If you’re a tax practitioner and speak with others about your business, you’ve probably been part of the “client count” conversation. You know the one … colleagues boast about the number of tax clients they have: 300, 500, 1,000 and so on. If you’re like me when I first started my practice, I found the number of clients others told me they had to be daunting and intimidating. I instinctively thought I was doing something wrong because I didn’t do 300 individual tax returns a year.
As I always do with a practitioner dilemma, I called my college tax professor/mentor to discuss my issue. When we talked, he reminded me that it wasn’t the number of tax returns you do; it was the value of the client, so determining the revenue per client was a more valuable metric. I think this number gets lost in our profession because of the focus on the number of clients we serve.
Today, my focus is on increasing the average revenue per client, rather than increasing the number of clients. You do this by cross-selling other services to the same clients who need additional assistance besides tax preparation. This includes, for example, budgeting, tax planning, financial planning and possibly divorce financial planning. Guess what? Your clients really don’t want to pay another person and start a new relationship; you and your clients already have a relationship and you know all about their financial situation.
The key to cross-selling services is the strength of the provider/client relationship. Do your clients see you as their trusted business advisor? Do they invite you to barbecues, parties or card games? It will be harder to sell clients additional services if your relationship is not strong. Personally, I subscribe to Dunbar’s Number, which says it’s hard, if not impossible, for one individual to maintain more than 150 strong relationships. So, if you have 700 client relationships, how sound are they?
When meeting with your clients, mention the issues within their financial plan that cause some angst for you as a practitioner, and explain why. With a solid relationship, the client will likely solicit your advice. This is your opportunity to cross-sell additional services your clients need … and the keyword here is “need.” Don’t sell them a Mercedes when all they need is a Ford. They will see right through this. You will not only lose the ability to sell additional services, but likely their trust as well.
In order to cross-sell your clients additional services and increase your revenue per client, you must build an additional skillset other than tax return preparation and compliance. Once those skills are attained, begin building stronger relationships with your best clients. They will value your service and ability to guide them to the right financial journey. If successful, you’ll have a profitable practice with strong relationships to create a high-value book of business.