Most accountants accept (or are starting to accept) that basing their practice on compliance services is no longer a sustainable business model. As prices for these services become ever more competitive and new technologies enter the market, they are less and less rewarding, both financially and emotionally.
But how do you move your practice forwards?
The answer is to develop a practice that delivers services that business owners really value. And if you want to win this high value advisory work and attract better clients, you have to position yourself as more than “just” an accountant. Your clients – and prospective clients – won’t take you seriously as a business advisor if they only see you offering them a basic compliance service.
So how do you change their perception? It’s actually not that difficult if you use the right approach.
A quick exercise
Here’s a simple exercise to start off. Grab a sheet of paper and jot down a few recommendations you’d give to a business owner who …
- Works around 70 hours per week
- Has 100 regular customers
- Earns enough to pay the bills
- Has GBP £20,000 (USD $27,921.40) tied up in current jobs*
- Has GBP £25,000 (USD $34,901.75) tied up in debts*
- Has far too little time to spend with family and whose other personal relationships aren’t great either.
You probably came up with plenty of suggestions in just a few minutes. And you’ve probably made similar suggestion to business owners before.
But did they value those ideas? Did they listen to you and take them on board?
Chances are that you offered your advice in settings that your clients had already labelled “accountant meetings.” You may have made those comments in passing, while the clients were focused on something else. They weren’t expecting that kind of advice and they weren’t ready for it.
How to make your recommendations heard
It’s not so much what you say as how you say it. Many people don’t like being told what to do. And business owners often have a hard time believing that anyone could really understand how their business works. But they will buy into what you say if it’s put in the right way.
The key is to ask the right questions. You don’t have to know your clients’ businesses better than your clients do. You just have to ask questions that will make the clients reconsider their businesses. In fact, it’s often the case that the less you know about the businesses, the better your questions. It’s only when business owners take the time to explain what’s seemingly obvious (to them) that they start to spot the flaws. So your role is to ask the right questions, really listen to the answers and help your client to look at things in a different way.
Drill down into the issues that come up and explore them together with the business owners. The more the owners answer your questions, the more they will come up with their own ideas. That’s crucial to getting their buy-ins. Help them to quantify the impact an action would have and to measure its progress. This will encourage your clients to implement the recommendation and see it all the way to the end.
And once you start doing this, you can build up a portfolio of case studies to show to your prospects. These provide really powerful proof of the value you can bring to their businesses.
Position yourself as an expert
- Do you write blogs or create videos or podcasts online?
- Do you run regular seminars or webinars for your clients and prospects?
- Have you written a business book that you give to prospective clients as a business card?
- Do you send out a regular newsletter full of practical and relevant advice?
- Do you make recommendations to clients during meetings in a formal way that adds value to your service?
It might seem daunting if you haven’t done these things before. But you have all the knowledge you need. Your skills with numbers can make a big difference to businesses. You will help them to understand their figures, to grow and generate better profits. That’s what business owners really want from you; all you have to do is show them you can.
When you create these kinds of resources, it changes your perception in the eyes of your clients and prospects. You’re not just a number cruncher anymore; you’re someone who understands the challenges they face. And crucially, you’re someone who can help them overcome those challenges.
There’s much more on how to position yourself as an expert in the eyes of your clients in my book, What’s Next for Accountants. You can download a free copy here https://avn.pages.ontraport.net/wnfa.
*Converted at 1.39607 rate as of March 4, 2021 12:43 p.m. Eastern Standard Time