It goes without saying that tax season is an incredibly busy and stressful time for accountants—the lowlights of which may include working on Saturdays and dreaming about Form 1040s. (Follow the trending #busyseasonproblems on Twitter to commiserate and have a laugh). But, in all seriousness, even when you're at your busiest, tax season is prime time to strengthen client relationships and set yourself and your firm up for success during the rest of the year.
Since the face-time you spend with your clients during tax season may be one of your most substantial engagements of the year with them, it is incredibly important that you use this time effectively—reinforce your position as a trusted business advisor. That means presenting your client’s financial information in a clear and digestible way can be as important to growing your firm over time as an accurate tax return.
The ability to cross-sell services to your clients is a sustainable way to increase your profits without taking on more clients. With as many as two-thirds of clients unaware of the range of services their accountant offers outside of tax prep and bookkeeping, simply opening the lines of communication with your client can have a big impact. The season provides an excellent opportunity to show your clients that you can help them make sense of their ï¬nancial information and can help them use it to make better business decisions.
There are three easy ways to offer additional value to your clients either during your tax season meeting, or immediately following, when you have time to discuss tax strategies for the future.
- “The KISS principle—Keep it simple, stupid.” The U.S Navy is correct: simple is often the best. While you may enjoy crunching numbers, your client likely doesn’t want to focus on any more than basic math. Think of it as data overload. If a client leaves your office with a lot of figures but no context, they may have a hard time coming up with a plan of action to improve their business performance. But the solution to this issue is easy—keep the data simple and focused. Offering narrative summaries, graphs, and tables will help to ensure that your client sees a connection between the numerical information and the assertion or insight you’re providing to them.
- Choose pertinent data. Customers want to exit your meeting with a clear understanding of where they stand financially. This is especially critical when your client owns and runs a small business, for example. In addition to keeping the highlighted data simple, it is equally important to determine which data is actually useful to each client. Generally it is beneficial to assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, but additional data may be helpful depending on the industry served. By offering a snapshot of the health of their business, you can recommend a plan for improvement for your next check-in meeting.
- Context is critical. Even some of the most financially savvy clients require context to best comprehend where they stand. Context can come from showing how the data provided relates to the industry, to KPIs, to company goals or to previous performance. Financial benchmarks will give more meaning to the data and an important understanding of their industry as a whole. To a business owner who may not know what benchmarks to look for on their own, this point solidifies the need for an accountant who can also serve as a business advisor.
Consider these three simple tips while you’re preparing for your next tax season meeting, and with little additional effort, your firm can see growth via cross-sales throughout 2015. For a complete look at making the most of your busy season, download this whitepaper from ProfitCents by Sageworks: How to Make the Most of Your Tax Season Engagements.
About the author:
Natasha Closs is director of ProfitCents Consulting and Advisory Services at Sageworks, where she manages a team of consultants and support staff, guiding them on training methods, implementation techniques and strategy for accounting firms. In addition, she is responsible for teaching the Sageworks NASBA-accredited online Continuing Professional Education (CPE) courses.