Alex Davis, Business Development Manager for Intuit UK, recalls a time he asked an accountant a simple question. So simple, in fact, that if accountants fail to consider it, it might have an affect on their practice’s future growth…
I was out with a prospective client last week and after exchanging the usual pleasantries his opening line was:
“I think you may have wasted your time today, I just do not think my clients are interested in this cloud ‘stuff’.”
As a Sales Manager responsible for promoting the virtues of cloud accountancy software, you can imagine, I was somewhat thrown by this statement.
After taking a deep breath and thanking the accountant for his candor, I asked him a very simple question:
“Have you asked your clients?”
“Well, I don’t need to,” he said. “I have never used online versions of software and they have never complained. Yes, it is not perfect but it works for me and as I hear nothing to the contrary, I assume it works for them too. Plus, my internet connection is rubbish so it will never work”.
Another deep breath from me. By the end of the meeting we did find some common ground and I was able to point out to him that in his opening objections, he explained the situation using only the first person, that person being him! It is unfair of me to isolate him as I have a similar conversation most weeks.
Recent research from the ICAEW shows that out of the all the professions, the small business class their accountant as their most trusted advisor. In fact, 48% of respondents stated this versus 6% for their bank manager and 3% for their lawyer.
Great news, right? Absolutely, but this is countered by the result that their accountant’s services are too narrow and aren’t close enough to their clients to extend the relationship. Any marketer will tell you that your first priority is to understand your customer, as well as to know what they want and what they will pay for, and then you build your service or product around that.
When I asked our accountant about this, he made another very interesting comment:
“I am an accountant, not a sales person, I speak to my clients all the time and they never mention that they are interested in extra services.”
Again, I asked him the killer question “Have you asked your clients?”
What struck me as I left the meeting is that not all accountants realise the power they hold. Any ‘sales person’ strives to build trust, yet, here is a profession that is extremely trustworthy, without any arm twisting or clever tricks.
The second thing is that they need to challenge their clients more and ask them where and how they can help.
When is the last time that our accountant said “…so what challenges did you face last year and how can I help to make sure that challenge goes away this year?”?
There are some very simple digital survey tools (Survey Monkey being a great example) that allow you to do this at minimal cost and effort, they need to be used and the findings need to be listened to and shape services. If our accountant doesn’t ask his customers how he can help then, we can absolutely agree that his competition will.