Clients quite often have a very set idea of what an accountant is supposed to do for them. It might seem odd to them that you want to get mixed up in helping them build their business as an advisor. They might even resent you trying to take on an advisory role, preferring you to just sit in the corner and crunch numbers.
What you’re coming up against is the legacy view of accountants. The problem is that you have so much more that you can do for your client than pure bookkeeping or compliance work but your clients haven’t ever heard of an accountant getting so involved with everything in their business.
Clients don’t know about the new generation of accountants
When you initially meet with them, clients have no idea just how much you can do for them. If you let them keep this misconception you’re robbing them of the chance to boost their finances and/or business, and you’re robbing yourself of streams of revenue.
When your clients don’t appreciate how much value you’re bringing them, they are not going to pay you enough for the work that you do. This is especially true of a relatively short-term situation.
Let’s say for example that you have a client that is a budding restauranteur. They’re in the process of buying all their gear, finding their suppliers, hiring staff, marketing, and searching for a location. They call you up and tell you that they’ve found a good location for X amounts of dollars. They ask for a forecast to determine if they can afford the location.
You’re more than happy to work the numbers for them. They want to know how much it will cost for the forecast. You tell them X. They complain about the amount and ask for discounts, plus they want it right away, meaning you have to set aside other work to get the forecast done.
If you find yourself constantly in this kind of conversation (where they try to cut how much they pay you) you have a major client-relations problem – they’re not appreciating the work you’re doing for them. More specifically, your clients are holding the reigns in these conversations. And that means you’re going to be losing money with every one of these requests.
Insisting on value
Let’s try to take control of the above conversation. When the client calls you asking for the forecast, ask them if there’s something unclear about their finances. After all, they should have a pretty clear idea what they can and cannot afford before they head out to spend all their money.
They’ll come back with a reason explaining why they need the clarity of a professional forecast. Say, for example, that they say they spent more on hiring staff than they expected. They illustrate that they don’t have as firm a handle on their finances as they would like.
This is where you can take firm control and explain to them the value of what you are doing. Explain that from what you have learnt so far it sounds like they have not allowed for a contingency fund and that there may be other savings that can be made elsewhere. However, to get all the facts and give the best advice for their secure future you will need to assess more about the business as a whole, as well as look at the finances …and the cost for this business assessment and forecasting service is $XYZ. Now you’re going to help them get their restaurant opened without them spiralling their costs out of control. You are in essence the reason they’re going to be able to open without facing a crushing heap of debt.
They couldn’t have done it without you. You’ve demonstrated your value. You’ve demonstrated that your involvement in their current and future finances is money well spent because in fact it saves the client money and sets them up to have a healthier revenue stream than they would have on their own.
So when faced by a client that wants a quick and dirty and discounted service from you, ask questions. Drill a little bit down into their current situation and chances are you’ll reveal to the client that they didn’t know that they needed expert financial advice at all stages of their enterprise. You’ve now demonstrated your value, and you can charge accordingly.