Do you always feel like the only way accountants can establish trust with clients is by giving away advice for free? Constantly giving free advice will NOT lead to people paying you. It’s time to do something different: build TRUST with your future clients without giving away your time and expertise.
I’m going to share five actionable ways accountants can establish trust without giving away free advice so you can increase revenue while working less.
But first, let’s talk about building trust.
What is the definition of trust?
Trust is “a firm belief in the reliability, “truthability” and strength of someone or something.”
Trust is a law; it is confidence placed in a person to be used for the benefit of one or the other. Trust is building rapport and combining it with comfort.
Ultimately, trust is believing in the reliability, truth, and strength of your relationship with your client.
Trust is the foundation of every relationship, so the first thing we want to do with our clients is build trust. Our clients have to feel comfortable with us; and trust must be established from the beginning.
For this post, we’re going to use a couple, John and Suzie, as an example. John and Suzie have multiple businesses. They have investments and properties, and they have some major tax savings possibilities that their accountant, Stephen, has found. We’re going to talk about ways that Stephen has built trust to sign them on as one of his firm’s clients, so that you can get some ideas about how accountants establish trust with clients in the real world.
#1: Give a Sample of your Work, Not the Whole Meal
It’s this simple: tell your client WHAT you’re going to do for them, not HOW you’re going to achieve it.
When you don’t have a signed agreement with a potential client and they’re trying to figure out what you can do for them, you can’t give them all the answers. Of course, you’ll need to give them part of the answers (very high level with no details), but not all.
You have to get paid first!
Let’s take our example couple. John and his wife, Suzie. They have investments and properties. They own a building and you’ve found them a massive opportunity to save $150,000 in taxes this year by doing a tax plan, and at least $30,000 in future years.
You can’t tell them how you’re going to save them that money. You can tell them WHAT you can do. We call this your findings. You will confidently share the results you can get for them, but won’t tell them how. If you tell them how, they can go down the street and ask another accounting professional to give them the services for cheaper!
I work with a lot of accounting geniuses and sometimes your genius can hurt you. Instead of telling your prospects everything, be strategic in what you share.
Give the what, not the how.
This will show your expertise and build trust in you as the professional. If you go through every little detail with your client about how you’re going to do everything, your value will go way down and they don’t need you. So many accountants come to me and provide the how, then wonder why they don’t get the client.
Be sure to keep information general by telling the findings and opportunities, rather than the how. The how is not relevant until they pay you.
Think of it like this: I love going to Pinkberry yogurt – they give you a sample cup so you can taste their product before you buy it. When you tell your client what you can do, it’s like that little sample cup. If they want the full cup of yogurt with all the toppings — the savings and the benefits you will find for them — then they have to enroll with you and pay for it.
#2: Show the Human Side of the Business
As accountants, we can get carried away with the numbers, forms and sections. Your client does not find that interesting!
What they will find interesting, however, is YOU. People buy from people they know, like and trust.
They want to know what you’re up to and how your business helps you change the lives of clients. They want to know about your family, and how your business allows you to spend time with them. When you decide to spend more time on the human side of your firm and connect on a deeper level with clients, you can be more intentional in your work and provide a higher value.
So don’t be afraid to talk beyond the numbers; talk about family and kids, or what you do in your free time.
A great way to do this is with an “about me” section on your website or social media accounts. You could even do an “about me” video and email it to your potential clients! Because so few accountants take the time to do this, it will make you stand out and change the way they trust you.
Also make sure there is a picture of your face on your website. Get professional photos taken if you can. Let clients see you, and connect with YOU.
It’s all about building connection, rapport and trust so they don’t even consider working with anyone else!
#3: Make Yourself Available for Inquiries
Think about it. Would you trust someone who couldn’t even answer a question about their services? Always be reachable for inquiries.
A website can be helpful for this, or having an administrative staff support you so you’re not always the one answering the phone. If you are still solo, that’s okay! We all have to start somewhere, but that will mean you’ll need to make this a priority.
Make an FAQ page allowing people to get to know more about you, your personality, and your services.
If you want to get technical, you can even install a live chat on your website so you can answer in real time. These days, everyone is on the internet and communicating online.
Being able to communicate instantly helps build trust and helps them know there is a human there and that they are working with a real person – YOU!
Anything you can do to build multiple touch points will set you apart from the competition. Finding new ways to stay connected will build trust so that they see you as unique.
#4: Be Very Clear About What Your Client Should Expect
You must be 100% crystal clear about your boundaries. What will you do? What will you not do?
I recommend having clear engagement letters for any services you provide.
When John and Suzie met with Stephen, their tax planner, they found out that there would be some implementation fees involved after the tax plan. Stephen promised to send an email that night clearly stating the information they talked about, an estimate of the fees, and what would be required. This way, everyone was on the same page with exactly what was going to happen.
How many hours of work will this take? How much access will you allow? Will you allow as much email as needed? How often do you need to connect? How much will it cost? When is payment due? It’s so important to make sure to clearly articulate the details to your new client so you’re both on the same page!
In our example, Stephen won’t speak to his clients on the phone daily. He sets up a once a week meetings, per their agreement which is always stated in the engagement letter. Their questions will get answered during that time frame.
Tax planning engagements are not just recording history; It is planning for the future! There are LOTS of moving parts. Make sure that you stick to boundaries and don’t let clients take advantage of you.
If a client wants to do a business tax return for under one thousand dollars, say NO! You should never ever wheel and deal – be clear about what your clients should expect, and what boundaries you won’t cross. Having clear expectations and strong boundaries will not only establish trust, but will save you time and energy as well.
#5: Make Sure that You Follow Through
It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t be so focused on getting new clients that you forget your old ones. It’s the 80/20 rule – if 80% of your revenue comes from your current clients, you need to continue to focus on them and serve them well and follow through.
Just like we talked about earlier, Stephen owes John and Suzie an email about next steps – he’s going to do that, and he promised it tonight. He will follow through and make sure the email is sent within 24 hours of his meeting.
Stay in integrity on all promises, and follow through. We get busy and can forget to do things, so be sure to create a system where you can keep track of all of your work and the dates you promised it would be delivered.
When accountants establish trust and keep their word, people will happily pay premium fees for these services.
BONUS Tip: Use Yelp and LinkedIn to Build Trust
Make sure that you are using these two social media platforms for your accounting firm! This way clients can leave testimonials and reviews for your work, and you can share articles or information that will position yourself as an expert. This social proof is a great way for accountants to establish trust.
Make sure you listen to Episode 14 of The Abundant Accountant Podcast to hear how one of my students, Aleksey, changed his business using social media!
In the end, Stephen was able to sign John and Suzie on as a new client. This brought in $64,000 to Stephen’s firm! People WILL pay you what you’re worth, you just have to establish trust first.
I invite you to focus on not giving away your expertise for free. Know your value and focus on findings and opportunities. You can confidently share results and explain the how after they become a client.
So what if you focused on building trust without giving away free information? What if you simply focused on three of the tips that I gave today that resonate the most with you? How will that change your firm?
Tell me in the comments: Which of these 5 ways to accountants establish trust resonated with you the most? What will you be implementing in your business?
PS. Do You want to MAKE MORE MONEY, WORK LESS HOURS?
Join me so you can unlock the secrets to growing a profitable accounting firm with less stress by joining our upcoming Abundant Accountants Masterclass!
You will learn:
• The easiest ways to sift through clients and get to the RIGHT ideal clients!
• Proven tactics to actually get paid instead of giving away FREE advice!
• How to stop competing on price FOREVER!