Learn Richard Roppa-Roberts’ (Founder of Quaser Cowboy Consulting and Roundtable Labs) strategies for identifying ideal clients and clients you should never take on.

Ever taken on a client that upturned your firm’s structure, had no real impact on your revenue, and made you question your sanity? 


Many accounting, bookkeeping, CPA, and tax firm owners take on wrong clients more often than they’d like to admit but the impact is all too obvious. 

From plummeting revenue, to regular bickering with said clients, and the mental pressure of it all, they soon realize that they never want to make such a mistake ever again.

That’s why we had Richard Roppa-Roberts join us on Episode 3 of Firm Founders Live to discuss How to Identify Ideal Clients (and clients you should never take on)”

In this article, you’ll find Richard’s thoughts on 

  • The practical steps to help you identify ideal clients
  • How to say NO to non-ideal clients
  • Important things to do to move ideal prospects forward 

Continue reading or watch the full episode below:


Who Is an Ideal Client, anyway?

You don't have to settle when it comes to clients. You want clients that complement your business, with goals you're able to identify and help them achieve."

Richard Roppa-Roberts

In order to determine if a prospect will be a great client for your firm, you need to ask some questions:

Can you help them with their goals?

One of the first things you need to do when you meet a prospect is to understand their goals. If you have the expertise and skills to help them achieve those goals, then that’s in the plus column. 

…And alleviate their fears?

You also want to identify the fears that they have. Sometimes, they’ll outrightly tell you what these fears are but other times, you’ll pick them up in conversations. You may hear things like 

“my last bookkeeper didn’t do this or that”. That’s gold. When you hear things like that, you’re in luck because it’s telling you exactly what you need to know and you can follow up with a few questions to dig deeper. 

Will they fit into your firm structure?

If you’re very tech savvy, future-forward, and have a bunch of apps for collaborating and communicating with clients but a prospect still lives in the stone age, that might not be a good fit. Everything else may be right but if they’re going to be an exception to the structure in your firm, it’s not going to work out well. It’s the literal equivalent of fitting a square peg into a round hole. 

Are you in tune with them?

You should also ask yourself what kind of people you like to work with. Because understanding who you are in tune with will often take you right down the path of who you don’t want to work with. 

The sum of the answers to these questions show you who your ideal clients are and clients you should never take on. 

Breaking Down The “How”

If you’re thinking 👇

Don’t worry!

Here’s a step by step process you can follow to identify best-fit clients you’re best positioned to serve, who will positively impact your revenue, and complement your firm structure.

Start with your current client base

Take a look at your client base right now and identify those clients that make you smile. What do they have in common? Then think about the inverse of that — the clients that make you roll your eyes. These two scenarios start the framework of who you like to work with. 

Decide on the kind of clients you’re best suited for

If you’re an accountant, are you a generalist across every sphere? Do you or a portion of your business focus on specific industries? If a prospect falls into that bucket, that’s kind of putting them more in the bracket of clients you’re best suited to serve.

After you’ve asked yourself those big questions and gotten your answers. It’s time to move on to your prospects:

Identify their goals

Talk to them to uncover their goals. Once you’ve identified them, you want to say to yourself “are those goals that we can achieve together”? Basically, you want to ensure you have the necessary skills to go forward with what their goals are.

Find out about the scope of work

Talk to them about the scope of the engagement. But you should also dig a little bit deeper by doing a file review. This is one of the most important things that you can possibly do as an accountant because it gives you insight into where they are and where you can be with them. So if they’re constantly in their books behind the accountant and messing things up along the way, that’s not going to be a really healthy relationship. 

Don’t forget to identify their modus operandi

You should check out how they operate and how they’ve operated in the past. Are they tech-savvy or willing to learn new apps? How do they communicate? Does it align with your firm’s structure? These are all important things to consider.

Ensure they’re on the same page with you on pricing

A prospect who has no qualms with your pricing is a client that you probably want to work with. But when a prospect says your prices are out of line and you try to fit them in, what happens down the road is that you’ll never be in the right space with them when it comes to pricing. 

Do you want to work with them?

This is probably one of the most important things you need to do. Ask yourself if you want to work with this particular prospect. If you can’t find a reason not to, then go ahead and work with them. 

More resources for you:

How To Attract And Serve High-Value Clients

Increase Your Rates Without Losing Clients (+ 2 Free Templates) with Loren Fogelman

How to Turn Away Non-Ideal Prospects

It’s actually pretty easy to say no. No is a complete sentence.

It’s easy to want to say yes just to please people but it won’t serve you well in the long run. Here’s what you can say to a non-ideal prospect:

“Unfortunately, our goals are not aligned. But I do have somebody that I can refer you to.”

Saying no is not a difficult thing when you realize that taking them on as a client wouldn’t be good for you or for them. Instead, get them into the place that would be right for them by recommending them to a colleague in the industry. 

Important Things To Do To Move Ideal Prospects Forward

  • Send a proposal Put together a proposal containing the details of the project, scope of work, pricing, their goals and how you intend to help them achieve them. Send it over and expect their response. If they say yes, move to the next step.
  • Send an engagement letter and don’t start working until they sign itSince you’re both in agreement on the scope of work, price, and everything else, including the fact that the scope may change, and that there may need to be some price adjustment down the road, then you’re good to go. Send the engagement letter over to them and wait for the signed copy.
  • Get a credit card authorization or an ACH authorization on file and get them onboarded

One of the other pieces of advice that I that I do have for people is don’t rush new clients into the onboarding process. Often, they also need to get prepared, you’re going to have a lot of questions, they’ll need to send you documents and other information. So send them your own calendar to say when you can get started, rather than ‘we’ll get started immediately’.
– Richard Roppa-Roberts

Richard Roppa-Roberts is the founder of Quaser Cowboy Consulting and the Roundtable Labs Community. He is dedicated to helping accounting professionals conquer their moon and reach further for the stars in all endeavors. He’s the coach behind the scenes helping others shine at least ten times as much as he’s been in the spotlight, and he believes that the true measurement of success is in the goals he has helped his clients conquer and then surpass.

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