What added value means
Many accountants talk about providing “added value” to their clients. Mark Lee unravels the confusion over what this phrase means.
What do clients want?
I’ve heard it said that clients want ‘added value’. I disagree. They want value for money. Sometimes accountants are able to show how reasonable their fees are by flagging all the “extras” they provide at no additional cost. As long as the client appreciates the value of such extras, this can help the sale.
Adding Value is a state of mind
In a recent Any Answers thread on business consultancy and added value I suggested that providing added value services was partly a state of mind as well as “going beyond the norm”.
This attitude might include things such as putting yourself out to benefit the client, effecting introductions to prospective customers and helping them with something that is otherwise unrelated to your recurring services. Anything in fact that adds value in the client’s mind over and above what they used to get from your predecessor and distinct from the services they have contracted you to provide.
My sales training friend, Marcus Cauchi, puts the key point more succinctly: “Added value is only added value if the prospect acknowledges a real (or perceived) need for the particular aspect of the product/service.”
Focusing on “value” is key - Any reference to added value probably helps reinforce the idea that you are providing quality services that have value. This is quite distinct from the more common attitude of focusing on low priced commodity services. Anyone can undercut your fees.
You may do it without realising it - It has long been the case that some value adds are simply a case of rethinking and repackaging elements of your service that might otherwise be ignored. What do you do as standard that other accountants do not include as part and parcel of their service?
The additional services issue - By definition added value services are not, in my view, additional services for which you charge a fee.
The Any Answers question on business consultancy hinged on additional services available from the accountant. On reflection I think this is confusing two distinct issues. Could the existence of an Added Value Network of accountants (AVN) who provide additional consultancy and benchmarking services have contributed to this confusion?
I have written previously on AccountingWEB about how some accountants focus on the provision of business-focused advice – and others merely claim that they will do so by describing themselves as “accountants and business advisers”:
What examples can you share of how you provide added value to clients?
Mark Lee is Consultant Practice Editor of AccountingWeb and writes the BookMarkLee blog to help accountants build more successful practices more enjoyably. He is also Chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax specialists.