Working With Accounting Clients Once a Year is Not Enough

Working With Accounting Clients Once a Year is Not Enough

If we’re talking winter blizzards, root canals or major car repairs, once a year is plenty. Even too much. But for other things—productive things, helpful things—once a year is nowhere near often enough, so why do most accountants see so many of their clients just once a year?

Let’s face it. The average client approaches tax filing with a level of enthusiasm that’s on par with certain other pleasures of life. Things like folding laundry, taking out the garbage and sitting through another tedious workplace performance appraisal. All of which means, if we were to ask a typical taxpayer for a motto or tag line for tax filing, it would probably be something like “Do I have to?”

This explains, to some extent, why taxpayers visit their accountants with the  frequency and enthusiasm of Wiarton Willie or Punxsutawney Phil. Why do accountants accept that fact?

Our clients don’t understand tax, they don’t like tax, and by extension, they’re perhaps not so sure about us. They’d rather do anything else – just about anything else – if it meant not having to sit across that desk that separates them from their accountant during tax season, which is the only time we see them.

Talk about fear and trepidation. Talk about disconnect. Talk about a pretty crummy way to build a solid business relationship.

A long time ago, a marketing guy told me, “It costs a lot more to sell to a new client than it does to do increase sales from those clients you’ve already got.” I think that statement is true, but I don’t really know; come on, it came from a marketer, and what do marketers know about the cost of anything?

But, let’s assume it is true. And there must be some weight behind it. I’ve since seen that “fact” repeated in textbooks, newsletters, presentations, blogs, newscasts and of course, from every marketing consultant who wants to sell me something, just before I remind them that they should be talking to an existing client.

Let’s just accept that our existing clients represent one heck of a colossal revenue generating opportunity. Not only are we missing the boat with that opportunity, but we’re standing on the docks, waving goodbye and saying, “Au revoir, see you next year!”

What to do then? What is there to do? Consider this:

Those once-a-year clients have other number-crunching needs outside the domain of tax filing. Even better, these other needs might represent something they’re quite in tune with. Facets they’re more sympatico about. In other words, our clients have requirements, perhaps pressing ones, that demand the services of an expert. If only they could find that expert.

Now you might ask, “Like, what kind of needs?”

Well, how about this one example: Look at those once-a-year clients and hone in on the ones that are self-employed. Odds are they need business software. They need something that prepares invoices, pays bills, pays employees and tracks inventory.

And, unlike tax, not only do clients understand all of that, but there are, I bet, strong odds they’d also like to talk to someone who can help them accomplish those tasks more easily, more readily and more effectively.

But, they have to find the “expert” who can help them do all of that.  So, when they begin their quest for an expert, the sad thing is, they won’t begin with you.

Why not? Because you’re in the once-a-year-tax-filing-unpleasant-tasks-category. If rolodexes still existed, your clients would have you filed under “Don’t call them, they’ll call us – in April.”

So here’s an idea: Become the expert. Become the QuickBooks® guru.  Show them how to make it shine, how to make it sing and how to make it give them what they need to know so that they can run their businesses better.

And you know what? By doing that, you’ll also learn more about their business. You’ll be able to ask questions like, “Why is your line of credit so low?” or “Why is your inventory so high?”

And then that will lead to more revenue: business plans, management and accounting plans, perhaps, and it will also lead to a better, stronger relationship with your client.

All of which sounds like one happy ending. And who doesn’t like happy endings?