In their recent 2019 Small Business Finance and HR Report, OnPay, found that 5 out of 6 small business owners view their accountant as a trusted advisor. But only 53% – about half – say that their accountant knows them very well.
The same study found that small business owners expected that their accountant could help them with:
- Tax planning & strategies
- Financial management – cash flow, budgeting, receivables
- Recommending software/services
- HR and payroll-related planning
Okay, so how can an accountant position themselves as a trusted advisor?
Be a listener first, and then a problem-solver
It may seem obvious but start by talking to your clients.
To be a trusted advisor, the Who the client goes to for help with their problems, you need to be a good listener. You need to ask good questions.
Go and meet with each and every one of your clients. Go meet them at their place of business, or go and meet somewhere in between for lunch or coffee. Don’t do this over the phone, and don’t do it at your office (the client will view it as an upsell if you try to have this conversation at your place of business). When you meet with them, ask them, “what else is going on with you that we could help you with? and I don’t mean the tax and the financial statements or compilation work but what other stuff is going on with your business that’s on your mind?”
You’ll be surprised by the types of answers the client gives you. At the very least, even if the client doesn’t give much of an answer at the time, it positions you as someone that wants to have a conversation with them, and that’s something they’ll remember for the future.
Be Proactive in Providing Advice
Next, look for opportunities to be proactive in reaching out and providing advice to your clients.
An easy way to stay on top of this is to send out a regular newsletter to your clients. It could have industry information, information regarding tax rules and strategies, business software (accounting, payroll, HR), etc. The point is for your clients to see you as someone that is on top of trends and that is proactive in identifying them. If you’re sending out an e-newsletter you should plan on doing it at least once per month, ideally bi-weekly. [Note: Fixyr provides 52 weeks of enewsletter and social media content for accountants on a subscription basis. If this is of interest to you, please contact us.]
Pass on Helpful Information
Another option is to send out a direct email to your client. This could be a brief message that says something like, “I came across this recent article on [tax structures, business structure, cash flow management, software, etc.] and thought that you might be interested. Let me know if you’d like to discuss how it might apply to you.”
Make a plan to send out an email like this to each of your clients at least once per quarter, ideally once per month. Over time, your customers will start to see you as someone that is proactive and communicative – two of the most important traits of a trusted advisor.
What happens if the customer does ask you for advice?
If you ask the customer what’s going on and they start to share a problem with you, then what? This can be a difficult situation to handle for technical specialists that aren’t used to providing advisory services to their clients.
- Don’t jump to conclusions or presume you understand what the problem is
- Listen to everything
- Acknowledge what they’re saying
- Ask good questions for clarification and to make sure you understand the problem and where the customer is coming from
- Build a shared agenda on how to proceed
Help the client by being the problem-solver
To be the Who not the How, you need to not just have the answer, you have to also be helpful.
You don’t need to have the answers to every question the client may ask you for help with, but you should be responsive and be able to either find the answer for them, or be able to point them in the direction of where they could find more information or who they could talk to that could help them. If the latter, be sure to facilitate the introduction on behalf of the client.
Becoming the Who
By being communicative and proactive, and staying on top of trends, you can develop a better relationship with your clients on your way to becoming a trusted advisor.
And, as you become the Who, the trusted advisor that business owners go to, you’ll be able to solve business problems for them, and free them up to run their business while developing new services and revenue streams for your practice
Looking for Help?
At Fixyr we believe that “one-size-fits-all” marketing is the enemy, that strategy should always come before tactics, and that the best path to success is through a results-focused marketing plan built just for you.