Target the 'Right' Clients - Become Their Trusted Advisor

By Shawn Moriarity, Senior Consultant, Sageworks

Remember dating in high school? You know that guy or girl who you liked but were pretty sure didn't feel the same way about you? It's likely that you doubtless spent countless hours trying to "wow" him or her, but to no avail. In the end, although you were unlikely to admit it, you knew he or she didn't "like" you back. Despite all your charisma, your efforts were simply wasted on the wrong person.
 
Just as you tried to get the attention of that guy or girl in high school, today, your CPA firm is trying to differentiate itself by offering business advisory services. We established in a previous article that adding business advisory services is essential to growing your firm. But your firm shouldn't offer these services to all your existing clients. The reason is that many CPAs, just like those in the high school dating scene, spend most of their time trying to wow the wrong guy or girl. Therefore, it's key that you identify clients who will be as enamored with your services as you'd like them to be so you can then become their trusted business advisor.
 
Step 1: Identify Key Clients
 
Start by identifying a short list of key clients (it could be as few as five) who you'd like to start providing business advisory services to. Use the following characteristics to select key clients:
  • Client relationship: Identify clients you already have a strong relationship with. You'll be more comfortable and they'll be more receptive as you introduce new services.
  • Client potential: Choose clients that have unrealized potential. Both you and your clients will see tangible results as you help them grow their business.
  • Owner mentality: Focus on proactive clients who frequently ask questions about improving their business. These clients tend be more appreciative and willing to pay for your professional advice.
  • Business health: Select a few clients with poor financial health. They'll perceive your services as a need rather than an unnecessary expense.
 
Step 2: The Discovery Process
 
The next step is developing a strategy for approaching your list of target clients. According to Sageworks Director of Advisory Services Lauren Prosser, this includes thinking about the needs of their business, what's going on in their industry, what their goals are, what resources your firm has to offer them, and, ultimately, how to communicate your services to them. Such a discovery process could include client surveys or merely conversations with clients to gauge their satisfaction with your firm and to understand their business needs better. 
 
By using these two strategies, your firm will increase the odds that it garners clients who utilize your valued-added services. Once you've chosen your clients, we'll talk about two ways to alert them of your new services in our next post.
 
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About the author:
Shawn Moriarity is a senior consultant in the Accountant Services Group at Sageworks, a financial information company and provider of financial analysis software to accounting firms and private companies. Moriarity has worked with CPA firms to implement Sageworks' financial analysis software ProfitCents for standardizing and documenting regulatory requirements and adding value to client relationships while increasing revenue.
 

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