Although this is a light-hearted start to the article, there’s a serious message that I’d like to try and communicate which will hopefully be of benefit.
So here we go, it won’t take long:
The thing about an accountant is that they occupy, should they wish to, a unique position in the minds of their clients. We generally know and refer to this unique position as ‘most trusted advisor’. Simply put, if you are a trusted advisor, you’re supposed to be good at what you do, run your own business successfully and be well worth your fee.
On the presumption that all of the above are true about you and your firm, please, for me, can we please stop:
– The needless discounting and low balling of quotes as if you wouldn’t get the engagement if it were priced correctly and so prefer to create a false and detrimental impression of your worth to your client right from the outset.
– Discounting when a new piece of work is required by a client. If we’re asked to do extra work, the client presumably rates us for the work already done. Reflect that value in the fee.
– Discounting when a client disputes the bill. Did you set realistic expectations at the start? Good, then charge full value. What are they going to do, leave? If you’ve sprung the bill they are disputing on them, no wonder they’re annoyed. In which case, appease the client and feel lucky to have kept them. Don’t make that mistake again.
– Saying accountants are boring in an ironic self-acknowledgement of the commonly held myth surrounding the profession. You’re not boring and by trying to curry favour by employing self-deprecating humour we’re just perpetuating the myth. Don’t perpetuate it, disprove it.
– Hiring marketing support staff that know nothing about professional services and have no track record. It’s unlikely that what worked in their last role in wine retail will work for ‘trusted advisors’. The appointment will cost money, not create it.
– Taking six weeks to get back to a potential new client after the initial meeting. The excuse ‘we’re so busy', doesn’t tell the client that our firm is in demand; it tells them that they are likely to receive a service as unsatisfactory as the one they are getting from you now when they are supposed to be in this ‘courting’ phase with you.
– Saying you convert 95% of opportunities once you get your foot in the door. You’re talking about referrals and most of us convert 95% of those. Marketing brings about non-referred opportunities, ones that we have to sweat to get but would have been unlikely to have gotten any other way. 25% of this kind of opportunity converted initially; is good going.
– Claiming low client attrition rates as a barometer of great service. No-one changes their accountants unless they need to and very few know why they need to because they are not educated very well by competing firms as to the compelling reasons for change. Our clients are perpetually at risk from the advances of our competitors so let’s minimise the liability with actual good service as in, what the client's values about us rather than what we think is good about us.
– The political in-fighting with your peer level colleagues. This is a team game.
And now that I've got that off my chest…
Please start understanding, valuing and respecting your own value in the marketplace with clients who could not reach their goals without you.
Businesses are in need, sometimes desperate need of your technical expertise and caring approach. You have perhaps a greater ability than any other external professional to influence the realisation or otherwise of your client’s lifetime professional and personal ambitions.
Take that value and message to them instead because, speaking as one who is looked after well myself by a dedicated and caring technical expert, we love it when you pro-actively support us and we are prepared to pay a premium for your expertise (without ever asking for discounts).
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