I’ve often referred to the need to gain conceptual agreement with your client BEFORE proceeding with the work. So, what is conceptual agreement?
There are seven areas which must be discussed and agreed upon to have conceptual agreement:
- The opportunity or problem to be solved.
- The objectives of working together.
- The measures of success.
- The value to be gained.
- The deliverables.
- The timing.
- The price.
Ideally, these should be discussed and agreed upon in a meeting or on a phone call. Without all seven there is a risk that the project will result in scope stretch or an unhappy client. Conceptual agreement is the precursor to sending a proposal to your client for the work - it is NOT the proposal.
Let’s look at each of the seven areas:
The opportunity or problem to be solved
As covered in the OPPS Mindset blog, an opportunity to add value (or mitigate risk) for your client can come in many forms (phone calls, emails, meetings, events). As Accountants we need to be ready for these opportunities and resist the urge to give the answer away for free.
The objectives of working together
There should be no more than five objectives that propel us towards maximising the opportunity or solving the problem. Often the opportunities are linked to the Three Freedoms. Short sentences are ideal here e.g. to maximise asset protection and capture incidental tax benefits.
The measures of success
These help us to know whether or not we are on track to achieving the objectives. For example, if the objective is ‘to maximise Director alignment on the strategy’, a measure of success might be ‘reduced conflict around the Boardroom table.’ Measures of success are the early indicators that change is effective and value is being captured.
The value to be gained
Value comes in many forms. It might be financial or non-financial; one off or recurring. It might be as simple as peace of mind that things are as they should be. What is important here is that the client understands the value and can see that it is significantly greater than the cost of the service.
Here is where we clearly define what is included in our work. By stating the deliverables we avoid the risk of scope stretch and a blow out of our time and resources. Be as specific as you can e.g. instead of monthly financial awareness coaching say “monthly one hour financial awareness coaching sessions.” Deliverables include not only the time but also the reports / minutes you’ll provide e.g. a one page business plan.
Agreeing when the work will be done is often a great test as to whether or not you have conceptual agreement. For example, if you’re offering to do a ½ day business planning session and you’ve agreed the objectives, measures of success and value, suggest the date you will run the session. Chances are pretty high that your client will then ask for the price and very quickly you’ll know if they see the value.
As simple as it seems, way too often, this step is missed. If you don’t state your price then your client may have a completely different expectation than you have. Discussing the price at the time of gaining conceptual agreement allows you time to deal with any objections and revisit the value or different options for deliverables. If you don’t agree the price and put it in a proposal later, the chances of rejection are much higher.
Once you have conceptual agreement on the above seven areas, it’s time to document that agreement in the form of a proposal. We strongly recommend you use our nine step proposal process. The proposal is then simply a confirmation of what has already been agreed.
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