How do you know what your clients really want from you?

Sep 20, 2022 | Client service, Sole practitioners

It’s all to easy to assume that all clients want the same things. But unless you ask, you won’t know for sure.

It’s probably true that most clients want you to help them pay less tax and to keep them straight with the authorities. Probably true. For most. But these may not be the key priorities that explain why all of your clients have you as their accountant.

An accountant told me recently that he thought all of his business clients wanted him to help them to earn more money and to pay less tax. He may be right. But equally, unless he asks them he won’t know who values his business advice and who thinks he is simply interfering.

Another accountant charges very low fees and believes that this is more important to his clients than advice on anything beyond the basics. He may be right. Equally he may have clients who would happily pay more for more advice.

It’s all very well to promote your services by reference to assumptions as to what matters to most client prospects. But at an early point you need to check what really matters to each new client.

Unless you ask them, you won’t know will you?

Many coaches, consultants and mentors for UK accountants seem fixated on the idea that all accountants want to grow their practices. I know this is NOT the case. Indeed, many of my clients have told me that this is NOT their ambition.  I’m very happy to help those who DO want to grow their practice. But I never assume this is their primary motivation in engaging me.

In my experience, plenty of sole practitioners accountants are quite happy with the size of their firm – whether they work alone or with a small team. So I never make assumptions as to what prompts them to approach me.

There’s a wonderful old saying (variously attributed): “Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.”

Imaging going in to see a doctor and telling them you have a headache. Imagine how you would feel if they prescribe their standard headache remedy without asking you any questions to determine the type of headache you have, how often you have them, the triggers for your headaches and what remedies you have tried before. How confident would you feel that their generic remedy was appropriate and would solve your problem.

When accountants offer prospective new clients pretty much the same standard service and approach, it is unsurprising that those clients do not feel confident, loyal or willing to engage the accountant for additional services.

I always ask the accountants who approach me what it is they want to be different. I want to know their ambitions, dreams, hopes and desires. I also want to know about the challenges they face and what, if anything, is causing them to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Often their answers will be much the same as I have heard other accountants say. But often there are also differences, as every accountant has a distinct background, experiences, style and approach.

I aim to ensure that every accountant I work with feels special as I am evidently interested in them; I empathise and I make notes. This ensures that I keep in mind what they have told me.

As a result, my approach and service are tailored to suit each new client and their issues. I don’t offer a generic service. And my clients evidently like my style and approach.

If you don’t make time to ask your clients what really matters to them, listen carefully and then talk about how you will help them (using their own words and examples) how can you ensure that you deliver the service, support and answers they really want from their accountant?

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