It’s all about the opportunity
Sales opportunities come in many forms (phone calls, emails, meetings, events) and as accountants, we need to be ready for them. The OPPS Mindset helps us to avoid giving our value away for free, while providing a well-considered solution for our clients that has enduring value.
Too often I hear that familiar situation where a client calls with that dreaded ‘Quick Query’ and the accountant spends the next 45 minutes giving value away for free. Of course, we don’t want to discourage our clients from calling or emailing us, but at the same time, we need to be more commercial about how we deal with these opportunities.
What is the opportunity?
The first step in The OPPS Mindset is to be ready for those opportunities as they arise. We need to identify when there is an opportunity to add value to the client. That value might be in the form of tax savings, profit or cashflow improvement, or a solution to a problem that’s been hanging around for a while. Let’s say our client calls us with a question as to which entity they should buy their new vehicle under.
In the above example, getting the ownership structure right gives the client the opportunity to claim back GST / VAT and claim a tax deduction for running costs and depreciation. There are likely to be multiple options available to the client and the answer is, most often, not a quick one. Also, you've acquired that knowledge through your years of training and experience, so why give that value away for free?
We need to programme ourselves to pause at the point where we see the opportunity and resist the urge to blurt out the answer. In my own accounting firm, my personal experience was that, when I gave the answer over the phone, often the client would not follow my instructions or they'd make a mistake and the real value was not achieved.
The pause not only gives us an opportunity to consider the value; it also gives us a way forward to ensure we provide the best possible value to our clients.
Position the value
Your client is most likely unaware of the value to be gained by getting the right answer. We must articulate that value. Remember, value may come in the following ways:
Tax savings (one off or recurring)
Cashflow or profit increases (one off or recurring)
Peace of mind that things are done correctly (e.g. avoiding unnecessary tax audit issues)
Time savings or improved efficiency
Avoidance of adverse consequences of inaction / getting things wrong
In the vehicle purchase example, the value might be the GST / VAT claim and tax deductions on running costs for the life of the vehicle.
State your price and shut up
Once you’ve articulated the value to be gained, you simply need to specify the service you will offer and what it will cost. Then, zip it and wait for a response. The response will either be acceptance (in which case you have conceptual agreement and can proceed) or an objection. If you get an objection, it’s likely the client doesn’t see the value, so re-position the opportunity as you see it and the value they will gain.
Ultimately, the choice is your client’s; they’re either going to get the value or they’re not. No longer will you be giving that value away for free!