Q. I dread all the phone calls I manage daily from clients when I have so much work to do! How am I going to get all this work done when I keep getting interrupted?!
A. Let’s try to see this situation from another perspective …X Season = The Season of Opportunity!
Clients Really Should Come First (Even Before “the Work”)
Why are you dreading talking to your clients, I wonder? If helping clients is not something you enjoy, please consider exploring this further. Accountants can do a variety of jobs and tasks that do not include interacting with clients but, if you a partner at your firm, I think it’s important to be willing to have these connections with those you serve. If you do not value that, you might be catering to the wrong kind of clientele – a coach can help you figure this out. You might not feel as confident as you’d like when answering some of these questions from clients – or you may feel you do not have enough time for them. It is tricky to uncover what and why we are feeling things in certain situations judgement. When you figure out the real, underlying issue, it is often much easier to solve the problem.
Bonding with your Clients
When you genuinely connect with your clients in a meaningful way, it results in them feeling better about their situation or even themselves after speaking with you – and that is the holy grail of professional services! I hate to be the bearer of bad news – and I will be blunt: There are at least 4 or 5 other tax professionals out there that can do this same work for the client; the reason they pick you is because of the relationship. When they feel good about working with you this means they will not complain when they receive your bill (in fact, they are happy to pay you top dollar) and you will get that check as soon as the bill is received; it means that when you make a mistake (and you will make a mistake because one must allow 1.5% for human error) and they are more likely to forgive you. When it comes time for them to recommend a tax professional to someone else (which is often the case) they will refer you and you will be hired without fail …and no proposal necessary!
Ask for What you Want
Now is the time to make it known if you want more or different clients – and describe the ideal clients you seek – especially with referral sources (who are in the mix right now). For example, you might take a moment to remind them that you are evolving into offering outsourced CFO services, moving away from 1040s or promoting yourself to another new or specific niche. People who connect often wind up helping each other, after all. This is a good thing!
Time Management is Critical to your Productivity
In some cases, you may simply feel too pressured to take the time and answer the same old questions that everyone is asking. I get it! Some options for you on this are:
- Have a receptionist or whoever else can field your calls and ask more questions of the caller – have a FAQ’s section on the website or a cheat sheet for that person or a directory of others who can answer that question.
- Set up “professor hours” for a good time when you will take a break and make calls to answer specific questions from clients (your voice mail can say something like : Be specific with your question and I will get back to you within a business day please)
- Take the time to notice when you are more in the mood for conversation as opposed to tax or accounting-focused work. The brain has a left side better able to deal with sequential functions like accounting and the right brain is better at discussions and problem-solving. Your brain hemispheric dominance changes throughout the day (at around 90 minutes) so stay tuned to your daily cycle and rearrange your schedule to support your natural biorhythms – hint: most people are better at “talking” after lunch, while they are digesting and able to relax or at the end of the day as they unwind…
Finally, here are some questions to assist you in creating a meaningful connection to your client:
- How are your parents doing?
- What are the kids up to – what’s in store for them over the next few years?
- Have you started thinking about retirement yet?
- Maybe after-tax season we should review your financial projections, cash flow, insurance policies, etc. what else?
Actively listen and ask them about things that might matter to them – but they are too busy to think about themselves. Most of our CPA professionals report feeling more valued and satisfied at work when they are serving in more of an advisory or trusted strategic partner role – as it should be! So do take charge of all the opportunities out there over the next couple of months!