We all know it – clients are the lifeblood of any accounting firm – but do you understand the true value of building a solid relationship with those clients? Getting to know your clients well will allow you to better serve their needs and discover new opportunities to expand your services and partnership with them. But, great relationships take time, care and effort. So, where should you even start?
There are many things accountants do not realize are of great importance to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), especially when it comes to their relationship with their accountant or CPA. Here are five secrets to building up your relationship with your clients, so that you can work towards a more prosperous future together!
1. Don’t Wait; Ask!
When business owners find themselves in a pinch, they almost never see it coming. Why? Because they are focused on the skills and passions that make their business what it is. As an accounting professional, numbers, cash flow and economic climate are your passion, and your secret weapon. Ask your client how things are going and what their plans or dreams are for the future. Not only is this a topic very near and dear to their hearts (they’ll love to go on and on), but a conversation of this nature will also be a great way to get ahead of any potential problems. They may want to buy a new company car, but you know the best time to do so, and the best tips to ensure a full deduction on that car. In your conversation, you can offer that advice, and then propose you get involved in the project. After all, more than 57 percent of SMBs recently said they wish their accountant would provide them with more business planning and strategic advice services.
Here are some key topics where your proactive questions will be of greatest benefit:
- Major purchases • Expansions • Cash flow processes • Hiring/layoffs • Exit planning
2. Be Available and Responsive
Being responsive to client questions or concerns is one of the most important things to small business owners (not surprising, “expertise” is the other). If your clients feel valued, they’ll feel happier with your relationship. “She’s always there, whenever you have a question” is a powerful referral for attracting new potential clients.
Make sure you never let more than a day go by before answering any client questions. Use a service like Boomerang to remind yourself, or Google’s new “Inbox To Do List” feature. If your business gets quite a lot of customer questions, consider bringing on a customer service employee. Answering a question directly is infinitely better for curating a strong relationship than referring someone to an FAQ page.
3. Get on Their Level
A surefire way to improve your working relationship with your clients is to make them feel comfortable – literally. Do they like to meet in person? Do they prefer text to email? Learn more about them and their preferences to really become their dream accountant. In a recent small business owner survey, 9 percent of business owners said they wished they could communicate with their accountant, at least in part, via text messaging. Fourteen percent said they would like to communicate with their finance professional via video chat. Be open to weekends and nights too, especially if you’re just getting started with your practice. Many small business owners are incredibly busy, and will greatly appreciate someone who’s flexible and willing to meet them for coffee on the way into the office.
4. Be Their Tech Guru
It may come as a surprise that 85 percent of small businesses want their accountant to be proactive with technology suggestions for their business. Think about it … you are their main relationship outside of the office, so who else could they turn to for tech advice? Providing them with technology recommendations is a great way to transition into a more consultation-focused role. It’s also great way to win big, in the hearts and minds of your clients. Who hasn’t fallen just a little bit in love with the Apple Help Desk experts or their business’s IT genius? Plus, the QuickBooks’® App Store is ripe with opportunities for helpful add-ons and insight-filled apps; just be sure to do appropriate due diligence to make sure your tech recommendations are good ones.
5. Remembering is Caring
Use a simple CRM or calendar service to remember all the warm, feel-good events, such as birthdays and company incorporation anniversaries, making sure you include the Hallmark holidays such as Boss’s Day or Administrative Professional day. A card sure doesn’t cost much (or flowers, for that matter), but it goes a long way to show your clients that you care. Sending thoughtful cards or well wishes is also a great way to remain in contact year-round (and top of mind year-round, for any financial needs).