What do you REALLY need to sell as an accountant?

Feb 22, 2022 | Business messaging and branding, Marketing and promotion, Pricing, Reputation, Sole practitioners, STANDING OUT

What do you really need to sell as an accountant? This is a simple enough question, and knowing the right answer could make a profound difference to the success of your practice.

Let’s start with what you’re NOT selling. As I explained in a 2018 blog post, You are NOT selling your time.

Clients typically don’t value your time. It rarely matters to them whether what you do for them takes 2 hours or 22 hours. This is true even if they do ask about your (notional) hourly rate.  They ask because they don’t know what else to focus on.  You can help them realise this is not the best way to compare accountants.

So, if you’re not selling your time what are you selling?

Well, you’re probably also not selling tax returns, accounts or any other ‘product’.

At least, you will struggle to get the clients you want paying you the fees you want if you focus on trying to sell these things.

So what are you really selling?

There’s a wonderful old analogy involving electric drills. When someone buys a drill, is that what they wanted? Or is what they want, holes? The manufacturers will sell more of their products if they focus on what their customers really want.  The different types of drill and the extra features they may have are all secondary to whether they will give the customer what they really want.

Years ago I realised that what our clients want is trust, confidence and peace of mind. They want solutions to their problems.

Our clients typically want and value someone competent and experienced to help them satisfy their legal obligations to file annual accounts and tax returns, to work out how much tax they need to pay, to help them arrange their affairs to pay the minimum amount of tax that will be legally acceptable and so on.

Many clients want an accountant to do this work rather than for them to have to devote their own time to doing something they don’t enjoy or don’t want to learn how to do themselves.

Beyond this, some clients want regular advice from an accountant evidently able to provide guidance by reference to previous comparable experiences; or someone able to apply their knowledge, skills and experience to help the client achieve their objectives.

These objectives may be to save money, time and effort or to avoid making critical mistakes, to increase their profits, maximise their post-tax sale proceeds – or any of a long list of other ideals.

When you talk about what you do for clients, whenever you promote your services, you will have much greater success if you keep in mind what clients typically want and value.

It’s the same for me in my current role. Those accountants who choose to work with me have problems, challenges or issues and they have to be satisfied that I can help them resolve these. Often the role then evolves into something closer to NED-style support for the practice owner. But rarely does anyone get in touch if they don’t have a specific issue that is troubling them.

Coming back to you, if you’re like most accountants your website focuses on the basics. It promotes (and thus tries to sell) the same boring old compliance work as every other accountant. This may be what some clients want. But by focusing here you’re not making it easy for anyone to see why they should choose you and your firm over any other accountant.

You all seem to be selling the same things. And, as with anyone selling any interchangeable products, you need to make it easier to choose YOU rather than someone else.

If you don’t stand out in some positive way you shouldn’t be surprised that people look for the lowest price option. That’s what we do when we buy things that we could get anywhere. And yet, plenty of people buy premium priced services and products. They do this when they are satisfied that they will get more value heer than from the cheaper alternatives. ‘Value’ as they, the customers/clients perceive it.

Fail to stand out positively and even when you win clients you may find they do not value you or your services. Why not?

Clients will never value their accountant if they and you think that all you are doing is selling a product or service that could be obtained from any other accountant.

Whilst the output of your service might be much the same as that available from other accountants, that is not the end of the matter. Your website and promotional messages could focus on something other than the basic compliance services provided by every accountant.

And, when you first engage with a prospective clients, if you ask them the right questions you can uncover what really matters to them. What is it that is driving them to seek a new accountant?

Only when you know what THEY want from you and WHY they want it, can you ‘sell’ the benefits of your services.

That’s what you are selling. How your services can provide clients with what they seek, what they need and why they should engage you rather than any other accountant. So, put your modesty aside and accept that you also need to be able to sell the BENEFITS of using YOU.

The most challenging part of this is recognising that to win more of the clients you want, you do need to get better at the ‘selling’ side of things. I sometimes refer to this as the first of the 4 Ps.

A ‘me too’ website and a focus on the same old boring compliance services as other accountants, isn’t going to help much, if at all.

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