- “You’re Welcome” In standard
I recently saw a mug that said, “I am a bookkeeper. I solve problems you don’t know you have, in ways you can never understand. You’re welcome.”
And while funny on the surface, it does underpin a challenge in our industry. Sometimes our clients don’t understand what we do, nor do they have a benchmark on how “good” we are as consultants.
This snarky quote also made me cringe a little. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from CFOs and Bookkeepers alike that their clients didn’t “get it.”
Because the clients we work with at Profit Point Consulting are pretty darn smart. They are curious, they want to learn, and they are darn good at what they do- whether that is marketing or selling or technology or the trades. Many of them aren’t natural-born accountants, just like we aren’t natural-born marketers.
So we have to teach them. We have to GUIDE them on this journey.
So that quote (and subsequent attitude) is demeaning, but also a rampant trend in our industry.
Just because we’re “good” at what we do, doesn’t mean our clients have any way to benchmark that other than taking us on our word or whomever referred us in.
However, in order to trust us, clients need to understand what we are doing. And, while they want to understand what we do, they don’t necessarily want to know on a nitty-gritty level.
When we cut our clients out of the solution (as the above quote indicates) what we get is a disenfranchised, disconnected client who doesn’t know how we got to the outcome or why all that work was valuable. And when we have to work on a detail problem– ike cleaning up the books or creating a detailed forecast–and it takes longer than expected, clients can get annoyed or frustrated and start questioning our bills– because we haven’t brought them on the journey with us.
So how do we avoid this inevitable conversation we have to have with clients? By having a clear communication strategy from Day 1. Here are 5 tips to keep your clients onboard, aligned and your relationship secure:
- Never tell them “it’s too complicated to explain.” Your clients aren’t stupid. And I’ll tell you one thing– they’ll get ticked off if you say that. Many of them are running businesses much larger than yours. I’ve heard both CFOs and Bookkeepers use this phrase and I cringe. You can always explain something. If you can’t explain it in simplistic terms, you should maybe question why you are doing it in the first place. Remember, clients want to understand the “why” of doing things, not necessarily the details of the “how things are done.”
- Keep them grounded in the end-game. When a client first hires you, they understand what you are doing, they are excited, and they have bought into your services. However, as you get into the project, there may be lots of emails, or questions for them, and maybe even some hiccups. That feeling of excitement they had at the beginning of the engagement starts to decrease into confusion, questioning, or even disenfranchisement. The key to avoiding this is to make sure that you are periodically grounding them in the end-game. Pause, take a moment and frame your questions with the end-game in mind. For example, you can say to your client, “The reason why I am asking you this question is because it will help me get to X result, which is, if you remember, one of the outcomes we want from this engagement. Does that make sense?”
- Show them the road map. I’m surprised how many companies don’t do this with their clients. It is important for your client to understand what the “journey” with you looks like. Most clients I know, don’t like the “Black box” of work without any tangible result. We know there are times where you need to do some work behind the scenes, where they aren’t involved, but you HAVE to let them know what you are doing (and why) and how that work contributes to the overall plan.
Look, we know client relationships would be easy if we had only “yes-men” on the other side of our engagements, but we don’t. We have smart clients who want to know what we are doing for them and how we will make them successful. It is only by having a clear communication plan that you will get their buy-in and lead to a long-term relationship.
If you find yourself struggling with your current adviser or are and adviser looking for some guidance on how to develop long-term relationships with your clients. Contact us.