When you ask your clients about their biggest issues, challenges, and concerns, cash flow is right up there at the top.
Actually, “cash flow” isn’t always the term your clients use.
They’ll say things like “I’m worried I won’t be able to pay my employees every month” or “Our sales are great, but it takes us a long time to get paid”.
Of course, you know that means ‘cash flow’, but the difference is important.
If you’re going to provide services to your clients relating to cash flow, you’ve got to take a step backwards and think about what it is they actually want. What they’re actually worried about. The words and terminology they’re using.
Accountants have a bad habit of talking in accountant-speak. When you use words and terminology that are comfortable for you and your team but less used by your clients, you’re putting up a barrier that can prevent your clients from getting what they actually need.
Think about what your clients actually need
I met with a firm recently who were looking at what free stuff they could create, to help build trust with potential clients and help them get answers to their questions.
“How much free stuff do we give, though?” one of the partners asked. “What if we give them so much free stuff that they never meet with us?”
That is an excellent question. To answer it, we looked at what the accounting firm’s actual goal is in relation to a client (or even a potential client). What is it that you actually want them to do, or to get?
“We want them to arrange a meeting with us,” the partner said, “and ultimately work with us on this project or on a regular basis.”
“That’s what YOU want,” I said. “But what do you want for THEM? What is it that you want them to actually get?”
He thought about it for a minute.
“We want them to get their problem solved,” he said.
That’s the core issue right there. If you’re trying to offer ‘cash flow services’ so that you can make more money, and be more profitable, then it’s only going to be marginally successful and ultimately it won’t succeed at all.
You need to be offering cash flow services so your client gets their problem solved.
- They have enough money every month to pay the employees, without strain or fear.
- They have the cash to pay their supplier invoices on time, or even early.
- They’re paid by their customers on time, or even in advance of a project.
- They don’t lie awake at night or early in the morning, dreading the day
- They’re not living with a level of stress and strain that causes health issues
- They can focus on what they actually do best – whether it’s building furniture or designing websites or speaking at conferences
How do you tell your clients that you offer cash flow services?
Every business owner does understand what cash flow means – or they think they do. They may use different words to explain it, but they do absolutely need ‘cash flow services’.
But what if they don’t ask you for these services? What if they don’t know that you offer them? How do you make sure that every client is aware of all the services you offer?
Some firms create multiple website pages. A page for accounting, for auditing, for bookkeeping, for payroll, for cash flow, for management…and on and on.
Some send out emails. “Did you know that we offer cash flow and funding services?”
Some create PDF guides. “10 ways to improve your cash flow” or “How to get funding for your small business”.
Ultimately these marketing efforts don’t have the results that the accounting firm was hoping for. They create the pages, but nobody reads them. They send the emails, but people forget about the right services when the situation arises in their business. The guides are downloaded but never actually read.
And when one of your clients says, “Oh, I didn’t know you did that!”, you feel like you’ve failed miserably in your marketing, and recommit yourself to starting again.
The problem is that you’re thinking of the services you offer, rather than the person you’re serving.
When you switch your perspective to the person, to the relationship you’re building, everything changes. When the relationship is built right, they will come to you with their problem – however they phrase it, whatever they call it – and you’ll be ready to say “Oh yes, we can help with that.”
Be intentional so that they always come to you with cash flow problems
Here are four ways you can make sure clients always come to you with their cash flow problems:
- Build relationships in an intentional way.
Accountants are brilliant at client relationships. They’re friendly, interested, remember people’s names, and care about families.
That’s not enough if you want to make sure your clients come to you with any problem they need solved.
How can you make it so that your clients connect with you so often and in so many different ways, that you will always be one of the first people they talk to about an issue in their business or life?
Figure out a way to be in contact with a group of your clients on a regular basis. It may be a Facebook group, Slack, or even someone else’s community that you and your clients are part of.
You need to build a community: but you personally don’t have to be the one who runs it. The point is that your clients are grouped together in a place where you are talking to them, and they are talking to each other.
It’s safe, it’s non-salesy, it’s welcoming, and it’s encouraging. When the issue arises, you’ll be the first one they think of.
- Be available on multiple different platforms so they can get in touch when they need to.
Not everyone likes Facebook. Not everyone will use Slack. When someone has an issue, they’re going to either use their default communication channel, or they will simply use the one they’re on at the time.
Be available and be responsive. The most responsive accountant gets the work – every time. One of the reasons your clients may not be telling you about the problem they have (which you are fully able to solve) is not because they don’t know you could help them, but because you’re not as responsive to them as someone else was. Or you’re not as involved in their life.
- Ask good questions
One of my favourite characteristics of my accountant is that they ask great questions. When I saw the owner at an event recently, we chatted for a while about life and business and opportunities. As the conversation drew to an end, he asked, “Are you getting everything from us that you need?”
What a great question. It’s not salesy. I am the focus – not me. And it’s open.
You can phrase it however you like – make it sound like you. A few examples I’ve heard people say (including ones that I say) are:
– What do you want to talk about today?
– Is there any person or company that I can connect you with?
– Are you getting everything from us that you need?
– How is the team taking care of you?
– What do you wish would get done faster?
– Did you have any other questions for me while I’m here?
– How are you?
All of these questions have to be sincere, but that last question has to be the most sincere of all. Then ask follow up questions. Make sure you really listen. They may not say the words “cash flow”, but you’ll know if that’s an issue of theirs.
- Share stories and brag about your other clients
When you make your other clients heroes, and tell the stories of things they’ve achieved or ways you’ve helped them, it will bring up conversation about what this client is going through.
You can do this in a variety of ways:
- Create full case studies and share them on your website
- Write blog posts featuring your clients and successes they’ve had
- Share social posts that your clients share (with a comment about how great they are)
- Record your clients talking about an issue they had which is now solved
- Record a video yourself, telling a story about a client. (If you get their permission, use their name and company. But if they would prefer you didn’t, share the story in a more general way, so it’s not obvious who it is, but the story is there.)
The more stories you tell about your clients and the challenges they’re going through, the more likely it is that your other clients will pay attention to it, and remember it when the time comes for them.
When you focus on them, everything changes.
And then let them come to you when the problem arises. You’ll be ready and waiting with the services that will achieve the ultimate goal: solve their problem.
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