When I first started training as an accountant almost 20 years ago, I feared meetings with clients. At that point in time, I was not particularly one for chit-chat at work. Firstly, I am fairly introverted by nature, but secondly, I lacked confidence that only comes with many years of training and knowledge. When meetings were necessary, I would do my best to get down to the specific matter at hand – bypassing any “unnecessary distractions” about the client’s life or business outside of the financials. My job was to get a specific task done. Little did I know then that it was the chit-chat during meetings that would become the main driver of growth for my own practice.
Having a meeting plan focused around the main points that you would like to address during a client meeting is obviously a great help. However, I strongly believe that it is the off-the-cuff comments by clients, such as what they did on the weekend, their health, what activities their children are involved in, where they are going on holiday and when etc that can, and should lead too much more relevant and meaningful work for you as an accountant.
“Little did I know then that it was the chit-chat during meetings that would become the main driver of growth for my own practice”
It is easy to assume that if the accounts in front of you tell you that sales and profits are up compared to the previous year, then your client is doing just fine. Producing accounts and tax returns for your client certainly has it’s value, but it is a given from your client’s perspective and is built on retrospection. Realising, through chit-chat, that your client desperately needs support to improve her work/life balance, hasn’t had a holiday without her laptop for 15 years and is worried because she has never even considered how she will fund her retirement is a different matter. Of course, you need to act on the information provided in order to provide any value.
Thankfully, I saw the value in opening up conversations with clients as standard – both for them and for me. I have since created PF Director which has allowed me to base the advice that I give on all relevant aspects of the client’s business and personal life. It has allowed me to systemise the entire process, create additional recurring income and it positions me as the person that the client talks to first regarding anything to do with their business and personal finances.
So the next time you say hello to a client, think about what they are saying and how they are saying it. It can open the door to a much more rewarding and valuable relationship with that client.
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