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How to Position Yourself as a Partner to Your Client

As I am frequently asked by practice owners about how to be more proactive and adopt more of a business advisory role with clients, here is some advice:

Often, we are in the position where we are approached by a client who, at least on the surface, just wants a quote on how much it will cost to prepare his business and personal returns. In that situation, you are of course being approached as a commodity.

If apart from wanting some free advice, no other questions are asked of us, except for the fee, then that is the classic approach of someone who views us as a commodity. A commodity is a product or service that the customer believes he can get from anyone, so his focus is on price, not the quality of the service that will be delivered.

The last thing we want to be seen as — is a commodity.

A good example of this, in an unrelated industry, is cell phones. I know personally that I’ve switched from one carrier to another, even though the monthly cost doubled, in order to get better internet coverage.

Are you asking the right questions?

The last thing we want to be seen as – is a commodity.  The way to not be seen as such lies in the questions asked at the initial consultation.   The person asking the questions is the one in control of the conversation. So, getting key questions answered will direct the client to look at value and take their mind off pure cost. I have seen many prospects pay as much as three times what they paid their previous accountant when they saw value in doing so.

A structured approach to each new client’s complimentary consultation is highly recommended to avoid being viewed as a commodity and to establish a partnership with your clients. Some examples of key questions to ask in this approach are:

  1. What did you like most about your previous CPA/EA?
  2. What did you dislike about your previous CPA/EA? or What part of the service that you received from your previous CPA/EA would you like to have seen improved?
  3. What’s most important to you about the tax (or other) advice that you get from your CPA/EA?
  4. What is the main goal you have for your business? This could be their goal for this year, or further out into the future but you need to find out where they want to be headed. A business owner with no goals is very hard to help – so we need to establish that they are “going someplace” – and then; 
  5. Ask them what is the main challenge they see to achieving said goal.

These questions are designed to steer the conversation away from price and towards the value that the client stands to gain, by working with you. You will of course be able to help them in many aspects of achieving their goals but if you feel some are outside of your core competencies, we can help. Learn more about our Business Profit Maximizer Program – which is one you can provide to your clients – to avoid being positioned by them as a mere commodity.

For more information on how to build value in the initial consultation and about providing our Business Profit Maximizer Program to your clients, contact Ciara MacMahon of Phase Two Management.        

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