More and more accounting professionals are changing the way they do business. They now offer services that touch their clients more often. That’s because your clients are the reason you’re in business. Does your business development plan include a client experience strategy?
With this strategy, you become a trusted advisor. Ask yourself how client meetings, paired with accounting services, would fit into your business model. If you’re seeking loyal clients who value what you offer, then this is for you.
Consider the consultants that you’ve sought out for their knowledge and expertise. Well, you can offer that too.
Your insights, experiences, resources and connections, known as intellectual capital, are more valuable than you may realize.
Instead of minimizing what’s in your brain, we want to highlight it. Your ideal clients actually want your input and guidance. Because they already value your relationship, they’re highly receptive to your insights.
Client advisory meetings extend beyond apps and tools. Your clients meet with you to discuss their business growth and finances. The tactical work is a service you offer, but your intellectual capital is why customers stay with your firm.
Shifting from a traditional firm to an advisory position is a process. Working closely with accounting professionals on this, we develop packages that touch clients more often. Since client needs vary over time, this strategy often leads to many new projects with existing clients.
Shift from Tactics to Resource
Don’t underestimate your expertise and value. Your clients appreciate your insights. But, they may not realize the full scope of your expertise. If that’s the case, then it’s up to you to educate them on the additional ways you can support them.
Yes, data management, operations and compliance do matter. Realize, however, every accounting firm has access to the same applications and technology. As a result, this access levels the playing field for accounting professionals.
So, how do you differentiate your firm from others? Take the lead by improving the client experience. Nurture the relationship with your current clients. Become familiar with their business and offer strategic recommendations that your clients can apply.
Case Study of Strategic Change
Recently while guiding Jamie, an accounting professional, on how to shift from hourly billing to value-based pricing, we discussed ways her firm could add value. Although the base of her work concerns taxes, we transitioned her business focus from compliance to trustedadvisor.
First, we identified her core values and unique talents; then we integrated them into her client experience model. Jamie didn’t want to downplay her expertise with finances and business growth any longer.
Jamie’s training in finance and operations are a significant asset to her clients. Her background as a finance manager for a Fortune 100 company makes her uniquely qualified to advise her clients on managing their money.
She had been undervaluing her education and expertise for too long. She modestly admits this is something she typically gives away for free. That’s because she genuinely enjoys advising her clients.
She wondered how she could charge for something that was currently being given away freely. That’s why acknowledging her value was the first step. It’s a mindset shift. After that step, Jamie was ready to create packages that highlighted her expertise.
As we discussed the shift from hourly billing to value-based pricing, Jamie modified her consultation process. She learned how to ask better questions and define outcomes. Client advisement meetings are now included in all of her packages and offerings.
Jamie said, “There’s no use sending my clients reports if they don’t know what they mean. Why do the work if it simply ends up getting deleted or never opened?”
Because of that concern, Jamie teaches her clients how to understand the numbers. The numbers offer a wealth of information. It tells the story of their business. She discusses how to strategically grow their business based upon the numbers in the report.
Now plugging money leaks, pricing accuracy and opportunities for her clients to make more money are discussed during client advisory meetings.
Prevention is less costly than intervention. So, why fix a problem that can easily be avoided? Forecasting allows clients to strategically plan for the future, taking calculated risk. Since she regularly meets with clients, they frequently consult with her about their plans before they act.
Business owners who are risk-adverse find her guidance affects their decision-making. Reviewing the numbers beforehand has saved several of her clients from making costly mistakes.
Nothing builds trust more than honesty and direct communication. The truth is the only way clients can make informed, educated decisions.
Each business has its weak spots and bottlenecks. Those areas either need to be fixed or ditched. During client strategy meetings she uses a whiteboard to sketch out the plan that resolves those areas.
The numbers and reports intimidate several of her clients. She doesn’t want their eyes to glaze over during their meetings. So, rather than make them feel ignorant, she simplifies the information. This way, it’s digestible instead of overwhelming.
How you communicate matters just as much – if not more – than what you say. When discussing hard business decisions, Jamie believes that sugar coating, or talking around difficult subjects, leaves clients confused.
Give your clients the benefit of the doubt. Be open and frank. As a trusted advisor, point out issues that need attention.
Success is messy. Like all business owners, her clients experience ups and downs. She loves to celebrate their joys along with them. During tough times, however, Jamie prefers empathy to criticism. Blame doesn’t resolve anything.
She does not minimize their experience by telling them its okay. Instead she acknowledges their perception. However, focusing solely on how tough things are isn’t her style.
Nothing is completely black or white. A strategic review about what happened identifies the pros and the cons. The insight gained from this discussion then influences her client’s next best move.
Following through builds trust – it’s just a matter of integrity. Actions speak louderthan words. Jamie prides herself on meeting deadlines. If she is unable to do so, then she informs her clients about the change. Trust needs to be earned. It can, however, be lost very, very quickly.
Time is valuable. Client consultations, whether in-person or virtual, deserve her full attention. All distractions are turned off or silenced. This includes emails, phone, background music, etc. Body language, tone of voice, eye contact and movement also show that she’s listening intently.
Jamie is dedicated to setting her clients up for success. Tax compliance is something Jamie does for her clients. Her expertise and insights, however, add even more value.
For years she gave this information away for free. By bringing it front and center, she’s discovered renewed enthusiasm. Meeting with her clients more often has revitalized her business. Working closely with her clients toward their success adds meaning to her work.
The Trusted Advisor Edge
Going from compliance to advisor is a paradigm shift. It highlights what you know instead of what you do.
1. First, answer these questions:
- What’s your expertise?
- How does that benefit your client?
- What is your client experience like?
2. Then, create packages that include advisory meetings, shifting next from hourly billing to value based pricing.
3. Finally, get ready to attract clients who appreciate your insight.
A move like this will challenge your current beliefs and values. Confidence is often the biggest roadblock. Is your mindset open to this change? The advantages of adding a client experience strategy and becoming a trusted advisor extends beyond the obvious. You’ll grow personally and professionally with this move.