With the pain of this year’s silly season starting to become a little less raw, many accountants are now turning their thoughts to what they want to achieve in their practice over the next 12 months. With so many accountants sitting on client portfolios with lots of untapped potential to grow, we asked Heather Townsend, founder and author of The Accountants Millionaires’ Club to explore how accountants can sell more to their existing clients.
- Do a client portfolio analysis
When was the last time you looked at your firm’s client portfolio? Ideally this needs to be done at least once a year. When you are doing the analysis look for opportunities to sell more services to clients. For example, where do you have a sole trader who is now trading at the level they should really be a limited company? Where are there clients who could really do with some help with their bookkeeping and VAT returns? As you look through your clients identify at least 10 clients where you suspect there are opportunities for them to take more services from you. Then give yourself an action plan to contact these 10 clients.
- Earn the right to sell more to your existing clients
CEB/Gartner did some research which identified that 88% of salespeople believed the best way to grow existing Client accounts was to do great work for them and deliver good client service. This perception is the accepted wisdom amongst accountants we talk with regularly. I.e. do a great job with clients and they will reward you with loyalty and buy more from you. In fact this was our view on the world of account management until we read the research!
However, the CEB/Gartner research identified that delivering good client service is an excellent way to retain your client accounts, but not grow them. They found that there was no correlation between account managers who grew a client account and the level of service they provided. This means that if you want your clients to take more services from your firm you need to do more than just provide good client service. The CEB/Gartner research identified three specific behaviours which will increase the likelihood that clients will buy new products or services from your firm:
- Being a critical friend to your client to show them how they can improve their business
- Creating a vision for your Clients to show how they can improve their business
- Demonstrating the return on investment (ROI) they get from using your firm’s services.
In other words, if you want clients to buy additional services from you, your firm needs to demonstrate to your clients how you can help them improve their business or achieve their business goals better, simpler or cheaper.
Of course, one of the ways you can do that is by helping your clients gain the access the need to finance to support their business’s requirements. For example, Julian Day of Day Accountants has found recommending iwoca to his clients has helped them be more proactive in their approach to clients.
“We’re now able to be much more proactive in our approach. As well as bread and butter accountancy advice, we can also recommend finance designed for our small business clients and then secure it for them.”
Julian Day, Day Accountants
- Diarise in regular conversations with clients
Have you noticed that whilst you may often be in contact with clients you may not talk about the stuff that really matters? For example, getting a client’s VAT return sorted may be exactly what they need at that moment in time, but it doesn’t normally give the time or space to understand at a deep level their view of the world, the challenges they face, the stuff they are motivated to buy, and, therefore, the potential opportunities to sell more to them going forward.
No amount of love or attention is going to convince a client to buy more from you – particularly advisory services – if there isn’t a Pain Point which is motivating them to buy. Unless you know your clients’ Pain Points, trying to upsell them more services is going to feel like pushing water uphill with a sieve.
This is why your firm needs to systemise non-transactional type conversations with clients. That is, conversations which don’t focus solely on the current work at hand. This is often called account management. It’s these conversations where your fee earners find out about how the Client is doing, the challenges they are facing and what goals they have set for themselves. It’s these regular conversations which will surface opportunities to help your clients with their strategic planning, profit improvement or just simple help to improve their current cash flow.
- Monetise the referrals you make
Now this is a sensitive subject. Should your firm take a commission split for making a successful introduction between a client and a supplier? Of course, there is no right answer here. When we did research with accountants we found that 40-45% of accountants are happy to take a fee to manage applications for business finance, 30% are very against taking a fee and 25-30% are neutral. Given that we offer a very healthy commission for any successful introductions from accountants, monetising your referrals could be an easy way to generate passive income from your client base.
- Find small ways to add value for your clients, outside of the normal day-to-day stuff
People like to generally reciprocate. It’s how we are wired. Therefore, if you find ways – and these don’t need to cost money – to help your client, they will most likely return the favour. It is not a co-incidence that if you take the time to call a client with something of value to them, such as a referral or valuable introduction, they may ask you if you can help them with something. That something is almost always on a paid basis.
Heather Townsend is the author and founder of The Accountants Millionaires’ Club.