Lessons for accountants from…..personal trainers

Nov 9, 2022 | Client service, Sole practitioners

When someone decides they want to get fit they could choose the DIY route at a gym or they can engage a personal trainer.

The trainer will ask if the client has has had a trainer before. If so, what did the client like about the exercises, the fitness regime, the advice they received and the way they were treated? The trainer will also ask what the client wants to achieve. For example, some people only want a coach to help and advise rather than to push them to build muscles, tone, abs, core strength or whatever.

Other people have unrealistic expectations that a personal trainer will help them to lose weight. A decent trainer will help manage expectations here and explain that weight loss requires a change in diet – exercise alone will never be enough.  And their clients listen and respect the expert views and explanations they receive. OR they don’t – in which case the trainer chooses not to work with them.

The key point here – and you may be sensing the well stretched analogy – is that it’s key to get the relationship off on the right foot, so that your new client knows what to expect. And that you address any misconceptions they may have at the outset.

Accountants, like personal trainers, are the experts. It’s up to you to have the confidence to ensure that new clients understand what’s realistic and what is not.

Once you know and have clarified what a new client wants to achieve you can set out the pre-requisites of success and refuse to take on the client if they have unrealistic ambitions.

If a trainer feels they can work with the client there may be occasions when they push the client beyond their comfort point in pursuit of the goal. And clients are willing to pay for this because they know that they will be fitter and healthier as a result.

What do you think about applying this analogy to how you engage with new clients? Do you start by asking what they liked and didn’t like about their previous accountant? What do they want to achieve through the appointment of the new accountant? What are they like in producing all of the information necessary to complete accounts and tax returns?

In recent years I have (at last) started to hear from accountants who persuade their clients to provide the necessary information in good time. Many others still tell me that they routinely chase clients. They send emails, letters and maybe phone.

But they only REALLY insist when the relevant deadlines are looming. Until then they leave the client in control. They let the client stay flabby, slow and unfit – as regards their financial/tax situation.

Not everyone wants a tough personal trainer. And I’ve no doubt that some trainers crack the whip, so to speak, less than others. But if you’re paying for a personal trainer you want them to help you get fit and healthy. It’s no good turning up at the gym a week before christmas and expecting the trainer to sort you out in time for the big party or whatever.

Do you help your clients get their records and business into a healthier position than before they joined you?

And to avoid over-stretching the analogy, let’s not imagine accountants standing over clients while they are collating receipts and shouting “now give me 10 more!”

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