What Aren’t Your CPA & Bookkeeping Clients Telling You?
I’m not sure where I first heard the saying “You have two ears, one mouth – use them accordingly,” but I have always tried to live by it. This is something I whole heartedly believe we should drill in to children from a young age. Whether you’re in sales or in professional services, listening is arguably the most important skill a person can have.
I recently sent the following email to my CPA:
I’ve just started a new job and am in the process of dotting my Is and crossing my Ts … I want to see what your availability is this upcoming week to spend some time discussing the following:
- 401(K) Allocations and Contributions
- Pay Check Tax Withholdings
- Mortgage/ Refinancing
- Recent Car Loan
- Rental Income Strategies
I’ll be in town all week before traveling again for work. Let me know what your schedule looks like and I’ll look forward to seeing you.
The following day I was in the offices of Gonzalez CPAs, discussing each and every item I listed above. This process proved to be quite a learning experience for me. As someone who is constantly preaching the message that accounting professionals should be a client’s “trusted advisor” – now I was living the reason I truly believe that. I like to think of my example as a sort of Utopia in which a client is able to clearly articulate exactly what they need, want, and expect from their CPA. I’ve made John’s job rather easy if I do say so myself.
While I’m sure I’m not the first client to ever send this email to a CPA, I imagine it’s not an everyday occurrence … in reality, most of the time clients don’t just come right out and ask – either because they don’t know what to ask, or perhaps don’t even know what they want.
This is where listening becomes critical: it’s your job to listen to the clues that they give you in order to help them answer the questions they don’t even know to ask. Those that can do this will truly separate themselves from other accounting professionals and elevate themselves to trusted advisor status. More importantly, this approach creates a sense of dependence based on the fact that a client knows you have their best interest at heart, which can often be invaluable.
The truth is that until we start listening, we’ll never truly understand what our clients are looking for, and without that understanding, we’re more often than not shooting in the dark as to how to solve a problem we haven’t accurately diagnosed.
When I arrived at my CPA’s office, list in hand, he didn’t just jump right into trying to solve each of my specified issues on my list, but rather started off by asking few simple questions, prompting me to explain what I was looking for on each topic. By doing so, he provided me with far more value in my short 60 minutes than I ever could have hoped for.
As I opened up about my goals – both short and long term – he was able to ask questions that steered the conversation down the path that we ultimately took; all the while not just listening to the things I said, but picking up on clues from things I didn’t say. I have no doubt that if he had used a different approach, I might have left the office that day with unanswered questions or would have made different decisions than what was best for my long-term goals.
Next time you’re struggling with that client who never seems too sure of what they want to do, try inviting them in for a visit, sit back and just listen. You’ll be surprised by what you can learn about them from what they aren’t telling you.