Sole practitioners – what can you do when your clients are too tough on you?

Many an otherwise savvy sole practitioner tells me about similar problems with their client base.

“They won’t pay higher fees, they don’t want additional services and they leave everything to the last minute”

If you have clients like this, you’re not alone. Often it’s a direct consequence of how desperate you were to take on new clients when you started your practice. Did you just take on anyone and everyone?  Did you take on a few clients who just wanted a new accountant who was cheaper than the last one?

Have you ever tried to train them or are you so afraid of losing them that you’ll put up with almost anything? It’s just not worth the risk as you don’t have much of a plan to secure new and profitable clients. Perhaps you’ve never had such a plan?

If I ask you how you get most of your new clients I’ll bet you’ll say “recommendations and referrals”. Well done.  Just one thing though. Are you winning the sort of new clients you really want – or are they much like your existing clients? After all, many clients tend to recommend people like themselves.

I do feel sorry for the sole practitioners who are not happy with their client base. They don’t feel they can make time to go out and win new clients and yet the existing client base is a strain and frustrating. I don’t think I could work like that. We have talked about how to overcome this challenge during meetings of The Inner Circle for Accountants.

The simple fact is that the only way things are going to change is if YOU take action to make things different.

One simple starting point is to identify your worst client and to plan how you will say goodbye to them. Draft your breakup email and focus on how good it feels knowing that you will never again have to suffer their voice on the phone, their excuses, their delays and their nonsense. I’m sure that will be a good feeling.

Don’t put the client’s name in the ‘To’ box of the email though until and unless you’re ready to send the email. You don’t want to send it by mistake!

Reflect on your draft email overnight and edit it if need be. Some of the accountants I work with have told me that they then had to send the email without further delay. Putting their concerns into words had helped make up their mind. Why would they want to keep this awful person as a client?

Other accountants feel they cannot afford to lose even one of their ‘difficult’ clients. When we discuss the pros and cons though they sometimes change their minds. Still, if that’s how you feel, then just save the email into your drafts folder.  And move onto step two.

Step two is to PLAN how you will replace those fees  – and then to implement that plan. You now have a new incentive to do this. Once you have signed up a nice new client and secured new fees you can then finalise and send the email to that client you want to lose.

If you want some help with that plan or any other aspect of building a more successful practice, do get in touch >>>  I’d be happy to talk you through your options. You’ll also find this topic is addressed in the Successful Practice Programme and in the Sole Practitioner Breakthrough Programme.

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Improving the profitability of your practice

At this week’s meeting of The Inner Circle for Accountants our headline discussion topic was: “Improving the profitability of your practice”

Members had identified this as a key issue they shared. It was also one of the most common concerns expressed in  a recent survey I ran of accountants who want to feel more successful.

We started by exploring the key headline ways in which accountants can improve profitability – most of which I have addressed on this blog a number of times previously. Our list included the obvious: Increasing fees (and value as perceived by clients), providing more advice and services (and charging for these) and systemise recurring services so as to reduce the time they take to provide.

We also listed a number of preliminary steps to take to improve profitability. These included considering what really makes for a profitable or unprofitable client (especially for sole practitioners). And also hat are the most effective lad generation activities – comparing the fees/profits  generated by clients with the cost of acquisition (considering both cash and time involved in securing the client).

One of the most challenging parts of the meeting was when members attempted to summarise their most profitable services. They realised that few of these services were promoted on their websites.

Among the key learning points noted at the end of the meeting were the following:
• Increase fees for compliance services generally by referencing value of each service, rather than the time and work involved. Clients rarely care.
• Review whole approach to AE and charge more for related services.
• Pilot the idea of offering upgrade to monthly reviews for those clients currently benefitting from quarterly business reviews.

All members have received a list of the key learning points identified at the end of the meeting, together with la summary of the discussions, ideas and suggestions raised during the meeting and links to related reading topics*

*The growing library of post meeting notes are also available to new members when they join The Inner Circle. Take a look and if you think it might help you, feel free to schedule a call with me here>>>

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