Are you thinking of transitioning from compliance-focused to selling advisory services but afraid of pricing for your worth? In this episode, Michelle Weinstein sits down with Dominique Molina to discuss how you can overcome that. She is the Co-Founder of the American Institute of Certified Tax Planners (AICTP) and has successfully licensed over 1,000 tax professionals as Certified Tax Planners across the country. With Dominique’s insights, she shares tips on selling advisory services to your existing clients, so you finally get the freedom you set out to do in your business. She also highlights that this is not a transaction but a transformational offer for your clients. Tune in to this episode and learn how you can charge premium fees for your service!
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Selling Advisory Services As A Transformational Offer To Your Existing Clients With Dominique Molina
Our special guest is the Cofounder and President of The American Institute Of Certified Tax Planners. As the driving force and visionary behind the San Diego-based nonprofit, Dominique has set out to change the way tax professionals approach tax planning, realizing that many tax professionals, maybe even reading, were missing government tax breaks that could save their clients millions.
She created an elite network of tax professionals, including CPAs, EAs, and tax attorneys who are trained to help their clients proactively plan and implement tax strategies so that they can rescue thousands of dollars in wasted tax. Dominique has successfully licensed over 1,000 tax professionals as certified tax planners across the country.
Before we welcome her to the show, if you are a tax or accounting professional who owns their own firm, I know that some of you are sick of grinding fourteen hours a day, sacrificing your time with family and friends, or even postponing vacations due to every deadline that comes up. You might even be exhausted from being on that daily financial rollercoaster because of discounting fees. You end up resenting your work and even the clients because they only see you as a commodity.
None of this is your fault, and I know that nobody’s training on how to fix these problems and connect the dots. If you want to take a control of your firm’s revenue to double it with ease and finally feel confident to start charging premium fees with clients who appreciate your value and get paid what you’re worth, here’s what I’ve got for you. My team and I have set aside to speak to some of you personally about how you can apply these ideas to your firm.
If that’s you, head on over to TheAbundantCall.com to book your call with us. Whatever your biggest challenges are, trust me, we’ve seen them and we know how to overcome them. Go ahead. Book your call. We look forward to talking to some of you soon. Now, let’s welcome Dominique to the show. Welcome.
Thanks for having me back.
It’s always great to have you here. We always have great feedback when you’re here on the show. In case someone doesn’t know, why don’t you share with everyone who you are, Dominique Molina?
I am an accountant like you, readers. I started my career like most accountants, going to school, getting my advanced degree, becoming a CPA, working for a large firm, and opening my own practice so that I could have the freedom that owning a business is supposed to bring you. The misery of public accounting life started to set in and took its toll as it does. When you’re sitting for long periods of time, it affects your health and relationships when you don’t have time for any friends or meaningful relationships outside of work because work comes first.
I decided to do something about it. I decided to convert my practice from compliance-focused to advisory services. The buzz term is the words advisory services. For me, that meant tax planning focus. I can never fully abandon compliance because we have to do it and people need it done well and right. I found that when I lead with advisory services, things begin to change in the practice. I can charge a lot more for the value that I’m bringing people.
I started to see a lot of big changes. I still have my practice, but a lot of my time is spent helping other tax professionals learn how to do strategic advanced tax reduction. When we train in that method and model, you too can convert to an advisory service focus, which allows you to finally get that freedom in your business. That’s what you set out to do when you start a business.
I’m excited because we’re talking about how to sell advisory services to your current or existing clients. For a lot of people, they find it hard or impossible, “I’ve been doing it, but I haven’t ever charged for it.” That’s what we’re going to be talking about to know all of your tips and tricks on how you ended up selling advisory services to your existing client base in order to focus on this and lead with that, then doing the compliance because it’s part of what you have to do. Thank you for being here.
You’re taking the mystery out of this by talking about this on your show because it’s a very popular term. People like to throw the term advisory services around and maybe even tell success stories, “I saved someone $100,000 and I got paid $10,000.” That sounds great, but it often leaves everybody else going, “What is this mysterious service that you did? How did you create the savings? How did you come up with that fee? How did you get somebody willing to pay for that? What does that ongoing commitment look like? Are there strings attached to such a large fee?” You’re pulling back that curtain to say, “Let’s talk about what this is,” and I’d be happy to go through some examples.
For those that maybe are not doing tax planning as an advisory service, what are some other advisory services that accounting and tax firm owners could sell to their existing clients? Are there other examples that you can provide other than tax planning since this term is loosely thrown around all the time?
If you break down what we do for people in the accounting space, we are in the transformation business. We help transform small businesses. Day in and day out, the lines get blurred about what our responsibilities are. You may have gone into business initially thinking you would take care of someone’s books on QuickBooks or you would complete tax returns and get those returns filed.
In reality, a lot of times what we find is that people come to us for a lot of different things. They may have questions about financial aid for their kids or, “Am I adequately insured? What are the liabilities I have in my business? What are the financials mean? What do I do with that information to help the business be healthy and happy and help me grow?”
We are vital in all of that. If you look at it in its simplest form, the advisory is those strategic services that we offer that help create transformation in people’s lives. It might be helping the business get to the next level. It may be helping somebody reach their financial goals or helping somebody through the process of starting a business, exiting a business, or transitioning a business to the next generation. Anything that’s instrumental in creating that transformation is what would fall under that advisory service. We use that term as the opposite of transactional services.
In transactional services, the revenue model, you are getting paid to complete a transaction, fill out a form, enter transactional information into QuickBooks and produce a financial statement and send something in for property taxes. Those are all transactions. You get paid one time and you hope that’s going to be a repeat transaction. It tends to be repeated. We see people have these needs regularly and routinely, but at the heart of it, you never know if somebody’s going to come back.
The opposite of that in advisory, you are seen as the most trusted relationship that people have. There are these three relationships that people rely on the most. One is going to be their spiritual advisor with utmost trust. The second’s going to be their physician or health advisor with utmost trust. You’re talking about life and death. Finally, we get into financial advisory services because we’re dealing with people’s livelihoods.
Anything that falls under that consultative role where people call us for help in making decisions, “Should I buy or lease my car? I’m going to make an offer on a home. The bank wants to hear from my trusted advisor. Will you write a letter and support me?” Those are all that we would refer to as advisory services. In the tax world, we look at planning as part of that strategic process, which shifts that from a transactional model, more into a consultative style engagement.
Thank you for defining it. Now we can go into the different steps that you’ve got on what you’ve seen was the best way to sell these advisory services to existing clients. If you don’t do tax planning, it could be helping someone exit their business, transition it to another generation, or maybe a financial goal, but anytime that you’re creating transformation, strategic services are not a one-time transaction.
If I could label it, there is a real fear. What I see in our industry is that there’s a fear around the topic of billing. When we talk about pricing and especially raising your fees or prices, there’s a big fear around that. No one likes rejection. There’s this big concept of, “What if they reject me? Now I lose my so and so paying client. I’d rather keep my so and so paying client than take a chance that they might turn into a great paying client.” Fear drives that conversation. The other thing where fear shows up is that accountants often fear that the client will be upset by the failure to offer these services in the past.
On the tax side, we do that because we’re looking for the cost of what wasn’t done before. We use that as a way to highlight our value. What this could look like on the accounting side would be, “You’ve never explained what these financials mean to me before.” Sometimes, as accountants, we tend to focus on what we haven’t done.
It’s an impossible standard if you think of it, that we hold ourselves to. If you didn’t offer this before because you didn’t know how you’re not responsible for that. You cannot possibly beat yourself up about something you didn’t know. As accountants, we pride ourselves on getting things right, but you’re not going to get it right 100% of the time. It’s not realistic.
Taking and acknowledging that you’re learning something new or that you hadn’t done it before because you didn’t know and taking responsibility for that will also have your current clients and prospects, they don’t know because they haven’t worked with you yet. Having that confidence that might be lacking to offer this to your existing clients versus seeing it from a place of fear.
Sometimes when we take responsibility, it relieves the pressure because it feels like we are in a pressure cooker. The fear is bubbling up. Your clients might be upset with you. You’re fearing that they might be upset with you that you didn’t offer this in the past, then you fear the rejection of them may be leaving you because you didn’t have it in the past and offer it. There are double and triple layers of fear where sometimes, we take responsibility and ownership. It relieves that and allows you to, “This is how I’m doing things now. It’s in your best interest and I apologize that I didn’t do that before. I didn’t know.”
There’s a real vulnerability in that as well. Trust is key to what we do. We have to have the utmost trust for people to tell us the truth about things. Sometimes people are intimidated when they believe that we are these perfect financial beings. I’ve had lots of people tell me in the past, “I’m sure your bank account doesn’t look like this. I’m sure you reconcile your bank account every month within the first week of the month. I’m sure your financials are always up to date.”Trust is key in what we do, and we must have that utmost trust for people to tell us the truth about things. Click To Tweet
For me to be able to look back at my client and say, “No, I get quite busy and you’d be surprised sometimes one month might go by and I haven’t had time to get to it.” It makes them relax because now they can see me as this human being and not up on this pedestal where these magic people that somehow numbers make sense to.
Here is some practical advice on this. Number one, stop beating yourself up because it’s not a failure at all. While you may be focusing on the fact that you’re offering something new and you feel overwhelmed with that change, that’s not overwhelming to your client. We’re overwhelmed with the prospect because we’ve got a lot of people to adjust this model to plus we’re doing a lot of other things. That’s not the situation with them. Focus on making your offer feel special to your existing clients and consider how you might position your request maybe even as a reward for their loyalty to the business.
Can you give us an example of how you would make that feel special to your existing clients and what that reward would look like to them, like a story or an actual something that you’ve seen work?
Back in 2006 when I started making this transition in my own business, I was terrified to bring it to my existing clients. I liked the idea and it was comfortable for me to offer it to people I didn’t know. It worked well for attracting people and new clients into the business, but I too was fearful about what the response might be from my clients.
I picked out my very favorite clients and I let them know, “I was thinking of you. I took a look at your file and I think there are some great opportunities for you to reduce your tax in a major way. Since you’re one of my favorites, I wanted to bring this to you first. I won’t be able to get to everybody because I work with a lot of people, but I wanted to make sure I brought this to you first.”
That makes them feel like, “I’ve been loyal to this advisor all these years,” and now they’re acknowledging me for that. I get to the top of the line. That’s my reward. When you do that, they are not sitting there adding up in their mind any value or cost from the past. That’s not the way people’s brains work. We think that way, but most people’s brains work a little differently than accountants.
In that respect, it allows me also to get out from behind that fear and believe, “This is something special and I do want to bring it to my very favorite people, people that I trust and I’ve known for a while because I trust them to tell me the truth as well.” If they look at me and go, “This is crap. I don’t like this. I wish I never met you,” I know I can rely on them for that, but that hasn’t been my experience at all in bringing this offer to existing clients.
You got to stop beating yourself up for it. What would be the second thing that needs to happen in order to sell advisory services to our existing clients with removing the fear and also layering on to having them feel special and making this a special offer instead of maybe the overwhelm by this change, even though the clients have no idea about it?
A good piece of advice is to make sure that you’re pricing adequately. Raising prices is not easy to implement, particularly if you’re going back to the same people year after year. If you position this as something completely different than what you’ve been offering in the past, go to extreme measures with this. For example, maybe you’ve got people that come to see you in the office. Maybe this is one of those services where you go out and you see them.
You make an appointment. You show up at their office. You’re taking a very visible distinct step that separates that this is different from what you’ve been doing before. The disadvantage that we have is that people don’t understand the nuance of our work. As a result of that, they tend to lump it all together and go, “All that accounting junk or that tax stuff.”
To them, it all falls under the same umbrella. If you want to be able to charge more, you have to be clear in your communication that A) It’s for something very different that you’re doing and B) It also creates very different results. Make sure that you focus on that value piece. In tax savings, it’s easy to say to the penny how much was worth to someone. In accounting, for example, look for those outputs. What are the results? Did you help somebody’s revenue grow? Did you help cut expenses because you recommended cheaper services or package deals?
Did you help somebody make a new hire in their business and now they’re able to get more done? You can describe that in terms of free time. Focusing on that result helps bring attention to what matters to them. Otherwise, we end up stuck in this discussion of inputs. How long did it take you to do that? Which forms did you have to fill out? All of that is meaningless.
What you’re saying is the transformational piece. That’s the biggest takeaway from this episode, reading and being able to make this change to your current existing client base. How is this transformational to this person? How is that transformational in their financial goal and their exit of the business if they’re transitioning the business to another generation? Thinking about it from that point of view versus the other way and what form you filled out and all that, because that’s not the end result. That was how you did it.
Most people are familiar with this story. In fact, there’s a meme going around on the internet somewhere. The idea is that you have this engineer that comes in and fixes an important piece of equipment with a quick whack of a sledgehammer. He turns around and submits this itemized bill for the work. It’s $5 for the hammer. It’s $4,995 for knowing where to hit the machine with the hammer. It’s not the time that it took to hit the machine. That’s not what fixes it, but it’s the result of the working machine that everybody wants. The same is true in what we do. We haven’t been trained to Number 1) Remind ourselves of that value and Number 2) Communicate that well to people that we work with.We just haven’t been trained to remind ourselves of our value and communicate that well with the people we work with. Click To Tweet
Also, price it accordingly because if you don’t price it massively differently, it will seem like it’s everything else you’ve already been doing. You teach value pricing and I always do. It has to be a drastic change. It can’t be $20 more or whatever. It’s like your hammer explanation. It needs to be $4,995 more than what you were doing before.
You have something that not only has questions possibly from your clients, but the result will match the investment. A lot of times the result is great, yet the investment is little that I would be scratching my head like, “How does that add up? Dominique saved me $20,000. I have to pay the IRS and she only charged me $500. None of this makes sense.”
There’s a price that is low where people begin to question your value. You start to get the distrust of, “Maybe it’s not what she thinks it is. Do I need to worry about this? Am I missing something?” You have to be careful with the image that you’re portraying if you’re pricing is too low. The added difficulty there is that unless you can afford to take the time that’s necessary for these advisory services. Let’s be clear about this, advisory services do take more in terms of your relationship with the client. It takes having a stronger relationship that so you know more about the business so that you can be strategic and offer that strategic advice.
Maybe meeting them in person and doing the thing you normally wouldn’t do on the transactional side of the business is going to also impact how you sell these advisory services to your existing base of clients.
If you don’t carve out that time and then you offer this, people might be disappointed with the result if you’re not available. The other thing is if you’re promising that, “I’m offering this new advisory service that requires proactive work. I’m going to be there and work proactively with you.” The next time they hear from you is when the tax return is due. That’s not congruent with what you said. You have to adjust your fees so that you can afford to offer this level of service to your clients.
The clients also see that the investment is in alignment with the results. Thank you for sharing. Is there anything else that you wanted to share? This has been great. This is a transformational experience. This is not transactional. We have to price accordingly. We have to stop beating ourselves up and understand that it may be overwhelming to us to make the change as the firm owner, but your clients have no idea what’s going on. Is there anything else that you’d like to share as it results in the best ways how to make this transition to selling advisory services at a high price in making that investment with the client to their existing clients?
It’s about focus and paying attention. If you think about it, it’s easy. We get swept up in the whirlwind of our deadlines and piles of work. It’s easy to be focused on meeting those deadlines and getting that paperwork out the door. With advisory services, it’s much different. It’s not a transaction. Everything is about the result that you’re creating and the difference that you’re making. It’s about making a greater impact and a greater difference. If you can focus all on what difference you’re making, it’ll be a lot easier to take a step back from the grind and be able to see the bigger picture of what you’re doing that impacts people as well as the impact you’re making on your own business.If you can focus all on what kind of difference you're making, it'll be a lot easier to take a step back from the grind and see the bigger picture of what you're doing that impacts people and your business. Click To Tweet
Focus on the difference you’re making. With all the firm owners I’ve helped, worked with, and talked to, it’s one of the things that our focus is normally on the grind and the deadline. I always hear about the deadline, “My head’s in the weeds. We got a deadline coming up in weeks. I got a deadline in one month.” It’s always about that. What if we say, “What if it’s my advisory services I focus on and about the difference I’m making with the work that I’m doing?” I love that.
It doesn’t ignore the deadlines because compliance work is necessary. It’s got to be done well and right, but it’s shifting that focus into what you’re doing that makes a difference for people. It’s not a form that gets filed.
Thank you much for being here with us. It’s always an honor to have you. Keep doing what you’re doing. I know a lot of people have come over to you and have learned about the Certified Tax Coach Institute through this show. Before we end it, do you want to share how they can learn tax planning on the technical side and how you can help have an advisory service to offer if maybe they don’t have one right now?
That’s the behind-the-curtain stuff. It’s the, “How do you create that value? What are those outlines, processes, and tax codes that you go to to make this happen?” We focus at the Institute of Certified Tax Planners on that technical knowledge. You can find us at CertifiedTaxPlanners.com. We’ve got a lot of great resources there. We also publish a twice-monthly newsletter with four different tax reduction strategies for each issue you can find that at ThinkOutsideTheTaxBox.com.
Thank you for being here with us. It’s always an honor to have you.
Thanks. It’s my pleasure.
Thank you all much for joining Dominique and me here on the show talking about shifting your focus, pricing adequately, and stop beating yourself up so you can start selling these advisory services at premium fees so your clients truly get your worth. Remember that this is a transformational opportunity in your firm. It is not a transaction.
A lot of us here probably feel like most of what you do is a transaction. It is a daily grind. If you’re sick of grinding out fourteen hours a day and sacrificing that precious time that maybe you’ve missed out on for years and you’re exhausted of discounting your fees, doing free work, answering all those quick questions, and only being seen as a commodity, then know that it’s not your fault and it can change.
I also understand that nobody is training you on how to fix those problems and connect the dots. You can sell advisory services and have a transformational offer to your clients where they see the result and not how you do it. If you want to take complete control over your firm and your revenue, double it or triple your fees, here’s what I’ve got for you.
My team and I have set aside time to speak to some of you personally. You must be a firm owner, bookkeeper, tax planner, accountant, or bookkeeping firm and you must own your own firm. If you’re in a job, you have a firm on the side and your goal is to quit your job, then this is for you too. We will speak to you personally on how to apply these ideas, even what we talked about in our show. Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com to book your call with me or my partner, Denise. We’ll go through whatever your biggest challenges are. We’ve seen it and we know how to overcome it.
On our call, we’re going to get crystal clear on where your firm’s at and what is keeping you stuck. How do you identify the firm that you want and avoid all the pitfalls along the way? Also, we’re going to go through how you plan out the exact next steps you can take to double your firm’s revenue. We’ll spend about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The call is complimentary. Denise and I look forward to speaking with some of you. Have a beautiful day.
About Dominique Molina
Dominique Molina, CPA, MST, CTS, is the co-founder and President of the American Institute of Certified Tax Planners (AICTP). As the driving force and visionary behind the San Diego-based not-for-profit corporation, Dominique set out to change the way tax professionals approach tax planning. Realizing that many tax professionals were missing government tax breaks that could save their clients millions, she created an elite network of tax professionals including CPAs, EAs and tax attorneys who are trained to help their clients proactively plan and implement tax strategies that can rescue thousands of dollars in wasted tax. Dominique has successfully licensed over 1,000 tax professionals as Certified Tax Planners across the country.
Dominique successfully managed her own practice, a San Diego-based, full-service tax, accounting, and
Ms. Molina is an accomplished keynote speaker, teacher, 6-time best-selling author, and mentor to tax professionals across the United States. She routinely speaks for Surgent CPE and the AICPA Women’s Leadership Summit, among other leading professional groups.