As an advisory-focused accounting firm, it’s important to stay engaged in long term relationships that are oriented around clients' business goals and future business. As you focus the relationship around future goals, there's this duality in the process. As a firm, you are always thinking down the road as far as what's coming next; and at the same time, you’re also executing in the here and now.
How do you know what to do next to meet your clients’ business goals? In this episode of Pulse of the Podcast, ”Predicting the Next Move”, we talk about how to help predict the next move by keeping the clients’ and your firm’s plans in mind.
Generally, firms are with clients one year at a time based on tax deadlines. Often you are engaged with clients in the model that is used with Practice Forward, then your firm may re-up that engagement for the next year. This gives you time as clients shift their business efforts to be able to move your services with them as they grow to be sure you are meeting all of the client’s business goals.
Focus on future growth to meet clients’ business goals
If your trajectory is more of an advisory role, you can start the whole client relationship from a continuous growth mentality. How do you use the interactions of today to set up future steps so that this idea of growth is part of the progression of meeting your clients’ business goals? Help your clients realize that this is not just another service that you’re trying to sell them, but an investment in their future transformation.
Generally, with any kind of advisory firm, you should be looking at the implementation of these next steps with great value, not just vague ideas for the future. Firms sometimes get hung up on the difference of the value between ideas and implementation. You have to remember that your ideas themselves probably don’t have a lot of value to the client, but rather what’s important is the strategies you put into play from those ideas to help meet the client’s business goals. In other words, it’s critical to have client engagement today to create space to talk about tomorrow.
Keep client engagement strong for opportunities
If a client is paying for an advisory relationship, the opportunity to have a free flow exchange of ideas is important to get to a place of action. If your firm is in an advisory role, you might feel like you’re just selling your client’s new services, but it’s bigger than that. What you’re doing more than anything, once you start that advisory client relationship, is you’re helping the client better assess the true costs of what the future holds and you’re having this ongoing dialogue. These conversations are opportunities that present themselves not to create more work for everyone. There are times when you can create the space for growth in that conversation to help meet clients’ business goals and direct them along the way.
If you are functioning typically as a transactional accounting firm, predicting the next move is pretty easy because it’s deadline-driven and task-oriented. With advisory services, deadlines exist, but your relationship is defined by points of action instead of the deadlines. When you have these opportunities to predict the next 12 months of a client relationship with conversations along the way, it’s important to define what you do in each of those meetings to help assist the client for future growth.
Consider the needs of each client individually
Along with touch points, you might go to a client and offer a year-end review. Well, what’s involved in that year-end review? Are you simply crunching numbers and predicting tax responsibilities? Or are you looking for ways to assist with your clients’ business goals? You’ll want to be really clear and predict the number of touch points with each client ahead of time. They aren’t all going to have the same needs. How many touch points are needed throughout the year to allow you to stay on top of what’s happening with their business? For most clients, somewhere between two to four is sufficient. Remember, these meetings are great opportunities to plant the seeds for next steps – all with the goal of helping meet your clients’ business goals.
It’s so important to consider what’s coming next as far as planning your next move with your clients. You can’t offer outstanding client service and be truly predictive and properly responsive if you don’t know what your clients’ business goals are for their future. If you aren’t letting the clients know that you want to help them plan ahead, you could be missing opportunities.
Ask your clients about their future goals
You have to transfer knowledge in order to avoid keeping future plans in a silo when speaking with clients. From a client’s perspective, there are probably things they aspire to do. You want to be forward-thinking and ask them questions. What’s the next thing? What else can we do? How can you help meet clients’ business goals?
You may find that a lot of clients who are seeking additional assistance don’t really know how to proactively think about the future. As a firm, it’s your job to discern what is best for the clients. That’s why it’s useful to have those touch points as an opportunity to see if there are some other services that your firm could provide for them.
Not everybody is going to want that future-thinking aspect of advisory services. They may just be concerned about the task at hand (some clients are of the “set it and forget it” mindset). But you likely have a great majority of clients that might entertain the idea of doing things differently to grow their businesses. You want to have enough tools in your toolbox to be able to present forethought in order for you and your clients to be future-ready.