How to get clients (4 of 4)

By way of recap, in the last couple of posts, I’ve been writing about how to get clients by starting to think like a client; seeing things from their perspective. The first way was to help clients make money, the second way to help clients save money. The third way is to help clients SAVE TIME!

We are all familiar with the cliche time is money. As I’m sure I’ve said before in earlier posts, cliches are often cliches because they are true. So it follows that if you can save your client time you in effect help them make money or save money. For the most part, if your client can spend less time on a business process that you identified can be streamlined then you give your client “more” time to focus on other areas that can help the business grow.

As one of the key advisors to your client’s business, you are in a wonderful position to identify ways and methods on how you can save your client time.

To wrap up this 3 post series … if you can’t either make money, save money and/or save time for your client you are little more than a commodity provider of compliance services. Unfortunately when a service becomes a commodity you are locked into a cycle of high volume/low margin service provision – since there are literally thousands of providers in Australia and offshore that can produce tax returns, accounts and the like for rock bottom prices. I wouldn’t have thought this is the path to growing your practice into a team of trusted advisors making a difference for your clients.

Until next time,

James E

How to get clients (3 of 4)

Last post I introduced the idea that one great way to get clients is to start to think like a client.

Clients want their accountants not just to help they make more money, but to SAVE MONEY. Now this just isn’t my opinion, but the CFOs & CEOs I’ve interviewed for the book I authored last year “What do Accounting Clients Really Want?” also share this view … although they are much more colourful in the way they express their desire for their external accountants to save them money.

As mentioned in Friday’s post, accountants tend to have an intimate knowledge of how their client’s businesses work.

Here is one example one of the CFOs I met with gave me about how their accountant saved their business money. Granted it is a story of an accountant doing better with a current client (rather than getting a client) but it is still a great example!

The accountant in question was undertaking a review of the client’s business and discovered that there were some tax concessions which could be obtained through a closer look at their research & development activities. To cut a long story short, the accountant (off his own bat) undertook a project around the R & D treatment, which wasn’t his area of expertise, investigated how the business was placed, liaised with the ATO and produced all the necessary documentation which was not a straightforward task. After a few months of concerted effort the end result was a tax saving of several hundred thousand dollars and a very happy CFO. In fact the CFO was so happy, they paid the accountant a big fat success fee.

Not a bad way to save money.

Now, of course, you may be thinking to yourself, well that’s great if you have a big client and can find big savings. The above client had a revenue of around $100m – so it was fairly big. However, there are dozens of ways to help your client save money. Here are just a few:

  • Don’t use recruitment agents to find staff
  • Convert offline advertising to online activity
  • Ask suppliers for a better deal (believe me … you’d be surprised at some of the responses)
  • Tender out non-essential business processes
  • Survey your client’s staff and run a context to help identify cost savings

See you next post for another way to get clients.

All my best,

James

How to get clients (2 of 4)

Let me say right up front – I’m not an accountant. My professional training is in the areas of economics, education & management. That being said I’ve been a keen observer of individual professional accountants, accounting firms (big and small) and their clients for many, many years.

The best way to get more clients is to think like a client. If I put on my “client hat” then I want 3 “things” from my accountant. Today’s post will talk about 1 of these, the next 2 posts will talk about the remaining things not just that I want, but the majority of business clients and owners out there want and need.

Leaving to one side the legal/regulatory need for businesses to comply – e.g. tax returns, audits and the like clients want their accountants to help them MAKE MONEY.

It is well understood that accountants, throughout the developed world, (usually) enjoy having a strong & trusted relationship with their business clients. Consequently, it will be safe to assume that the accountant has an intimate knowledge of the internal workings of their clients. In fact I have friends in the accounting profession that know their client’s businesses better than the owners of the business!

What a wonderful opportunity then to come up with ideas that can help your business clients identify new markets, explore different product or service development, uncover ways to more efficiently deliver outcomes to their customers or any one of dozens of ways to come up with avenues to help your client make more money.

Who better to help businesses come up with ways to make more money than you?

See you next post,

James E.

 

 

 

 

How to get clients (1 of 4)

Do you have trouble getting clients? If so, please read on.

I was speaking at a seminar last week to a bunch of accountants. A young chap approached me during the break and shared some of the concerns he had about his own firm.

“James – how do I get new clients?”, he opened up to me. “I’ve been working with my father in his accounting practice for the last few years and things are going fine with our current client base but I’m finding it really difficult to attract or get new clients. How do I do it?”

This young chap was sincere, enthusiastic and energetic. I could sense that he was frustrated with his efforts to date and I really wanted to help him out. In the little time we had, I wanted to know what his thinking was when he approached potential clients. I asked him how he started off the conversation with these people. “What I usually do James is to tell them about my firm and what we do”

Let’s stop right there. This young guy has fallen into the same trap that the majority of accountants (and other professional advisers for that matter) can’t seem to help falling into.

Does it make sense to tell the person you are meeting with that you are an accountant and you provide the following A, B, C & D services? Is it safe to assume that the person you are meeting with already knows that you’re an accountant? I would think yes. So why oh why do most accountants in meetings with potential clients, in their marketing material and websites spend an inordinate amount of time & effort telling the world who they are and what they do? We’ll unpack this question later in this series of posts.

Let’s go back a step. Why is the person meeting with you in the first place? Is it a referral, a favour to a friend or perhaps the outcome of a successful cold call?

Hmmm – lots of questions. Over the next few posts I’m going to share with you how you can get clients. The strategy & tactics I will outline will help you differentiate your practice from the rest of the market – or at least those who don’t read this blog 🙂

Bye for now,

James E

Don’t forget to thank people

Recently, I was in a hotel cafe meeting with someone for coffee. A big part of my job as a headhunter is to meet with various people in cafes, hotels and the like and have a chat about career, business & life.

After saying good-bye to the person I was meeting with I went to the counter to settle the bill. After signing the various bits of paper, I got my gear together and started to walk out the main entrance to the cafe and noticed out of the corner of my eye, an old client of mine that I keep in broad touch with. Lets call him Clint.

A few months ago Clint had asked me for some introductions to potential clients for a new consulting business he had started with a friend. Back in November I sent some emails to a few specific contacts of mine introducing Clint to them and saying that he would be in touch with them shortly. I wanted to help Clint out so I made sure the introduction was done professionally and well. Usually I would prefer a face-to-face meeting to arrange the introduction, but given the time of year (it was November and the Christmas rush was already starting to bite) a “virtual” introduction via email was the way to go.

The email was sent. Client sent back a quick reply to say thank you for the intros and we went on our merry ways.

Bumping into Clint the other day, he mentioned to me that one of the people I had introduced to him had been great and was proving to be a very fruitful business relationship. Clint then said something like, ”Wow James I owe you a lunch or something for introducing me to Phil” I politely replied that there was no need for that, encouraged him that we should keep in touch and said good bye.

At the time I thought “that was good for Clint”, but since reflecting on it since I became annoyed and a little taken for granted. If I had not unexpectedly bumped into Clint that day then I may not have known that the chap I had introduced to him 5 months earlier was a great source of help.  Am I being overly sensitive to want some appreciation for what I did for Clint? Maybe … maybe not.

As professionals we need to be treating people that help us build our business in a way that fosters respect and appreciation.

What do you think?

All my best,

James E

Don’t look up at the mountain

Hey everyone. Sorry about not posting on Wednesday. I have lots of balls in the air at the moment with clients & various projects and simply ran out of time. Again my apologies.

In the last post (on Monday) I was sharing my thoughts regarding a presentation I recently given by Nick Farr-Jones the great ex-captain of the Australian Rugby team.

I ended the post with the words “The story that Nick shared that day, wasn’t about God but it was about the power & energy that comes from focus. The story involves a mountain & a man named Edmund. Nick had the privilege to have a question answered by this great man first hand.”

A few years back Nick was attending a Rugby Test match in New Zealand and just happened to meet Sir Edmund Hillary. He and Sir Edmund were invited to the match by the same corporate sponsor and shared seats in the same box at the game. After the usual introductions and small talk, Nick asked Sir Edmund if he would mind him asking a question about climbing Mount Everest. Sir Edmund, whom must have been asked tens of thousands of times about his expedition, graciously replied, “Of course not young man”.

Nick paused and then asked the first man who had ever conquered Everest the simple question, “Sir Edmund, when you were climbing the mountain did you ever look up at the peak and get discouraged or fearful”

“Honestly Nick”, Sir Edmund replied, “I never looked up at the mountain. All I did was to focus on the next step – concentrating on taking one step after the other. If I did look up at the summit I would most certainly have been discouraged and scared of the enormous obstacle waiting for me!”

It may be a long bow to draw but often in business we look up at the obstacles in front of us be they difficult clients who aren’t paying, challenges with the ATO, IRS or other government departments, demanding staff or rising costs of operating business and get discouraged, fearful or even depressed.

Accountants working in public practice can certainly fall into the trap of worrying about the myriad of things coming up rather than focusing on doing the things that are most important today.

Hope the above helps not just in your accounting practice but in your wider life 🙂

See you next time.

All my best,

James E

Nick & his great story

The other week I was attended a conference. One of the key note speakers was the famous Australian sportsman Nick Farr-Jones. People living in Australia will know Nick as a sporting legend – he was the captain of the Australian Rugby Team when they won the Rugby World Cup in 1991. Since most of the readership of this blog comes from the USA here is an example to put it in some kind of context. Nick is our equivalent of say your Troy Aikman – the Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer.

Since leaving Rugby almost 20 years ago Nick has, alongside his professional work as a lawyer & dinvestment banker, contributes to many charities both in Australia & beyond. He is an all-round good guy.

Like you, I go along to many workshops, seminars & conference in the areas of business, accounting & technology. The above event I attended to hear Nick speak was different. Nick was speaking at a Men’s Conference at the church that I attend. Although I’ve never heard Nick speak before live, I was impressed by his humility, sincerity & openness. He relayed a story to the audience that day that was both insightful & instructive. In fact, it is one of those stories that you hear every now and then that help you think and see the world in a different way.

Don’t worry – I’m not about to preach at you 🙂 Although I’m a committed Christian and would love the opportunity to discuss such matters with you – this blog is not the right place to do that. The story that Nick shared that day, wasn’t about God but it was about the power & energy that comes from focus.

The story involves a mountain & a man named Edmund. Nick had the privilege to have a question answered by this great man first hand.

Tune into the next post to read the story.

Keep smiling & bye for now,

James E

 

One great way to win a new client

A while ago I was in a meeting with the CEO of a well-known architectural firm in Sydney. This particular CEO really knows his stuff – he is on the ball, has a good head for the big picture & detail and when he needs the right advice from external professionals he seeks out only the very best he can afford. He is one of those client-types who take people on face value, but at the same time will check and validate an advisers skill set, experience and reputation within his own network which usually consists of friends, colleagues, other business owners and sometimes clients of the adviser he is wanting to bring on.

Most CEOs, CFOs and business owners are not like the CEO I met above either because they’re time poor or have other reasons for not doing what they need to do.  A lot of them take the default position and think we can’t go wrong if we hire a “Big Four firm” when they need external accounting help. However, that might not be the right fit for the need at hand.

All accountants from both the big end of end and the small end need to make it simple and straightforward for their clients and prospective clients to “check them out” How does one do this? Simple. Invite your prospective client and a current client to a conveniently located cafe, introduce them to each other, buy them each a coffee & cake and then leave. If you are a half decent accountant that has done the right thing by their client(s) the words your client shares with your prospect will be far more valuable and authentic than anything you can possibly say! They will take care of the sale for you 🙂

Keep well and see you next post.

James E

Please … give it to me straight

We have all heard the old saying – “give it to me straight.”

Usually in the movies someone is sitting in a doctors office on a chair on one side of the desk with the doctor sitting on the other side.  The doctor looks worried, is fidgety and is searching for the right words to use. The patient (usually a man) calmly asks the doctor to “give it to me straight.”

The doctor replies, “Marshall … I have good news and bad news. Which would you like first?”

Marshall says, “Give me the good news Doc”

Doctor replies, “You have one week to live”

“What? One week to live! That’s the good news? What on earth is the bad news?, Marshall shouts out.

The Doctor sheepishly admits, “The bad news is … I meant to tell you the good news last week”

Funny story, but unfortunately many clients of accountants, are victims of not being told the bad news early enough.

A good friend of mine is a management consultant.  He is highly skilled and experienced and earns a very good living. Being self-employed he has to fulfill the usual compliance requirements for operating a small business. As you know, in Australia one of these requirements is to lodge a quarterly business activity statement (BAS). Along with lodging the documentation there is usually an amount of tax payable.

For some strange reason my friend hadn’t lodged his BAS’s for 12 consecutive quarters. For some strange reason his accountant didn’t remind or raise the issue with my friend not until one day four years later he had a difficult chat with his client. Needless to sy it was not a nice discussion – the outcome of which was a bunch of fines, interest on what was owing, and the balance of the tax payable – a truckload of money and a blemished record with the Tax Office.

A question for you … “Who is at fault … the client or the accountant? Legally its the client. Morally it maybe the accountant.

What do you think?

See you next post.

James E.

Generating ideas for your clients

A while ago I was having lunch with a client of mine who had recently joined a 2nd-tier accounting firm having left one of the Big 4 for greener pastures. During the lunch my client told me about an exercise his old firm would perform on behalf of clients. It blew my socks off!

From time to time this Big 4 firm would hold a sandwich lunch for all their staff & partners in each of their offices around the country in a given week. The Brisbane office would hold their lunch on Monday, Melbourne on Tuesday, Sydney on Wednesday and so on.

The purpose of the lunch was to get as many people together – partners, directors, managers, graduates, support staff and others sitting around a table to talk and think about a particular problem or two and how they would solve it. Each table had a facilitator to help guide the conversation. The problems were real world issues that clients of the firm were facing. The purpose of the lunches is give the clients ideas they can use to solve their current business challenges.

The Big 4 firm would make an offer to their clients or even a prospect they are trying to win along the lines of, “How would you like a thousand of our staff who are amongst the best and the brightest in the market work on your problem(s)? By the way … there is no charge. It is our way of adding value to you and showing that we are here to help.”

What business or organisation would say no to such a fantastic offer? Having a thousand men and women of varying experience working on ways to solve the problems you have in your operations, marketing, recruitment and strategy is an incredibly powerful and compelling offer. The cost to the Big 4 firm  to facilitate the “ideas week” of staff lunches? Well it was simply the price of providing sandwiches and orange juice to their staff which of course would be a few thousand dollars. But think of the tremendous impact such an exercise can have on the clients and prospective clients of the firm.

Now … I know what you’re thinking. That is fine for a Big 4 firm – they have truckloads of resources and big budgets to do such things. However, since the lunch I’ve been thinking about ways in which smaller accounting firms can provide similar value for their clients irrespective of their size.

Tune into the next post to find our how!

All my best,

James E