A couple of weeks ago the weekly WebCPA poll question was, "Does your firm ask why it didn't get an engagement?" Like many of the other questions that we pose, we were hard pressed to predict how the responses would turn out. Here are the results:

Always - 38 percent
Often - 4 percent
Sometimes - 32 percent
Rarely - 13 percent
Never - 13 percent

It was nice to see that "Always" was the No. 1 answer given, but after that the responses went quickly South, bypassing "Often" and falling into "Sometimes, "Rarely," and "Never."

I wonder why those firms wouldn't always ask of a potential client, why they didn't get the engagement. Maybe those firms know why. Either they were told why not, heard the reason through the grapevine, or guessed based on the presentation or because of reputation of the firm that won.

I kind of doubt that those are the reasons. It is probably more likely a "there-are-more-fish in-the-sea attitude" on the firm's part or a belief that you win some and lose some.

I favor those 38 percent that are always asking. Whether in a short questionnaire or a follow-up telephone call or visit, the information that they receive is invaluable. Armed with a response, they don't have to guess and they might find out that it wasn't just on price that they lost, but because sufficient expertise wasn't shown or a presentation didn't provide enough details.

It would seem that the firm's next presentation would be better as a result of this. Also, that the firm would have a better chance of getting a future engagement if it got another opportunity to pitch that prospect again.

If your firm is like that 62 percent of the respondents, consider changing how you do things. From now on always ask. As a matter of fact, it might even pay when you get an engagement to ask, "What impressed you in our presentation?" The more information you have, the better.

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