Many accountants say that they struggle to move from the technical to advisory space in working with business clients. Often, it’s simply lack of confidence that prevents us from having deeper and more relevant strategic and operational conversations with clients.
What can we learn from successful business coaches?
1. Talk about what’s important to the client
In engaging business clients, it’s essential that we have discussions with them about issues that are relevant to them. The only way we can identify these questions is by asking general open-ended questions about their objectives, challenges and needs. We also need to ask probing questions to better understand the decision-making emotional triggers. Equipped with this information, we’re in a great position to get clients over the line. A business health check of some description will work well.
2. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not
Most successful business coaches have specific expertise that they use as the core focus for discussions with clients. As accountants, we know our core competencies and we should use these as the keys to effective ongoing engagement with business clients. Of course, it doesn’t mean you can’t have conversations with business clients about their marketing or HR issues. It simply means that you are working with them to help them make the best possible decisions.
3. Be clear with scope of work and fees
One reason many accountants struggle to get control of their advisory projects is that they weren’t clear about scope of work up front. This means outlining exactly what the client can expect during the relationship and outlining mutual expectations (what I will do for you and what you can do for me). Successful business coaches know the importance of a clear scope of work and also informing the client up front, if scope changes as the project proceeds. It sounds simple, but it’s still a common challenge for accountants trying to manage advisory and coaching projects.
4. Be proactive with regular contact
How would you feel if you engaged a coach who only spoke with you when you phone them? One of the most common complaints business clients have of their accountant is that they don’t consistently initiate contact, even if it’s simply to ask ‘how’s it going?’ Effective business coaches use regular touch points (phone, email, meetings) to really demonstrate interest and provide quality feedback. They set the expectations in relation to communication and they deliver.
5. Review progress on a regular basis
With ready access to reporting through Cloud Accounting and Bank Feeds, there’s no reason why accountants can’t review progress with clients on a regular basis. Strong business coaches will identify a small group of critical lead indicators of performance and will then help the client build a SMART list of actions based on overall objectives and specific performance issues. At the very least, quarterly or monthly reporting and meetings should be held with business clients.
THE PROACTIVE BUSINESS COACH – A NEW 10 PART ELEARNING PROGRAM FOR ACCOUNTANTS AND ADVISORS
As experienced business professionals, you have access to lots of resources and a proven set of systems and tools that gives clients the information they need to grow their business.
However, for accountants to really succeed in the advisory world, they need to do more than provide information. They need to assist and guide their business clients in the implementation process.
In this self-paced eLearning course, we’ll take you through a step by step process to really engage with business clients in an ongoing advisory and coaching
We’ll show you how to use technology and soft skills together in a way that adds value well beyond traditional accounting and tax work.
Key areas of focus will be:
- DATA ANALYSIS – Interpret financial data to add value to business clients
- CLIENT DISCOVERY – Have rich conversations with business clients
- ENGAGEMENT – Get clients across the line with clear scope of work
- SOFTWARE TOOLS – Use systems and tools effectively to deliver advice
- IMPLEMENTATION – Achieve results and stay on track with business clients
All program content will be available online for 12 months following completion of the program.
Dale Crosby | Senior Advisor | High Tech Soft Touch | Ph 1300 872 792 (AUS)