How to Avoid the Commodity Trap by Building Relationships

Intuit® is about to release the full results of its 2011 QuickBooks® Rate Survey in the November Intuit Accountants newsletter. Before you get to the numbers, take a breath and remember, it’s not just about the rates.

More important are intangibles like relationships, perceived value and exceeded expectations.

This is the lesson several of you shared in a comments section on the survey, For example, here are comments from one CPA. While the comments are specific to tax, they apply to all practitioners:

“Yes, billing rates are what everyone wants to know. However, there is a flexibility in rates vs. hours. If you invest the hours and deliver a value, most clients will pay for it. If you are just sensitive to time vs money in hand, clients can sense that and will be repelled. Relationships are the key in 2011. People want to do business with people whom they feel comfortable with.

“As CPAs, we are highly regarded and our opinion and time given is valuable to clients. If you invest in them, they will pay what you need. Those who don’t want to pay, and are looking for perpetual handouts, are NOT clients. I have had the luxury of being able to GIVE my time to strangers … without commitment and they eventually do come in my office with a box full of work or send others to me.

“But, again, without the relationship FIRST, they will look at accountants as commodities and go elsewhere. Relationships and long term value is what I think people look for these days. That is why I don’t do what H&R Block types do, because I want a lifelong relationship where I am a valued source, not a quick stop during tax season.”

What’s your best source of tips and tactics for adding value and building relationship?