Take the First Step
According to Wasp Barcode, accountants are ranked as the most important professional partner among businesses, outranking even attorneys, insurance agents, and bankers. Why is that important? Because your knowledge is wanted. It’s needed. And clients are willing to pay for it.
But if you don’t proactively interject with solutions and take a consultative approach, you’re essentially asking your target market to examine your website, evaluate your entire service portfolio, match your services with their pain points, and initiate the conversation.
That’s asking a lot of anyone, much less a busy business owner. So what types of proactive measures can be taken? If you have trouble finding a starting point, it can help to think of your customers and ask yourself:
- How can I save them time?
- How can I save them money?
- What process improvements can I suggest?
- How can I demonstrate my value over time?
- How can I transform their cost centers into profit centers?
Do Some Work… For Free
People love freebies. They love them even more when completely unexpected and valuable at the same time. Imagine providing a quarterly review of a particular area of your clients’ business along with their next invoice. For example, imagine your client opening the envelope with your bill (or email attachment) and finding an optimization plan for their accounts payable operations.
They weren’t expecting the gesture. But by taking this amount of proactivity, it shows that you’re not only attuned to their specific business, but capable of providing far more value to their business than maybe they assumed.
As trainer, blogger, and technologist Seth David puts it, “You could probably increase your fees by 50% with your existing clients by taking one more hour per engagement and doing some analysis to help your clients with some of the guidance they are looking for.”
You’re in an interesting position in that you can use relatively basic Excel functions and some accounting software to quickly delve beneath the surface. You can even generate these as printed materials to be included in mailers, using what Sageworks calls the “Sticky note” method.
Show, Don’t Tell
When it comes to demonstrating value to your clients, this couldn’t be more true.
How can one go about proactively showcasing results? Dashboards are a great format for this type of data, and are, in fact, a highly desirable service. While very few accounting firms offer this service, the requests for dashboards and business analytics rank only behind business planning and strategy (Sleeter Group).
Providing easily understandable and interpretable data on a regular basis can help to not only demonstrate results on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, but can strengthen your relationship long-term with your clients as you develop a shared understanding of baseline performance, peaks and valleys over time.
When you cultivate that type of relationship, it becomes all the more difficult for your client to end the professional relationship and take their business elsewhere.
There are many dashboarding platforms available, including:
- Google Sheets
- Accounting-specific tools, such as narrative reporting and projections by SageWorks
When data meets context, insight is possible. So wherever possible, make sure to take the proactive approach to ensure that your clients have a full and clear understanding of how accounting functions benefit their operation at large.