Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have seen plenty of advice from the ‘thought leaders’ in the accounting industry that the future is in advisory services, not in compliance. That sounds good, exciting even but it’s also daunting for many accountants and bookkeepers. How do you get started? How do you offer advice when you’re not an expert in everything? Well, our Starting a Conversation Series will address just this.
It’s not just about reports
Providing a set of management reports to your client is a good start but, for most of your clients, it’s probably only going to make a difference if you actually engage them in a discussion about the reports. Otherwise they’re likely to glance at them, not take it all in and then go back to doing what they were doing.
So, don’t spend too much time on the first set of reports, unless your client has asked for something specific. The goal is to get them thinking and talking about changing something in their business.
One of the quickest way to get things started is to connect Calxa to their accounts and create a report bundle using one of our standard bundle kits and an auto-budget in around 5 minutes. That’s enough to give you a good selection of reports showing the past and the possible future and with budget figures that will be a reasonable starting point.
The auto-budget is built from the previous year’s actuals and it provides a great initial viewpoint for a proper budget discussion with your client. You can ask what happened last year that won’t recur this year, what they are doing differently this year that they didn’t do last year. You can work with the client to prepare a realistic budget for the next year or two so that the next set of reports are then more meaningful.
Ask 3 questions, then listen
Once you’ve settled on the budget and a standard set of reports, don’t just send them every month. Yes, it makes sense to create a workflow to email them directly to the client but email a copy to yourself as well. Review the reports and use your experience and your accounting knowledge to pick out 3 items of interest.
Once you’ve identified the 3 most important points to bring to the client’s attention, schedule a phone call. Some clients may need an onsite visit but for many, the phone conversation is more efficient. Then ask some questions about your 3 points of interest. Don’t just state them as facts; “your wages are 10% over budget”. Instead, phrase them as questions to get your client to think “why do you think your wages are 10% over budget?”.
Now stop and listen. Let the client speak, they know their business. They are the experts in what they do. Listen to them, ask more probing questions to help them find the answers and decide on what actions are required, but listen and let them own the decisions.
There is more to come next month, look out for our Part II of this Start a Conversation series on creating “sticky” clients. In the meantime, register for our webinar series where we discuss just this topic.
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