I recently had a conversation with an Accountancy Practice about our benchmarking software (no this is not a sales pitch!).
Whilst the software is intuitive, easy to use, gives great visual reports and highlights the areas you can really add value that your clients appreciate, this is just obvious value… the real value comes from what it enables.
It enables conversation, easy subjects to start with. But by using your skills of observation, listening and sometimes asking the damn stupid questions, you connect with your client. If you are really good you find the answers to questions you have not even asked.
Why does a client want to talk about their family, the fact they’ve just got an MBA or the location of their next holiday, when they have a super successful business? Is this information a waste of your time?
The most valuable use of your time
I would suggest this is the most valuable use of your time.
By relating to them as an individual and not just a company, you are creating long-term relationships that can last years, decades. Be a trusted individual to disclose hopes, dreams and fears.
You may find out what is driving your clients? Maybe money is not enough, but the gift of time to spend with a child or a loved one could be more valuable than you could ever perceive. By helping them systemise their business or delegate responsibility to their team or even by you taking on some of the business tasks.
I have used many accountancy firms over the years and the ones that stick in my memory are the ones that cared about me as an individual. Of course they did a great job with our audit and accounts but what I really valued was the personal touch.
The smallest things can make a difference
Sometimes this is easier with a small firm but the smallest things can help.
I worked with KPMG for a while and the fact that they knew how I took my coffee and the partner was willing to have a chat about what was going on made a big difference.
With smaller firms I like how they had this holistic view of my company. They can look at the audit, accounts, tax, my plans for the future of the company and personally as well, all in one stride. There is no inter department squabble for my hard earned cash.
So make time for your clients, forget the timesheets. Invest in them and allow yourself to show what you can offer. Rewards may not be instantaneous but the benefit to your practice could be huge. Often clients just see the compliance work you do as a quasi tax, something they have to do for HMRC or Companies House. Unfortunately its something that often they do not value and push you on price because somebody is always cheaper, undervaluing themselves and the profession.
Make time and understand your clients
By making time and understanding your clients on so many levels, you have the opportunity to add value that not only they perceive, but makes a real difference to them.
The added bonus is that when clients discover this about you they are more than happy to tell their friends and other business contacts how you are different. Allowing you to stand tall in your market place.
The stupid questions
If you do not understand what a client is saying, push them on it. If they cannot sell an idea to you as being the right thing to do, then I would argue it is the wrong thing to do.
I argued with a non-exec for two years that we needed to keep a division open. I would explain but he did not get why, he continued to question, pry and query my logic. But he did not give up.
In the end I ran out of illogical reasons. I eventually started to question my own logic, analyse what we were doing and saying.
We closed a department where we were loosing £100k a year, but we had to keep maintaining sales in other areas. The result was that we didn’t lose sales in other areas. By shifting the departments operations to a couple of key suppliers, they were able to drop their price to us. The end result was that we netted an extra £350k onto our bottom line.
Now that non-exec was a really valuable trusted advisor.
If you are inspired by this blog and want to find out more then drop James Miller an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.