I apologize if the title of this article suggests a trip to the dentist. But I want to “connect some dots” here to help you turn prospects into clients.

We’ve talked, here and on the Wednesday Marketing & Management calls, about what I call “the magic question” to get people interested in your service. That question, of course, is:

“When was the last time your tax pro came to you with an idea to save you money?”

The answer (also of course) is almost always “never.” It’s a great opener because it immediately distinguishes you from the vast majority of tax professionals who do a great job recording history, but do nothing to help their clients write it.

Ask this question once a day to a bona fide prospect and you’ll grow your business faster than anything else you do all year. Seriously.

But asking the magic question just gets the conversation started. It’s rarely enough to close prospects on the next step of the tax-planning process, which is an appointment to review their returns. For that, you need to drill down into the pain – because it’s pain over wasting money on taxes that motivates clients to engage you in planning in the first place.

So… how do you transition from interest to pain? You do it with a series of follow-up questions that move the prospect from general interest (“hey, my tax pro isn’t bringing me ideas”) to specific discomfort. Try following up with questions like these:

“How is your business taxed? Why did you choose that form? When was the last time you reevaluated your choice?”

“What’s your exit strategy?” (If the strategy is to sell, “that could be the biggest tax bill of your life… how are you planning to manage it or eliminate it?”

“When was the last time you reexamined your retirement plan?”

“Have you examined whether you should be using traditional qualified plan strategies, or would Roth-type strategies make more sense?”

“Have you run the numbers to see whether you’re better off using the mileage allowance or actual expenses?”

“Have you looked into claiming a home office deduction?”

“Are you taking advantage of the Augusta Rule?” (This is a great one, because prospects have never heard of it.)

“Do you know how you can use your business/rental properties to subsidize your kids’ braces/private school tuition/college savings plans?”

The goal here is to take the general interest a prospect might have in your general services, and deepen that interest into specific pain over something they see themselves missing out on.

For more information on how to close those prospects, check out TCU 103, “How to Sell a Plan,” in the TaxCoach University section of the TaxCoach site.

And finally, remember this. It can be very tempting to show off your knowledge to new prospects. (It can also be intimidating to jump into tax-planning if you don’t think you know enough to do it.) But prospects don’t care how much you know until they want you to put that knowledge to work for them. Pain is the necessary prerequisite to planning, and pain really does come before knowledge. So stop worrying about giving (or even knowing) the right answers until after you’ve asked the right questions.

Disclaimer: This blog was previously published at TaxCoachSystem.com. Tax Coach has become Tax Master Network. We didn't want our amazing clients, readers and interested tax friends to miss any of our archived content so please forgive any broken links or various referenced to Tax Coach options. update