UK Property buying television programs like “A Place in the Sun” or “Escape to the Country” feature people who are house shopping.
They come armed with a list of criteria for finding their ideal house. What are your potential clients looking for when choosing an accountant? What’s on their list?
- Confidentiality: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” They want to be comfortable that you don’t talk about your clients. This eliminates name dropping, except on the occasions when you are competing for corporate business and the fact your firm is the accountant of record for a publicly traded company is public information. Your discretion extends into the non-profit sector. You will not suggest them as a potential donor for a charity either.
- Knowledgeable: Clients want to work with someone who is current with tax law changes. The British Tax Law is 17,000 pages long, while the Bible comes in at about 1,200 pages. Clients want to know you are keeping up. Explain the continuing education process you have in place. Introduce team members who are specialists in various areas. Prospects will likely conclude newer team members who are recent graduates have been taught and tested on current regulations.
- Specialized Knowledge: All industries are not alike. The length of sales cycles and bill payment differ. Other laws apply. A one size fits all approach doesn’t work. If the client’s business fits into a unique category, they want to know you have experience helping clients in similar situations.
- Ethical: Clients want to minimize taxes, but they don’t want to attract attention by breaking the law. For community leaders, the negative publicity far outweighs any tax savings. They may surmise an accountant whose clients get audited often may attract the regulator’s attention to all clients of that accountant. They want to know you keep your nose clean. The fact you don’t have any black marks with any public or industry ethics bodies should be a good indicator of your integrity.
- Honesty and Directness: People want to be told what they need to know. If a person had a terminal disease, they wouldn’t want their doctor to keep this information to themselves. Clients rely on their accountants for financial advice. If their retirement lifestyle expectations are unrealistic when their asset levels are considered, they want someone to let them know and propose alternatives. They want to be told a certain strategy their friends may be using to avoid taxes will likely attract the attention of HMRC.
- Experienced, Successful Practitioner: “Successful” is a useful word in marketing. Most people identify with it. Successful people prefer doing business with others like them. They want to know you are good at what you do. The longevity of your practice demonstrates both your success and your experience. Your practice is here for the long term.
- Long Term Relationships: Most people find professionals they like and stick with them. Accounting is an ideal example. People often choose one dentist, barber, solicitor and mechanic, and stick with them. If you are approaching retirement, you want clients and prospects to know you have a succession plan in place.
- Fair Pricing: People often feel advice is worth what you pay for it. A solicitor who understands your unique situation suggests a course of action. You get a bill. This advice is taken more seriously that the thoughts of a friend in the pub with no legal training. Clients want to know the rationale behind the fees they are charged. They don’t want to feel overcharged.
- Client Focused: Accounting is what you do - you are not a travel agent or stand-up comedian. You have a fiduciary duty to your client. You work for them. You aren’t also selling a product that puts you both into a buyer/seller situation.
- Good Work Ethic: Britain has plenty of celebrity chefs on TV. How much time do you suppose they spend in their restaurant kitchen sending food out to diners? Not much. However people go because of the celebrity chef connection. They want to know you are “in the kitchen” working on their situation, or at least overseeing the work done by your staff.
- Accountability: No one wants to be audited. However, if they are selected, the client wants to know you will appear with them. You will do the talking and explain how they prepared your taxes. You will protect them.
- Important Client: Everyone wants to be an important client. If they are parting with money, they want to know you appreciate their business. They want you or your staff to be responsive. They want their phone calls returned. They want to be thanked.
Clients likely want plenty of positive attributes in professionals they hire. You likely possess most of them. Let them know.
About Bryce Sanders
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania.