Make yourself irreplaceable to clients
How can you become a “client whisperer,” who is an irreplaceable part of your clients’ financial lives? By figuring out how a client’s current finances can help become them accomplish their business goals over the short, medium and long term. In my own practice working with small companies, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned:
Be a boutique.
Become familiar with all parts of a client’s business, their products or services, their operations and their people. You’ll then be able to offer targeted training and solutions to help them be more productive and profitable. It’s a very rewarding relationship, and it also make you hard to replace.
Focus on the human side.
Never forget that even when you’re dealing with a business, at the other side of the table is a person who is making decisions based on emotions as much as anything else. You will always have a slight advantage over your competitors if you keep that in mind.
Someone who owns a small company may want to sell it and try something else, or they may want to stick with it until retirement but leave a legacy for their kids. Those goals won’t come up in discussions about their accounting. One of your challenges is that clients may think it inappropriate to bring up their hopes and dreams, since that’s not what your work is about.
Sometimes you will have to take the initiative to open conversations that go beyond profits and losses or what software they should use. If you recognize that there’s more to them than the numbers in their business, you’ll be able to go deeper in your relationship.
Build buy-in slowly.
In your initial conversations with clients, ask them to look ahead six months and tell you: Where would you really like to be? Based on the discussions, you can make them a grid that sets out where they are now, where they want to be and all the obstacles in the way. Ask them if they would be happy if they were in the same place a year from now, and of course they say no.
That’s how you start getting buy-in. Taking your time makes it easier to recommend changes that will be favorable for their businesses. And be sure to introduce new ideas slowly, so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
Be an educator.
Every time you introduce a digital or other office innovation for a client, try to make a video recording how you did it. You don’t need to be worried that educating them will give away all your secrets, because clients generally don’t have the time or resources to take over what you do for them.
In a stressful period, though, when they’re in a hurry and need to be reminded how to get from A to B, they will appreciate this tool you’ve given them. Check out this client education video and other tutorials for inspiration.
Build in more touch points.
We’re often only in touch with clients for quarterly meetings or when documents are due. While you’re attempting to digitize and streamline your practice or your clients’ businesses in this era of great technological change, don’t lose sight of what’s most important: The more we are connected online, the fewer opportunities we have to be connected offline.
Your clients can read the financial information you give them, but they want more than that: They want your insights. If you seek to take your work with clients further, start by getting closer. For more information, turn to the resources on my site.
Georgette Rowland Osborne, Director of the Financial Gym. Georgette, speaker and author, is a former financial sector IT outsourcing contract-manager who specialized in working with leading UK financial institutions. She is the author of Firmer Figures, Fess Up or Mess Up, which covers how today’s finance professionals can develop the skills of “client-whispering.”
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