The Ideal Discovery Blueprint

By William Hamilton



How to Structure Discovery Calls To Get More Ideal Clients

Free consultations can be difficult no matter how long you’ve been doing them.

  • You don’t want to give away a bunch of free tax advice.
  • You may not be super comfortable trying to sell yourself.​​
  • You may not know what to say, in what order, to not waste your time or the client’s.
  • If the client goes off on a tangent, there’s no easy way to stop and get back to work.  
Perfecting your initial conversation with a client can have more impact on your revenue than any other growth strategy in your tax & accounting practice. 
How Do You Perfect Your Discovery Calls?

You need a simple structure you can follow with every encounter so you’ll know exactly what to say in what order.

Following a structure doesn’t make you robotic, or mean you’re not good at communicating.

It just gives you a plan for each client conversation so it:

  • Feels natural and not awkward.
  • Leads to time well spent for you and the person you’re meeting with.
  • Increases your pull-through from meetings to paid engagements.
What Happens When You Perfect Your Discovery Calls?
  • Double or triple the number of clients that say “yes” to your proposals. 
  • Convert “prospects” into paying clients in 30 minutes or less.​
  • Start using these calls to increase fees with new AND existing clients.​
  • Have fun Discovery meetings you actually enjoy.​
  • Show your value and stand out from the competition without any selling. 

To help you create the perfect Discovery Call Structure, we want to give you the
The Ideal Client Discovery Blueprint©

Tax and Accounting pros that use this blueprint convert 7-out-of-10 Potential clients into high-margin engagements. 

You can use this blueprint in your practice so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. 

Why This Blueprint?

We’ve been working with small tax and accounting firm owners for over 14 years helping them increase their margins and attract higher-paying clients.  

Our team has studied these firms and documented the pattern of what needs to happen in a Discovery Meeting that will create the best outcome for everyone involved. 

We’ve studied this pattern thousands of times, with firms across all 50 states. 

Now any firm, regardless of size, can follow this pattern and perfect their
client Discovery Calls.

Key Elements of the Blueprint

The Ideal Client Discovery Blueprint© has 4 specific elements you’ll need to execute during your client meetings:

  1. Client Details
  2. Progress 
  3. Impact
  4. Alignment

Let’s break down each key element. 

1 | Client Details

Have you ever been on a call where the client spends 15 minutes telling you why they fired their last accountant when all you really wanted to know is can they even afford your fee?

It happens to the best of us. 

You can avoid wasting time on non-necessary jibber-jabber if you gather the right details about the client. 

The right details will give you the data you need to:

  • Start defining what services the client really needs
  • If you’re the right person to provide those services
  • And if the client may be at the income or revenue level to align with your ideal price points

Get the details wrong, and you could spend an hour with someone that should have never been on your calendar in the first place.

That’s why this is the first step.

Here are the details you’ll want to gather:
  1. How does this person earn their income?
  2. What is their income/revenue level? 
  3. What industry are they in?
  4. If they own a business…
  • How are they managing their accounting?
  • Do they have payroll and how are they managing that?
  1. Who filed their taxes/handled their accounting last?
  2. Why are they looking for a replacement?

If you can focus the beginning of the conversation around those critical questions, you’ll start to create an outline of who this client is and if they match your ideal client profile.

How to do this in your practice:

  • When asking these questions, drill down and dive deeper when you need to. 
  • Put on your “friendly detective” mindset. If an answer triggers something in your gut, listen to it.
  • Use this time to relate to the client without judgment and see if your and their personality clicks. You’re looking for clients that want a long-term partnership, so “liking” them should be part of your equation.
2 | Progress 

Every human you talk to wants to make progress in some area of their life or business. 

They are hiring you to get what they want, faster, in exchange for money. 

The next part of your discovery conversation should focus on:

  • Figuring out what specific progress they’re looking to make.

Sometimes the progress a client wants to make doesn’t align with your ethics – they want to cheat the IRS or be dishonest about their numbers somehow.

Sometimes the progress they want to make doesn’t match your professional skillset – they really need a lawyer or someone who can manage their investment portfolio. 

But most clients want to make progress on the same general things:
  • They want to pay less taxes so they can use that money for other goals
  • They want better cash flow to save or invest
  • They want to improve their profits so they can grow their business
  • They want the peace of mind of knowing an expert is helping them 

This is the critical part of the conversation. 

If you can identify what specific progress they want to make, then show them exactly how your services will help them make that progress, your likelihood of signing them as a client is almost 100% if they objectively afford your fees.

Most firms get this step in the Discovery call completely wrong. 

They spend their time gathering the details and telling the client about their services. 

The client doesn’t care about your services.

One more time. The client does not care about your services. 

They care about the progress they want to make. 

If you choose to talk about your services only in the context of showing them how you can help them make that progress, then you have their attention and you have separated yourself from 99% of other firms that don’t take this approach.

When you show the client how your specific service will help them make the progress they care about most – the right clients will say “yes” to your proposal without any “selling” from you. 

How to do this in your practice:
  1. Have the client identify at least 3 things in their personal or business financial life they want to make progress on.
  2. Take notes and see if these are items you already include in your services packages or if these are new “custom” services you would need to create. 

That leads us to the third part of the conversation.

3 | Impact

How much would you pay for a meal if it was to celebrate a huge moment in your or your loved ones’ life? 

How much would you pay for a meal if you just needed to scarf down some calories while on the way to work? 

Both scenarios include eating and purchasing food. 

But their impact is completely different. 

Celebrating a momentous event creates memories, brings loved ones together, and demonstrates how much you care. 

Because the impact on your life is much higher, that “food” carries a much higher value than the Danish you may grab on the way to work. 

If you choose to think about your services in the same way, the impact of helping a client make progress through services, can have wildly different value. 

If the progress the client wants to make is:
  • Having a Tax Pro prepare and file their 1040 EZ because they don’t want to do it themselves an impact on the client’s life is probably pretty low.
    • So the amount you could charge for that work is also probably pretty low. 
If the progress the client wants to make is:
  • Having a Tax Pro complete 12 months of accounting + prepare and file the business tax return + analyze the business financials so they can provide a summary to some who want to buy their business – that impact is pretty high.
    • So the amount you could charge for that work is also probably pretty high.

If you listen to the progress the client wants to make, but never have them tell you the impact that progress will have on their life, you’re missing the most important element you need to accurately price their proposal.  

How to do this in your practice:
  1. For every significant item the client tells you they want to make progress on, ask them how important it is to make that progress and why.
  2. This is where you’ll need practice and need to read the client. Some clients will share this information easily, some clients will need more probing.
  3. Don’t be afraid to take your time here and help the client figure out the importance.
  • Ask them to rate it on a scale of 1 to 5. 
  • Ask them to compare it to the last item that is listed and whether will it have a lower or higher impact. 

Get creative here because this piece of the conversation will give you the most insight into what this person will be willing to pay to get your help. 

Once you have this information, now we can wrap up the conversation with the last step. 

4 | Alignment

Once you know the critical details about the client, what progress they want to make, and what impact that progress will have on their life or business, now you have enough data to see if this is a client you want to make a proposal to or not. 

This is a huge differentiator between firms that are new and struggling to grow, and firms that are mature and profitable. 

If you want to scale your revenue quickly, choosing to be selective about who you work with will increase your speed. 

It takes roughly the same amount of time to hold a discovery meeting, make a proposal, and enroll a $500-a-month client as it does a $5,000 a month client. 

When you’re first starting out you often have to take as many clients as you can get just to survive. This is normal and almost every practice has been through this stage. 

But as soon as you have some revenue and you’re getting a steady flow of referrals, that indicates it’s time to switch out of “survival mode” and start only making proposals to clients that you want to work with long-term. 

How to do this in your practice:
  1. Review the details of the client. Are there any details that indicate this is a client that matches your ideal?
  • Example: You want to work with clients that are grossing at least $250k in revenue and are already using QBO, but you do not want to work with clients in the restaurant industry. 
  1. Review the progress this client wants to make and how big of an impact it will have. Is that the type of progress you want to help clients make? Is it impactful enough to match your pricing goals?
  • Example: You want to help clients that want to start investing in real estate and care about saving money for retirement, but you don’t want to work with clients that have active IRS issues.

Once you’ve done this analysis, it’s time to make a yes/no choice.

  • Is this a client that matches the services you want to provide?
  • Can this client potentially afford your fees and see value in your pricing because your services will make an impact?
  • Do your personalities click and would you want to have a long-term partnership with this human being?

If you answer “yes” to all three questions, then move forward with your proposal process. 

If you answer “no” to some or all of those questions, it’s best to stop the conversation and recommend them to another firm.

Quick Review

To structure your Discovery calls so you get more ideal clients, use
The Ideal Client Discovery Blueprint© 

  • The 4 Key elements in every Client Discovery conversation should be:
  1. Collect the right Client Details
  2. Understand what Progress this client wants to make
  3. Define the Impact that progress will have in their life or business 

Decide if there is Alignment and you want to make a proposal

Next Steps

You don’t have to implement this on your own…there are two ways we can help.

  1. Click to downloadThe Ideal Client Discovery Blueprint©  

If you want to fully automate your Discovery Process in your practice, SmartPath Engage Software will interview clients for you and suggest the right package and price for their needs. (Learn more here.)

William Hamilton is the Founder of
Over the last 14 years, they have helped 1,000’s of Tax Pros perfect their pricing so they can focus on work they enjoy.