DIY software and online resources are making it easy for clients to do their own basic taxes. As this base source of volume work for your firm gets whittled away it will be essential for you to evolve into something more. Your firm will need to become a business consulting service, offering financial guidance to your clients that they had not previously enjoyed.
Let’s take a look at how accounting outsourcing can help you become part of your client’s core team.
It’s really a question of perspective. How do you shift your client’s current view of you – the people they see once or twice a year during tax time – to someone whom they consult with on a more regular basis?
We suggest that you set up a yearly meeting. Give it a title, something important like your Annual Financial Outlook Meeting. Have your clients put it on their calendar on a yearly basis – you’re now already a solid commitment in their minds instead of that vaguely defined thing that they have to get to when it’s time to do their taxes.
Accounting outsourcing is going to free up time for you to drill down into a client’s file, looking both for red flags and beneficial opportunities. That means you’re going to have the ability to add immense value to your clients, and once they see that you’re providing a positive impact on their bottom line they’re going to consider the meetings an essential part of their year. They may very well ask you to bump up the schedule to twice a year, or even to month-by-month meetings.
Accounting outsourcing lets you offer increased value
The first added value that the meetings provide to your clients is that quite often you’ll find that they’ve never had a meeting specifically about their finances, so you’re already offering them something valuable right out of the gate.
Make sure you’re the one who sets the meeting’s agenda. (Include in the agenda – towards the bottom – that you’re going to ask if they’re happy with your work and if so you’re going to ask them to refer three people. Having it on the agenda lets them see it coming, makes it official, and keeps you from having to feel squeamish about asking for referrals.)
What goes on the agenda? That will depend on your specific clients of course; you’ll use that time freed up by accounting outsourcing to tweak the agenda to a specific client. That being said, here’s a general outline to get you started:
Put the client’s name up top. It lets the clients know that this meeting was designed specifically with them in mind. The name of the meeting goes here. For example, ANNUAL FINANCIAL OUTLOOK MEETING – AGENDA.
- The year [or month, of half-year, what have you] in review. [Explain the past year’s finances. Hit on the high points and low points and how they came about.]
- 3 [or 5] year overview. [Here you’ll explain overall movements in the client’s finances – what caused them and what you think the best course of action is to either right a wrong or to take advantage of an opportunity. This is where you make it clear how they’re spending their money.]
- The future. [What their current cash flow allows them to do to improve or expand their business, where you think they might benefit from, for example, a price change, etc. Anything you think will help them grow over the coming year.]
- Additional questions. [Anything else the client wishes to discuss.]
- Form a plan. [Give them a concrete goal that they can mark on their calendar. If it’s something that your firm can help them with, all the better.]
- Are you happy with our service? If the answer is yes, would you be able to provide us with 3 referrals?
You’re going to use the time you save by taking advantage of accounting outsourcing to come up with all sorts of financial info that your clients would not have thought to look at before these meetings became a part of their lives (showing them where all their money went is usually quite the eye-opener).
How long should the meetings be? Definitely try to not go over two hours – you’re just going to be looking at a lot of glazed eyeballs. Shoot for an hour-and-a-half.
Pro-tip: Buy them lunch, but do it after the meeting. Coffee and tea during the meeting are of course fine, but a full meal can be too distracting.
Create a workflow document that outlines the prep you have to do in order to get ready for these meetings. You’re going to want to have this checklist in advance so you’re not scrambling for info at the last moment.
As you hold more of these meetings you’ll be able to tweak the workflow so you’re concentrating on the areas that interest your clients the most. You definitely don’t want to be constantly pushing meetings back because you don’t yet have all the necessary data.
Control the meeting
This is your meeting. You’ve used the time cleared up by accounting outsourcing to dig deep into your client’s finances, you don’t want all of that work to go to waste. It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for your clients.
Hold the meeting in an environment that you control (your offices being the most logical location). If you find that a client is still continually having their attention pulled away by phone calls or what have you then it’s possible that they are not going to ever benefit from these meetings, and you need to put that energy into clients who can be counted on to have more focus.
The end goal
The point of these meetings is to integrate yourself as part of your client’s core business-building team. The more integration, the more your client will look to you for extra paid services.