How to add value to your practice: part 3

Yes, now could be a good time to sell added-value services. Here’s why…


Following on from part 1 and part 2 of this series, as I sat down to write this article the news was looking very gloomy, with recession all but inevitable and predictions of mass insolvencies.

So you might think this is a terrible time to be talking about selling added-value services, which, of course, cost more than low-value services. Are your clients really going to be interested in paying MORE when their business is struggling to survive?

Well, if you take the right approach, I believe the answer is ‘yes’.

When you think about it, this is exactly the situation where business owners need your help.

They need to know their cashflow situation, their tax position, their profit outlook, so they can make the right decisions for the future of their business. All your skills with numbers are critical right now.

But even more important than your technical skills are your communication skills.

You’ll only be successful at selling your added value services – whether we’re in good times or bad – if you can communicate effectively.

Communication is king

Your clients won’t appreciate how much added value you can provide for their business if you can’t show them.

For this, you need three key skills (which I’m sure you already have):

  • asking great questions
  • listening incredibly well
  • linking strategies you’ve seen work in other businesses to the client’s business.

Start by asking questions. What keeps them awake at night? What’s their number one priority right now? What are they trying to achieve? Dig deep to find out what really matters to your client.

Understanding this will help you to identify which of your services will be most useful.

And of course, then you have to really listen to what your client tells you – this is the most important skill. Don’t pre-judge what they need or come in with a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Listen to what they have to say, ask more questions if you need to, and develop a solution specific to them.

Making connections between your client’s business and strategies that have worked in other businesses may feel like a challenge. But you’ve seen what works in the businesses you deal with and, using your knowledge and experience, you can apply that across other industries. It doesn’t matter if your client’s business is completely different.

Explore how these strategies could be applied. Spark some creative thinking by saying something like, ‘This is what another of my clients does. I know your business is different, but let’s explore how we might be able to tailor what they do so it fits you too.’

Giving advice for free

Many accountants I know find that discussions with clients (and non-clients) lead to them giving their advice away for free. And they kick themselves afterwards for not charging for it. When a business is struggling and you want to help, it’s particularly difficult to stop doing this. I suggest you find a balance so that before every meeting, you’re very clear in your own head what you will give away for free and what you’ll charge for. It also gives clarity to your client as they’ll know exactly what they’re paying for.

There’s no doubt that we’re all facing tough times, but I believe that taking this approach will benefit you and your clients.

For more insights, download my best-selling book for accountants, Putting Excellence Into Practice.

Shane Lukas – AVN for Accountants