Q. How Can I Cultivate Stronger, Sustainable Relationships with My Clients (especially during these challenging times during the pandemic)?
Here are three easy tips to help you connect with your clients to keep them engaged and loyal to you for years to come:
I. Show Interest and Genuine CARING for Them, their Family, and their Business
In some cases, unfortunately, you may find yourself having to work with someone with which you seemingly have nothing in common. Hopefully, you will identify a niche or specific type of common client for whom you can perform regular, streamlined, effective and profitable services over and over again – identifying that special type of client to target will help you to build a reputation for serving those clients and help you attract similar types of clients with ease, grace and flow over time. But that is the topic for a different article. When you do find yourself working with someone that seems very unfamiliar to you, it can leave you feeling unenthusiastic about working with them. In this case, you might have to stretch thing a bit to foster rapport. Strong client relationships are important because of the 1.5% margin for human error – that means that all humans – including you – will make a mistake. Having a strong rapport with your client will certainly help you overcome that misstep when it happens. If you do not understand their business at all, start asking questions. They will love it, I promise! Ask for a tour of their facility or read an article about what they do.
You should also try to connect with them on a personal level – if you have kids but they don’t or they are much younger or older than you – and you are having a tough time finding that mutual ground, then don’t forget the universal topics that all of us can relate to: weather, travel, food, illness, music and romance.
Note: When you are with these folks, take note of any pictures in their office (any grandchildren or pets?) or other interesting telltale signs of their interest – such as sports or college references / logos or athletic interests.
II. Change Your Perspective (Have an Out of Body Experience)
Try and step completely out of your role as their accountant; rather, try to step into their shoes – and, yes, then walk a mile. Figuratively, what are they thinking and feeling? What are they worried about most and what do they believe their options are? If you have no idea, you need to ask them – and the sooner the better.
Note: If you have several clients that have are in the same niche or industry, or share common attributes, a good idea is to establish roundtable check in calls or topic-centered peer group discussions to facilitate brainstorms that can generate a sense of community around the participants, reveal issues and challenges that were previously unknown and work together to provide options and direction to resolving these issues.
Further, if you can take this a step further – and step out of their shoes into a role of observer (to capture a big picture perspective) then you can advise these clients from a higher broader perspective that can offer predictive measures that can be taken now – during the Covid-19 crisis – to ensure long-term success.
Note: This is simple as conducting – or tapping resources that offer – extensive research on different types businesses or organizations. As an example, transportation industries will be affected during this pandemic by the types of contracts the currently hold : regarding retail – if they are transporting food and healthcare supplies vs. serving retailers or restaurants or transporting electrical components and appliances vs. home furnishings, cleaning supplies and culinary gadgets.
III. Regularly Communicate VALUE that is Received via Results and Benefits
Communicating the value you deliver to your clients seems to be the holy grail of professional marketing! Please remember that your clients do not really want to pay taxes or get audited – period! You are often a necessary evil, sorry … but it’s true. The best “pitch” for clients, in my opinion, is to tell them you’ll be “in and out quickly without any disruption” (audit) and/or that you can anticipate all of their tax strategies because their type of business is something you are very familiar with and you have saved lots of money for business owners just like them (tax).
Note: Every CPA that I work with – and I have worked with hundreds – tells me that they appreciate the clients who truly value their insight and advise, more than simply filing tax returns or ticking off boxes during an audit. Instead of telling them what tasks or activities you completed, try to spin as a benefit gained. A clean compilation, a resolved account, timely financial statements – your clients want you to take care of all the accounting and filing so they can do what they love – run their business.
These “new” perspectives can help elevate you into the role of expert advisor that your clients desperately need and value the most.
Lisa Tierney, CLSC is a certified life strategies coach and a marketing strategist who has empowered professional service providers in the accounting and law professions for over twenty years. She is founder & President of TIERNEY Coaching & Consulting, Inc. which offers a unique and highly effective blend of traditional consulting in tandem with professional coaching to address all the nuances of success – including mind, body & spirit. The professionals who work with TIERNEY coaches enjoy increased self-confidence and higher self-esteem, adopt a more relaxed, yet authoritative demeanor, start asking power questions, treat their clients with a more consultative approach – and benefit from a natural growth in their practice or service area. They usually report a significant increase in their overall satisfaction of their professional experience.