Financial Intimacy is where you know financial matters about your clients that no one else does. It’s not just secret tax planning ideas, it’s more about business goals, family goals, client growth ideas/approach, family situation etc.
The problem for many accountants is that they have been trained:
- to be professional;
- to be objective,
- fact-driven and,
- solution focused.
They have been conditioned to demonstrate expertise when they are required to appear credible. Accounting is a stable profession, so it can be tempting to sit on your laurels. However, if you want to broaden the value you bring to your clients, staying the course isn’t going to cut it.
Now, you may not be delivering all the services that are needed but you are ‘directing the traffic’ and you are the centerpiece (the hub) of the professional services relationship. Many firms offer a broad range of services in house so the client doesn’t need to go anywhere but you. That’s up to you what you deliver.
The key to professional success is not just to be technically strong but also to have the ability to work with clients in such a way as to earn their trust and confidence. That’s just common-sense. The best Accountants know that the top reason for clients to stay with them for a long time is the level of ‘financial intimacy’ they share with them. It means they know financial matters about their clients that no one else does. These days most clients and prospective clients will demand that their accountants earn their trust.
Financial intimacy is derived from your ability to empathise, perceived vulnerability, how well you listen and how comfortable clients feel about confiding in you. The more your clients perceive of you as a trusted adviser the easier become the answers to your other challenges. For example, the easier it becomes to get their attention, to cross-sell additional services, to gain referrals and introductions to other prospective clients and so on. Also the more they will involve you early on when they are considering new ideas and plans.
With more trust, you are also given a higher benefit of doubt and forgiven when you make a (small) mistake. It’s clearly a win:win if you get it right.
Sure, there are many firms that get this right but there's still something to learn. How can you do that? Here are a few recommendations, although none of them are new or original but applies to most, if not all, CPA firms.
Be more than just their accountant
You were trained as an Accountant but that is not what your clients want. They want someone to talk to, to counsel them and to guide them. The savvy ones want you to coach them in their financial life.
Stick with the personal touch
This one gets to the basics of great communication. You can't underestimate the importance of a phone call. Better yet, schedule a time to meet in person, either for lunch or coffee. Make it clear you don't have a set agenda. Remember: you want to be thought of as a business partner.
Be more proactive
It’s vital to anticipate where your client is heading, rather than just reacting to what’s happening in your client’s life. If you can start providing advice to the client on where they are heading, then you start to add serious value to the relationship. This requires you to have spent enough time with your clients to understand them as individuals – and their businesses. Not everyone will be the same and you can’t deliver value in the same way.
Focus on solutions for the client
Being friendly and a listener are the best ways to win clients and persuade them you are on their side. Instead of telling the client how great you are, you need to focus on what they want from you. When someone knows you understand them they will trust you and they will buy added value solutions. If you were to zero in on what the client needs, then it’s guaranteed that you will see increased client retention and even more prospect conversions.
Instill the "client-first" attitude in all staff
This starts at the top, of course. If the managing partner, shareholders or partners aren't practicing this, then it just won't happen. EVERYONE needs to maintain a client-first mentality. This sounds like an easy concept, but in reality, we all know how difficult it can be to sway some staff who are comfy and entrenched in their positions.
Where lies the problem?
This might sound too easy to implement, but the issue is, many Accountants and their core teams are simply forced to stick to compliance. Many CPAs say they are so busy providing services or too bogged down in compliance stuff like auditing and filing that they don’t have time to market and grow their business.
While helping your clients with their business and finance is very important, it can be built only when you and your A team have time on your hands and are least involved in any compliance work.
The solution to this lies in the huge opportunity created by remote working technologies through which firms are able to entrust transactional and repetitive work to offshore locations. They are free to add high-value roles stateside that contribute to growth and focus on core competencies instead.
Make a decision to continue to focus on your areas of strength and also to strengthen the areas of weaknesses. Put good people in charge of these initiatives.
Already, firms in 2020 are adjusting to a remote team configuration through offshore hiring whether members of their team are working from secured offshore offices like Entigrity's. The local/core teams are therefore better structured and more equipped with a communication model that allows for overseas workers, making now the perfect time to bring offshore accounting talent into the fold.
The true purpose of your client relationships is to make sure that your clients are buying everything that they need that helps them achieve their financial goals. The key for you now is how soon will you be able to build your team that gives you the freedom to gain financial intimacy with your clients.
Entigrity™ is a trusted offshore staffing partner to over 500+ accountants, CPAs and tax firms across the US and Canada. Our flexible and transparent hiring model gives helps firms of all sizes to hire staff for accounting, bookkeeping, tax preparation or any other task for 75% less cost. As a firm 'run by accountants, for the accountants', Entigrity captures the hiring needs of accounting firms most precisely, providing staff that works directly under your control and management, still you are left with least to worry about compliance, payroll taxes, overheads or any other benefits.