Archive for the ‘Client service’ Category
Thursday, December 1st, 2016
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin
Sally, a new manager in a growing CPA firm has just been told that to become a partner in the firm, she must be able to bring new business and increase revenue for the firm.
Sally is in shock. She had never realized that it was absolutely necessary to bring in business if she wanted to be a partner. After all, it is the life-blood of the firm.
Here are three simple tips to help people like Sally in your firm. It might also be very helpful to people who are already partners!
Build a relationship first. You meet someone at a Chamber event or other business mixer. They appear to have a thriving business. Talk to them about business, in general. Follow-up with an invitation to lunch or breakfast but don’t try to “sell” anything until you have connected, met and established common ground. Yes, this might take a while. Get to know them before you sell them.
Listen. Most prospective clients will be anxious to tell you what they want. Listen to them and then be prepared to tell them what they really need. Good listening skills are a critical part of selling.
Tell stories. Tell them success stories about the firm’s team members (including partners). Tell them how a specific team member has succeeded. Tell them success stories about how your firm has solved business challenges for clients. Tell them how you would like to help them (not how you want to sell them services).
You can also use these three steps to win clients via online activities.
Relationship: Use blogs, articles, news items, tax updates and other helpful information to build a relationship. That means you must have a website that is engaging – not something all about the firm. A site that people will visit often because it is helpful.
Listen: Make it easy for them to submit a question or make contact online. Make searching for how to make contact very easy. Offer a free initial consultation that can be done in person, via phone, via email or online video.
Stories: Use interesting bios about your people and how they have become successful. Tell success stories via tweets, Linkedin, Facebook even Instagram. Develop testimonials from some of your best clients and post them on your website. Testimonials are so powerful. The prospect might think, “Oh, Joe Smith uses this firm. His business seems to be growing like crazy!”
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.
Monday, November 21st, 2016
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates
Last week during a partner retreat I was facilitating, the “busy” topic came up and was explored.
The participants all indicated that they truly felt they were too busy to focus on some of the important challenges facing the firm. They didn’t like feeling like that, but never the less, they did.
When you dig deep into why you are too busy it usually uncovers the fact that it is because of the choices you make.
Kids these days are scheduled almost 24/7. When do they have time to play outside, wade in a stream or collect beautiful colored leaves in the fall?
Adults have work that is filled with answering emails and attending meetings plus responsibilities on the home front, such as raising children. When do they have time to actually think, daydream, relax and examine the life they are living?
Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” What did he mean by that? Here’s an explanation:
Socrates‘ claim that the unexamined life is not worth living makes a satisfying climax for the deeply principled arguments that Socrates presents on behalf of the philosophical life. The claim is that only in striving to come to know ourselves and to understand ourselves do our lives have any meaning or value.
In your CPA work life, if you are always saying you are so busy or too busy, why would clients and referral sources refer others to you? Make it a rule to never say the “B” (busy) word in the office. Anyone caught saying BUSY must drop $1.00 into the money jar in the break room. Soon you will have enough for a great party!
It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?
Henry David Thoreau
Thursday, November 17th, 2016
“Timid salespeople have skinny kids.” – Zig Ziglar
As I am wrapping up my retreat season, some things have been on my mind. When facilitating retreats, I often see the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!
As your firm grows, be sure to free-up the managing partner and other partners from being responsible for management items. Hire people to build and maintain the management infrastructure and hold the partners accountable for partner-type activities.
CPAs were not and are not trained in HR, marketing, administration, technology… they are trained accountants and financial advisors. They should focus on what they are good at and do what the most skilled CPA partners do. That is, take care of clients, train and mentor younger accountants and bring in new business for the firm. Even if they are not strong rainmakers, they do have strong client relationships and should focus on increased services for current clients.
If you are not taking care of your client, your competitor will.
Thursday, November 10th, 2016
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” – Colin Powell
I am very fortunate to be able to facilitate many feedback surveys for successful, growing accounting firms. What I personally learn from these surveys is extremely helpful to me as I advise my clients on preparing their firm for the future.
Something I often see as I read every single word written by survey participants is that there are several misconceptions, top-down and bottom-up, inside CPA firms.
Here’s one I will comment on today:
Staff thinks that partners should work as much as they do.
Partners think staff should work as much as they do.
Of course, not all partners and not all staff but I do see these sentiments noted in several different variations.
Some things for both sides to consider…..
Most partners work significantly more than staff. They attend civic, social and charitable events on behalf of the firm (and it’s growth). Partners tend to work many non-busy season weekends in the office with no one there to observe (or disturb) them. Their chargeable time budget is much less than staff because they have extremely important duties in marketing, selling, mentoring and management of the firm.
The current workforce (staff members in CPA firms) has changed and technology is the main reason. They can work anytime and anywhere. They PREFER to work in that fashion. Partners still often assume that if someone is not at their desk, they are not working. Also, partners tend to be in the office at odd hours. Many often return to the office later in the evening or arrive at the office very early. Many staff members prefer to have dinner at home, participate in putting the kids to bed and then work additional time, later at night, from home.
Per the Rosenberg Survey for firms in the $2M-$10M range, partners average about 2500 total hours and staff average about 2300 total hours. Partners have approximately 1200 chargeable hours and staff has approximately 1500 chargeable hours.
There is no substitute for hard work.
Tuesday, November 8th, 2016
“Change before you have to.” – Jack Welch
Change, change, change! I know you are probably getting fairly sick of everyone telling you that you need to make changes inside your growing accounting firm. It has been the battle cry for many years and something that I probably over-stress as I write this blog.
I hope that during this month, you set aside some time to contemplate some questions. Use these questions at your next partner meeting or even at a full-staff lunch and learn session. Think about each question and the answers you receive. Then make a plan to change some things.
- Can you identify some opportunities that other firms in your market have not pursued?
- Are you (and your firm) the BEST at anything?
- Do you have clients you absolutely LOVE and some you actually DREAD? What should you do about them?
- Are you getting great ideas from people at ALL levels inside your firm?
- Is your firm and your people (including partners) continually changing and evolving?
- Are you keeping pace with how the business world is changing?
Stagnation is a slow death.
Friday, November 4th, 2016
Don’t take your individual tax clients for granted. Don’t make excuses why you can’t personally meet with clients.
As we become more and more digital, we might endanger some relationships because we do not make the extra effort to secure the relationships with our clients.
What I often see happening in firms is that we ask the client to drop off their tax information, use the portal or mail it in. Then we have a staff person touch base by phone during the process, if necessary.
We avoid personal, face-to-face interaction with these clients and they live nearby. You can’t delegate personal advice and relationships. Plus, when you set aside some time to meet with clients, you open the door to discovering additional services your firm could provide.
Consider these ideas to cement client relationships:
- Set an appointment to meet with your local clients and include the date and time in the organizer package (or communication).
- Have your administrative team call to confirm the appointment a few days before.
- Meet with the client (their place or yours… yours if at all possible) for 30 minutes and talk about their year (often results in additional projects for your firm).
- Send them away with a checklist of missing information and a due date (with a second copy given to your admin team).
- Admin calls to remind them if the missing information is not in by an agreed upon date.
- If at all possible, have them return for a 15-minute meeting to discuss the final return (at the very least YOU should talk to them via telephone).
You can’t delegate personal service. It will keep them coming back and most importantly, it will cause them to say, “My CPA meets with me and explains things.”
Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker
I write a lot about the importance of listening.
I can write even more about it and will naturally do so as I continue on my blogging journey.
Today, maybe it is time for you to assess your own, personal listening skills.
You can access a self-assessment on the Mindtools website. Take the test, do the scoring and read about what it all means.
Why not share the test with your peers and see how everyone compares? It might be a great learning exercise for all of you. Or, it might be a great lunch & learn to do with all team members.
There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.
Friday, October 28th, 2016
I often get questions on a VERY wide variety of CPA firm management topics. Many are HR, succession and operational related. I also try to provide the latest trends in marketing, leadership, and technology.
I am using the title “Helpful Information” to communicate some of the best practices or useful products I hear or read about.
For today, I recently learned some information for firms adopting Two Factor Authentication (2FA).
Many firms are happy with Duo Security. Xcentric has partnered with Duo Security to provide their clients with the utmost protection.
I am not aligned or partnered with any vendors serving the CPA profession. However, I do often feature vendors or products that I think my readers would find helpful.
The struggle for today is not altogether for today - it is for a vast future also.
Monday, October 24th, 2016
“The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.” – Ayn Rand
When pursuing a new prospect, when do you talk about your fee? How straight-forward are you? Do you talk as little about fees as possible and maybe even wait until a client complains (or inquires about an invoice) before you are transparent about how you bill?
I have observed that many CPAs are very reluctant to talk about fees with prospective clients and even sometimes with long-time clients. Many, even in the engagement letter, provide a fee quote in the form of a fairly broad range.
That’s the best thing about a Fixed Price Agreement. The client knows exactly what the fee will be for the specific service that is to be provided. Even an FPA can be a problem if the client requests additional services and the CPA does not then issue a change order informing the client that there will be additional fees due.
I have also observed that many CPAs don’t believe they are “worth it.” They become friends with clients and simply want to be helpful. I urge my clients to be proud of their knowledge and not discount the value that performing a routine task or answering a simple question brings to the client.
You have spent years accumulating specialized knowledge. You are special in that you can answer complex questions with little effort.
Don’t discount your own expertise – you are worth it!
Only a fool thinks price and value are the same.
Wednesday, October 19th, 2016
Self-belief is a critical key to success. It’s the bridge between your personal attitude and enthusiasm, and your ability to transfer confidence to your client.
Without belief in what you do your ability to engage your client or a prospective client and get additional business from them will be low.
The common thread among all thought leaders, philosophers, and personal development experts is their consistent writing on the subjects of positive thinking and self-belief.
Dale Carnegie, author of the timeless How to Win Friends and Influence People said, “If you believe in what you are doing, let nothing hold you up in your work. Much of the best work of the world has been done against seeming impossibilities. The thing is to get the work done.”
See what I mean? Well, is that you? How deep is your belief?
Timeless quotes are truths that have stood the test of time. The challenge with quotes is that most people (not you of course) see them at a glance, fail to realize their power and fail to take any action. Or worse, they don’t want to face reality.
The reason these quotes and truths don’t take hold is that they require you to come to grips with yourself. They make you think about where you are, and where you seek to grow.
Among hundreds of powerful thoughts and pearls of wisdom, Napoleon Hill, in his epic self-help book Think and Grow Rich said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe it can achieve.”
See the trend?
Here’s a quote I like from Maxwell Maltz, author of Psycho-Cybernetics, “Within you right now is the power to do things you never dreamed possible. This power becomes available to you just as soon as you can change your beliefs.”
How about you? Do you believe enough to succeed?
Here are some “core beliefs.”
Belief in your firm. Believe that your ethics are high and your people are great. Beliefs that support is superior and the dedication to clients and to excellence is at the top of the firm’s core values and principles.
Belief in your service. All clients need service; the real issue is how you respond. If your firm supports clients and considers loyalty as key, you are on the right track.
Belief in yourself. This is where the rubber meets the… brain. Your thoughts precede your words and actions. If you are unsure, that will be evident to those around you.
The belief that your clients are better off. This is the part that tests your real belief. You believe that the firm’s clients are better off because they are being served by you and the entire firm team.
Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.