It is now officially tax time. We are into February and most likely your accounting firm is very busy doing taxes for current clients and interviewing new tax clients. Your policy may be to interview new tax clients in person, but many firms have transitioned into handling clients through email and phone. Whichever way your firm does it, the initial tax interview is the perfect time to make clients aware of other services you offer.
Tax season is a stressful time, so when you interview a client for financial information related to doing their tax return, you don't want to appear like a salesman, hawking your additional wares when they are only concerned about their taxes and what they can deduct. However, there is a way to seamlessly bring up additional services you offer during this initial tax interview. For instance, many of the questions you will be asking have to do with saving money, while you are getting information to ascertain what tax breaks the client can take advantage of. This is the perfect time to bring up financial planning and how the client can save on taxes with investment alternatives.
Why Sell to Existing Clients?
First and foremost, it is easier to sell to existing clients. To a certain extent, they are presold as they already have an investment in their relationship with you, their accountant. Who knows their financial situation better? Imagine all the personal documents that must be reviewed to prepare a tax return. They provide insight into not only tax matters but family, investment, and business matters as well. The condition of the records alone may provide an opportunity to add value for the client by offering bookkeeping or organizational services.
Secondly, a level of trust has already been established with the client. One of the biggest barriers to selling any type of personal service, especially those involving finances, is developing a solid level of trust. This is also why obtaining a new client through a referral is much more valuable than by a cold approach. Existing clients transfer some level of their trust via the referral so that the accountant does not have to start at ground level.
A client's experience with his or her accountant is a good basis for a relationship, but even better is when the accountant knows the client. Increasingly, tax professionals are learning the value of vetting potential new clients and ensuring a solid onboarding process before accepting them. When determining which clients should be offered additional services, you can look to previous behaviors, including treatment of staff, condition of records, level of participation, and payment history to determine if this is a client he or she would serve again.
The No. 1 reason to sell additional services to existing clients is that clients want them. Too frequently clients seek new providers because they complain that their accountant is not proactive enough. Clients say that they want someone who comes to them with updates, ideas, and recommendations throughout the year, rather than just preparing their tax return once a year. Clients assume that in addition to preparing tax returns, an accountant will identify opportunities and help them reach their goals. Cross-selling may generate revenue for the firm, but it is really about adding value for the client.
During the interview, be interested in the client, ask what they are concerned about, and really listen. With this perspective, you are offering not only your tax services but yourself, and the conversation will often naturally turn to other topics of interest other than taxes.
Of course, you don't want to stray too far from the tax issue in your initial interview. The art of good marketing is creating a relaxed environment where the client feels they are showing interest rather than being bullied to sign up or buy. Take notes during your interview about any additional services the client showed interest in, then later, weeks or a month say, send them a follow-up email regarding the services they seemed interested in. Give them ample time to become relaxed after their tax issues are taken care of. In your email, just remind them of the things you two talked about, whether it be financial planning, investment suggestions, budgeting concerns, etc. Be cordial and professional and you will find that you often end up with a client for a whole other product you handle. Who knows? If your new client is a small business owner, you could end up taking care of their finances all-around or coming on board as a consultant.
Here at MoneyThumb, we love the saying, "If you don't ask the answer is always no." Don't be afraid to ask. You never know what new service a client could need and they will thank you later down the road for mentioning it in the initial tax interview if you handle it like a boss.