wait to speak only with that team member, regardless of the inconvenience. The client will often put themselves through an amazing amount of difficulty or delay to connect exclusively with their mama duck. Most outstanding of all, when perfectly good information, advice, or answers come from any other team member to the imprinted client, the client will often feel the need to verify it through their chosen team member. The baby duck doesn’t want to talk to strangers and doesn’t trust information from any source except the mama duck.

Is Client Imprinting Healthy?

Many businesses make client imprinting a solid part of how they do business. Often, each member of a firm has their personal list of clients or book of business. Other team members can offer support if someone is sick or on vacation, but it is well known to everyone at the firm which clients are imprinted on each team member.

For a fun example, Acme Hardware is Daffy Duck’s client.

That works pretty well until Daffy is out of the office for a well-deserved 2-week vacation with his family. Suddenly Acme needs something unexpected for that big deal they are working, and no one but Daffy will ever be able to do the trick the way that Daffy does it. Daffy knows all the history. He knows how to communicate with the client. Acme feels lost without Daffy to help them on this issue.

Meanwhile, Daffy’s partner, Donald, has the whole scoop from Daffy (who knew something like this was likely to happen). Donald is ready and willing to bend over backward to give Acme the best customer experience of their lives. Acme is a baby duck, and Daffy has become the mama duck through client imprinting. Suddenly Daffy and Donald find themselves in an uncomfortable situation where they can either choose to disappoint the client or interrupt Daffy’s vacation.

What About the Mama Ducks?

To be fair, to a very big extent Daffy created this situation. It can be very satisfying to be in the position of mama duck. We develop these deep relationships with our clients, enabling them to depend on us and encouraging them to see us as a resource. Who doesn’t like to be the hero saving the day once in awhile? Our relationships are built upon a complex series of chemical responses created by our brains. (Romantic thought, right? Remember I’m a scientist.) When those chemicals are suddenly not present in the ways that we have learned to anticipate them, we can experience withdrawal. It’s addictive.

Daffy was getting just as much positive reinforcement from his interactions with Acme as they were getting from him. He loves the role of mama duck with Acme. The rest of the team at the office will often refer to that client as “his baby”. They all understand, though. After all, they all have their pet clients, as well.

Those patterns and habits can be great when they are useful and serving a purpose, but they stop being effective when we lose sight of the bigger picture business goals. Unfortunately, we don’t often notice when client imprinting has reached an unhealthy level until we need a little space. This can leave the client feeling abandoned and betrayed by us. It is then that the enabling, co-dependent behaviors make themselves more apparent. Sometimes that realization comes too late. It’s important to be aware of these patterns and plan for them in advance.

Strategies for Effective Client Imprinting Boundaries

It is important to have open discussions with your team about client relationships to ensure ongoing healthy communication for all parties. Over the years, I have built some great strategies to help us ensure that my client relationships at Priestess of Profits are maintained in a way that we can really support one another and the rest of our team. Here are just a few ideas that you might find helpful.

Switch-Up the Person who Handles the Initial Touch-Points with the Client

Whether the first contact is made by phone, email, or in person, we like to make sure that whomever the client spoke to first is not the same person that they speak with the next time around, especially if they ask for that same person again. We like to dazzle them with how well our whole team knows their needs and their story from that initial conversation. A Client Relationship Management (CRM) software can greatly assist with this. These processes always need to be open to ongoing evolution.

Have More than One Person Present at the Initial Meeting

When we do an initial consultation meeting, we make sure to have multiple team members present. We make it clear that the client is getting a team, not just one individual. Each of our team members lead different parts of that meeting. No one person on our team is seen as the only solution or contact for the client.

Have Clear Roles for Your Team Members

At Priestess of Profits, we really enjoy the Predictable Success model for determining which of our team members have strengths in different areas. We make it clear to our clients that different members of our team will be able to answer different needs of theirs most effectively. One team member may be a strong Operator who loves walking clients through their day-to-day tasks and questions. They ensure that the books are always clean, correct, up to date, and make sense to the client. As a strong Visionary, I really enjoy the future-focused strategy conversations. The different personality types back each other up, and we each play to our strengths. We don’t hesitate to hand off a client’s question when we know that the other will be more effective.

Maintain Good Boundaries

We keep a close eye on “pet clients." It is important to maintain a healthy balance between allowing our team members to take ownership in their work vs. getting too attached. We may notice that a client is always requesting the same person. It may even be that one of our team is often making excuses for a client’s behavior. When that happens, we take a step back and make a deliberate effort to switch things up. Sometimes we do this by having a different team member answer that client’s emails and phone calls. Other times we will bring another team member in on the client’s next meeting. Then we may have that team member lead the following meeting on their own, depending on the individual client situation. The main essential ingredient is good communication between our team members.

All the Cute Little Baby Ducks!

Client Imprinting can be both rewarding and damaging, especially when our favorite client relationships are deep, long-term, trusting connections we love. By being more aware of these tendencies in ourselves and our clients, we can develop much healthier and effective partnerships. This ensures greater business success over the years.

Baby Ducks and Client Imprinting
Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Client Relationships

The Honeymoon is Over: Releasing a Client Relationship

We've all been there. Whether the client relationship started well or you had that niggling feeling from the start that maybe it wasn't the best fit for your company, people grow and change. Sometimes relationships need evolve or come to an end. Learn how to make this process smooth and even enjoyable in your business.

Read the whole article here: The Honeymoon is Over: Releasing a Client Relationship

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Client Relationships, Contributions, Firm of the Future

Packing for the Honeymoon: Discovery Phase Checklist

NOTE: This article was originally published in November of 2016 when I owned and operated Polymath, LLC:

At Polymath LLC we are working to develop systems that are repeatable, consistent, and effective across our diverse client relationships. One of our favorites is our Discovery Phase Checklist. This procedure has helped us to streamline one of the most complicated parts of a budding client relationship, and it has saved us buckets of time while tremendously increasing the value we offer early on. We are happy to share this process with you in hopes that it can help you on your journey, as well.

Read the whole article here: Packing for the Honeymoon: Discovery Phase Checklist

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Client Relationships, Contributions, Firm of the Future, Workflows

The First Date: Initial Client Consultation Agenda

When Polymath, LLC became a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor back in late 2008, one of the questions on the profile for the "Find A ProAdvisor" website was to check a box indicating whether or not we would offer a 1-hour Free Initial Consultation. Ever since checking that box, the initial consultation has been an important part of our client on-boarding process. Learn how you can use this opportunity to ask the right questions, ensuring that your new clients are a great fit every time.

Read the whole article here: The First Date: Initial Client Consultation Agenda

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Client Relationships, Contributions, Firm of the Future

Matches Made in Heaven: 4 Reasons to Have a New Client Checklist

In July 2015, our team at Polymath, LLC realized we needed a better way to triage the onslaught of new client inquiries we were receiving. There were more calls coming in than our small bookkeeping firm could service, and many of the inquiries were not a good fit for us. Thus we created our New Client Questionnaire. Check out this article on the Firm of the Future website to learn how this process may be able to help you find the right clients in your business.

Read the whole article here: Matches Made in Heaven: 4 Reasons to Have a New Client Checklist

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Client Relationships, Contributions, Firm of the Future, Guest Appearances

Weeding the Garden: How Bookkeepers Can Let Clients Go

Whether you are just getting started as a bookkeeper or you have an established firm, ensuring clients are a good fit for your practice is one of the best things we can do to maintain a healthy business and create sustainable growth. But what about the ones that aren’t a good fit?

Read the whole article here:

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Client Relationships, Contributions