[IMGCAP(1)]When a marlin chomps down on your bait and you don’t set the hook immediately, you have lost that marlin forever. Why? The marlin is full and will stop feeding so you don’t ever get a second chance. Now you have to start fresh and try to find another marlin to bite. The problem is that marlin are few and far between. Ultimately, you may be able to catch something, but it may be a smaller, less prestigious, fish such as a mahi-mahi. (I learned this lesson on my first sport fishing excursion in Cabo San Lucas a few years ago.)

This lesson translates surprisingly well to the world of prospective clients. If you have a prospective client nibble on your bait, you have to drop everything and set the hook, or you may lose the prospect forever. It doesn’t matter if you are up against a significant deadline (there is a 15th every month), or if you are with your most important client, or are sitting down to a holiday dinner.

It only takes a minute to set that hook, and you may never have another chance to do it, so you have to act at that very moment. It can be as easy as an email, thanking them for their interest and asking to set up a call for the following day, or a phone call saying you are heading into a client meeting, but would love to chat further tomorrow, etc. It doesn’t matter what, as long as you engage and set the hook – immediately.

I think this concept can be tough to grasp for so many CPAs because in the past, their primary source of business was referrals that were often virtually guaranteed to close, so it didn’t matter if you take a few days to set the hook. However, in today’s environment, marketers work for years to build a dialogue with prospective clients with the hope that someday, one of those prospects will have a need and engage in a conversation with you.

If you don’t immediately capitalize on that “nibble” and set the hook, you risk losing that opportunity. Not to mention, you can also be assured that your prospective client has many options and if you are not quick to react (no matter how busy you are) they will move on and find someone who is quick to react.

Some of you probably are asking yourself if this really happens. And yes, it does. I see an example of pursuit mismanagement at least once a month. Whether it is not setting the hook, not assembling the right pursuit team, not asking the right discovery questions, or not customizing the proposal, there are literally a dozen missteps one could take along the way.

So, don’t make the mistake I made by not knowing what to do when a marlin bites, and walking home with a mahi-mahi. Find a way to set the hook immediately. Then, after your hook is set, you need to keep tension on the line or the marlin could wiggle its way out of the hook. We’ll talk about that next step in Part 2, next month.

As the director of practice growth and marketing consulting services at Koltin Consulting Group, Art Kuesel helps firms grow and add millions of dollars of revenue to their top lines. Reach Art at 312-662-6010 or akuesel@koltin.com.