June 21st has come and gone. It’s officially summer now, and the days are actually getting shorter already. You and your clients are busy with barbecues, kids’ summer camps, and all the other fun that makes living through long cold winters worthwhile. (Unless, of course, you live in Dallas or Phoenix, in which case this time of year is your version of winter and you spend your days running from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office and back.)
People are busy, busy, busy. It can be hard to shake prospects out of their summer routines to focus on tax-planning engagements that they don’t think will even pay off until sometime next April. Not only that, but people like to procrastinate. (I lived a good portion of my life with the motto “why put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after,” and Keith and Lisa will be happy to tell you I still haven’t outgrown it entirely. That’s why there are still things on my “to-do” list dating back to 2007.)
But I digress. When it comes to your prospects procrastinating, that’s a real problem. You’re busy with summer, too, and your vacation plans won’t pay for themselves. How can you overcome their seasonal complacency to act!
The answer, even in the middle of summer, is to create a sense of urgency to motivate them to act now. Fortunately, our friends at the IRS are here to the rescue, with an extremely important deadline: Tuesday, September 15, 2015.
What’s so special about that date? Well, it’s the day that third-quarter estimated tax payments are due. Most prime tax-planning prospects are making quarterly estimated tax payments (even if they also have taxes withheld through their own business or an outside employer).
So how can you use that deadline to your benefit and your prospects’? Easy! Make sure they understand the benefit of acting as soon as possible. I can’t guarantee it’ll work, but I can promise it’ll make you a much more effective closer – without having to use any cheesy “power closes” or sound like the used car guy down at AutoMcMax.
Let’s say you’ve reviewed a prospect’s tax return and found $10,000 in missed opportunities. Maybe they need an S-corp, maybe they’re missing a MERP, maybe there’s an opportunity for a cost segregation study. It doesn’t matter what the specific strategies are – it only matters what you can implement for specific savings before September 15.
Look your prospect in the eye and tell them, “Based on the information you’ve given me, it looks like you’re paying about $10,000 more per year than you have to — $50,000 over the next five years.” Let them sputter through the five phases of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) as they come to grips with the loss of those hard earned dollars.
Now keep your eyes on theirs and say, “I see you’ve got an $8,000 estimated tax payment coming up in September. If we hustle, we may be able to eliminate part or even all of that payment. Is there any reason why we shouldn’t get started now?”
Pay close attention to that last sentence, for two reasons:
- It assumes the sale. You’re not asking your prospect if they want to buy, you’re asking them if they want to buy now. The implication, of course, is that only a fool would say “no” to $50,000 in tax savings over the next five years. (You’ll be amazed to discover how many fools really are willing to pass up the savings, but that’s a topic for a different article!)
- It’s the key to overcoming generic procrastination. If you ask your prospect “would you like to get started now?” it’s awfully easy for them to say “no.” They’ll give you a reason, of course, which may or may not just be a stall. But if you ask them directly, “is there any reason” they can’t start now, you challenge them to come up with something more legitimate than the dreaded “let me think about it.”
Sharp readers have probably realized that September 15 isn’t theonly deadline they can use to motivate prospects to act. There are four quarterly estimate deadlines (although the April 15 quarterly estimate deadline is usually overshadowed by the April 15 tax-filing deadline). There’s also the December 31 year-end planning deadline. (Lots of TaxCoach members bill more for tax-planning in December than they do for tax-prep in April.)
If you’re really clever, you’ll realize that clients collecting a paycheck face a tax “deadline” every time they get that paycheck! It’s just as easy to tell an S-corp owner/employee “we can file a new W4 next week” as it is to save on a quarterly estimate that isn’t due for months.
I’m hard-pressed to think of a business that’s more deadline-driven than ours. Deadlines can be the bane of our existence. But you can turn those deadlines into your friends.