Most accounting professionals are not be in the business of poaching clients, but that doesn’t mean others out there won’t. As such, you need to know the signs.
Let’s start with the assumption that everyone who is a potential client is already with another accountant. It would be wrong to steal them away, yet acceptable if perhaps they came to you personally and said that they were ready to do business.
The strategy you would utilize is to establish yourself as the alternative. Say you meet someone at a networking or other social event and then, after going through the “what do you do’s” they explain they already have an accountant. You could then say: “I’m sure you are very happy with them. He’s my card. if anything ever changes, please give me a call.” You have just established yourself as the alternative, leaving the next move up to them.
Seven Scenarios When a Change in Accountants Can Happen
Working with an accountant is often a long-term relationship. Sometimes warning signs emerge where a change makes good sense, but other times an event takes place that sends you back to square one. Here’s several cases where a client may consider switching to another accountant:
1. Missed deadlines. Taxes aren’t filed on time, they are assessed penalties and their accountant doesn’t take responsibility or brushes it off.
2. Divorce. A married couple used the same accountant for years, but now they are no married and it’s an acrimonious divorce situation. They understand their accountant acts as a fiduciary, but would prefer an arm’s length situation when it comes to money.
3. Confidentiality breach. Generally speaking, relationship with an accountants are similar to that of a doctor, lawyer, banker or even a priest. There’s a trust and no one typically talks about their high-profile clients in the hopes of attracting more of them. If a client finds that their accountant has talked them with other members of the public, that’s a violation of trust.
4. Growth. Say a business owner founded a tech startup and worked with a neighborhood accountant. The company took off and has increased their compliance and financial need. They now need a specialist or someone that can offer more than basic compliance services.
5. There’s been a dispute. Perhaps an accountant and their client don’t see eye to eye for some reason. They refuse to accept any blame or even compromise. They are now in an adversarial situation and likely looking to make a move.
6. The practice has been sold. When a client’s accounting firm goes through a merger or sale, things can change and not necessarily for the better. They have no relationship with the new owner or the firm has new policies and fee structures.
7. Position changes. Similar to the changes when an M&A happens, but a client had a 1:1 relationship with their accountant for years and over time their practice grows. Suddenly you are informed someone else on the team member will be handling the relationship and they don’t talk to their original accountant anymore.
In all these situations, the dynamic has changed. Some involve fault, others don’t. In all of these cases, the other person would (or could) approach you.
Be assured that in the above scenarios you aren’t soliciting their business by encouraging their departure. In all cases, the client should benefit from making a change to another accountant, which could be you!
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, Captivating the Wealthy Investor, can be found on Amazon.com.