It’s hard to believe that yearend is just around the corner. Chances are good that you and your colleagues are starting to give some thought to client planning sessions. As you do, consider looking past the tax return, audit and the financial statement. One of the best ways that you can add value to client relationships is to explore uncharted territory. Finding opportunities to move forward is an area with great potential.
A Closer Look at the Benefits
Helping your clients to look toward the future is important for many reasons. Let’s take a closer look at this topic and its importance to you, your clients and your practice.
- Opens Dialogues
Think busy clients have no time for discussions around what’s new, what they’re struggling with and what their plans are for the future? Think again. It’s amazing how clients will open up to you once you let them know you’re interested. Even better, you are likely creating the opportunity for these expanded discussions to take place in the coming weeks during yearend planning sessions.
- Helps Clients See You as More Than a Tax or Audit Pro
By taking the conversation beyond the tax return, audit and financial statement, you will enable your clients to see that you are more than a tax or audit practitioner. These discussions can reveal your interest and ability to help them with a variety of issues they are facing. This can include assistance with their banking relationships, bookkeeping, payroll and strategic planning, to name a few.
- Strengthens Emotional Capital
For years, practitioners have relied on their smarts to build client relationships. This analytical problem-solving ability is no longer enough. Research conducted by psychologist and bestselling author Daniel Goleman reveals that we’re not only being judged by how smart we are or our technical skills but also by our ‘emotional intelligence.’ It’s all about how well we interact with others. Do they like you? Are you interested in helping them solve their problems? Do you truly care about helping them and their business succeed?
- Provides a Platform to Expand Client Relationships
If you are like your practitioner peers, you’ve provided traditional services such as tax returns, audit engagements and annual financials to your clients over the years. Unfortunately many of these relationships have not developed into the advisory types that you’d hoped. One of the best ways to take your client relationships to another level is to look at the future and your role in it.
- Builds Trust
It’s no secret that winning client trust is at the heart of your quest to build a thriving practice. As you seek to earn this trust from clients, remember that people are looking for solutions to their challenges. When you can help them to overcome these challenges, you too will strengthen their trust.
“So how do I put these advantages to work in my practice?” you’re likely asking. Let’s turn our attention toward four practical actions steps that you and your colleagues can take in the coming weeks.
- Explore Uncharted Territory
“I realize that we have not sat down and talked in a while. If it’s okay, I would like to know what’s going on with you and your business.” What’s new?
- What’s commanding your time these days?
- What are your/your business’ top priorities?
- What seems to be keeping you from your top priorities?
- What’s got you stressed lately?
The Identify & Prioritize Tool from the ‘initiate’ step in the PCPS Trusted Business Advisor 2.0 Toolbox has more questions to consider in your exploration.
- Start Conversations
Good news, you don’t have to be a great conversationalist to have a great conversation. It’s all about asking thought-provoking questions, then listening to what they have to say. For starters, your interest speaks volumes to your clients. Listen intently, too. For it’s in their comments that you’ll find clues about what comes next. When you learn something intriguing or something that’s causing angst, don’t just move on to the next thing. Take the time to learn more. This is where you can uncover problem areas that need solutions - solutions that you can provide.
- Oh I had no idea, please tell me more.
- How did this come about?
- What do you think is causing this?
- Look Into The Future
Once you understand their daily struggles it’s important to talk about the future. This conversation can prove powerful in these uncertain times. Yet it is an area that many just can’t get around to because they are so busy with day to day challenges. It all starts with a dialogue.
“With so much going on right now, I know it is difficult to think about the future. However, I wouldn’t be a good advisor if I didn’t spend some time hearing your thoughts in this area. Would it be okay if we spend a few minutes talking about this?”
- What are your visions for the future?
- What things are going well that you would like to see continue into the future?
- What should happen in the next few years to make you feel that your business is successful?
- What critical issues are you facing in your business today that if you do not resolve could cost you significant amounts of time and money?
- Do you have a strategic plan?
- Do you have someone who regularly checks in with you to make sure this plan is moving forward?
The Client Goals & Challenges Worksheet from the ‘initiate’ step in the PCPS Trusted Business Advisor 2.0 Toolbox has additional questions to consider.
- Let Them Know You Want to Help
Now that you have learned what’s on their mind, use this knowledge to find out how you can help them move forward in a more sustainable way. Whether it’s resolving current struggles or developing and monitoring a plan for long-term success talk through the options with them.
- I appreciate you sharing this information with me today.
- It gives me a better sense of where you want to go and what you want to achieve.”
- I also have an understanding of the challenges that you face.
- I want to let you know that I can help you move forward.
- In fact, I am spending more of my time helping busy clients like you with a number of the issues you have discussed today. These include (repeat what you heard them say).
- We generally meet once a month for an hour or so and discuss pressing issues. Then decide on the best course of action.
- Would you be open to more regular meetings like this?
- Are there areas we’ve discussed today that you could you use some additional help?
- Why don’t you give some thought to our discussions and let me follow up with you in a few weeks. Then we can talk more about what this arrangement could look like.
You will have a number of opportunities over the coming weeks to gain a better understanding of your clients’ needs. Use these dialogues to uncover ways to help them become more successful. Not only will you build trust with them, you will expand your role with many, too. Now’s the perfect time to take your relationships to new levels, so don’t delay. You will be glad that you did and so will they!