With the arrival of the digital age and the convenience of tools like email, it’s easy for accountants to become detached from their clients. However, face-to-face meetings are still important.
To illustrate why, let’s discuss another industry that faced the same challenge.
The Bad Old Days of the Financial Services Industry
To understand why accounting professionals need more face time with clients, you need to know more about the financial services industry.
Years ago, business was transactional. Clients paid commissions when they bought and sold stock. Advisors were in frequent contact, making suggestions. This brought up the issue of conflict of interest: Was the trade in the best interests of the advisor, who wants to earn commissions, or the client, who wants to grow their money consistent with their risk tolerance?
The Dawn of Fee-Based Accounts
Then, managed money came along, followed by fee-based accounts. Out went bills for each transaction, and in came a steady revenue stream based on the assets under management. Some advisors thought: “Great! I never have to talk to these people anymore! I’ll still be paid!”
They missed the point. Freed from the conflict of transaction-based pricing, they were on the same side of the table. They had the time to get to know their client better, learn about their hopes and dreams and help them get there. It was said: “You are being paid to do the right thing.”
How Does This Apply to Accountants?
Accountants are often stereotyped as introverts, more comfortable with numbers than people. (Don’t be alarmed, the stereotypes for lawyers, real estate agents and insurance brokers are a lot worse!) And digital technology means clients no longer need to bring in shoeboxes and manila folders with documentation. You can file their returns online. In many cases, they don’t even need to sign anything. You can have a virtual relationship with your clientele.
This might sound attractive, but it isn’t.
Ten Reasons You Should See More of Your Clients
You’ve heard the phrase “Out of sight, out of mind.” Long-distance relationships get people thinking about alternatives, and technology may encourage this. Many people file their own returns electronically. If they don’t see you, they may start to wonder why they need you.
Here are ten reasons you should continue to schedule face-to-face meetings with your clients:
- Remind Them of Your Value
Tell the story about how you add value to the relationship. Remind them how you helped them, saved them money. Give them a story they can tell others who voice dissatisfaction with their tax situation.
- Make Sure They Understand Your Services
If all you did was file individual tax returns, it’s tough to make a living when competition drives down pricing. Does your client know and understand what you do and how you help people? They need to see the big picture and hear about your value-added services.
- Obtain Referrals
So far, so good: They now see the big picture. But do they know you are still adding clients? Do they know the type of person you help? You want them to recognize an opportunity where you might be able to help an individual they know and bring your name into the conversation.