A Proactive Accountant & The Demonstration of Value

The top reason clients leave their CPA for another is that their “former CPA didn’t give proactive advice, only reactive service.” (Sleeter Group).

Let that sink in for a minute. It’s interesting that a profession with so much knowledge finds itself falling short when leveraging it for practice growth. Maybe it comes down to workload and scalability. Maybe it’s related to the particular expertise of your staff. Or maybe your firm is too reliant on assuming that your clients will reach out for additional help or services.

Add to the mix that the third most common cause of client attrition is that they were referred to another firm by a trustworthy source.

So if it’s October and you haven’t reached out in any way to your client since tax season, you can bet that their attachment to you and/or your services is tenuous at best. And if your engagement has consistently delivered bare-minimum service, all it takes to lose them is a hearty endorsement of a competitor from someone in their social circle.

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 clientele 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 do. They like it even more when it’s 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. Imagine your client opening the envelope with your bill (or email attachment) and finding an optimization plan for their accounts payable operations, for example.

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 data to quickly delve beneath the surface. You can even generate these as printed materials to be included in client mailers, using what Sageworks calls the “Sticky note” method.

Keep in mind, to you, this is a rudimentary and obvious visualization for business owners to use. But these simple exercises could provide just the kind of insight that keeps your clients awake at night.

What’s obvious to you may easily address the issues keeping your clients up at night.

And while this is valuable information you’re giving away for free, consider the long-term benefits:

  • By taking the role of proactive advisor, your clients’ perception of your commitment to service (and knowledge of their business) will change dramatically.
  • By offering a glimpse of your capabilities at no charge, you open the door to conversation, leading to both service adoption and revenue per client.
  • When your offering is understood and demonstrable, it makes it easier for clients to refer your services to colleagues.
Make Sure Impacts are Understood

Yes, it’s important to be proactive as a solutions provider, but it’s equally important to be proactive in the communication of the resulting impacts. It’s unreasonable to think that your clients have time to decipher accounting jargon or complex raw data. The sheer amount of rates, ratios, models, formulas and categorizations can easily overshadow the larger point, which is business impact.

Essentially, it behooves you to be proactive in making certain your clients understand why they’re paying you.

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. In fact, 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.

And 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:

  • Geckoboard
  • Klipfolio
  • Cyfe
  • Good Ol’ Excel
  • 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 can benefit their operation at large.

Becoming a proactive accountant is just one piece of the puzzle that we explore more in-depth in our Value-Added Practice e-book. Submit your email below to read the complete ebook.

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