Getting high-value clients is the dream of everyone who owns an accounting business. But how exactly do you do it without losing your crowd? Today’s guest gives us a solution: create a service that people want to be invited into, instead of one that they feel entitled to. The genius behind this concept is Dominique Molina, CPA, MST, CTS, the co-founder and President of the American Institute of Certified Tax Planners (AICTP). In this conversation with Michelle, Dominique explains how high-value service, when coupled with high-value customer experience, creates the best results. Listen in and learn how to attract clients that pay premium fees and take your firm to the next level!
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High-Value Service + High-Value Customer Experience Is The Key To Getting High-Value Clients For Your Accounting Firm – With Dominique Molina, AICTP President
Our special guest is Dominique Molina who is a CPA, MST, CTS. She is the Cofounder and President of the American Institute of Certified Tax Planners. She is the driving force and visionary behind this San Diego nonprofit that helps tax professionals approach tax planning, realizing that many tax professionals were missing government tax breaks that could save their clients millions of dollars. She has created an elite network of tax pros, CPAs, EAs and tax attorneys who are trained to help their clients proactively implement tax strategies, and rescue their clients out of thousands of dollars in wasted tax.
She has successfully licensed over 1,000 tax pros as certified tax planners across the country. She is also an accomplished keynote speaker, teacher, six-time bestselling author, and mentor to tax professionals across the US. She routinely speaks for Surgent CPE and AICPA Women’s Leadership Summit along with other leading professional groups.
Before we welcome Dominique to the show, I know that as a tax and accounting professional, I imagine you are sick of grinding fourteen hours a day, sacrificing your time with family and friends, and postponing vacations that are way long overdue. You are completely exhausted from being on the financial rollercoaster, from discounting your fees, and then end up resenting the work that you do for them and feeling like a commodity.
None of this is your fault. I know that nobody is training you on how to fix these problems and connect the dots. My team and I have set aside some time to speak to you personally about how you apply some new strategies to your firm to put all of that to rest. Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com to book your call with us. Whatever your biggest challenges are, we have seen them and we know how to overcome them.
We will get on the phone for about 45 minutes. We will get crystal clear on where you are at right now with your firm and what is keeping you stuck. We will also identify where you want to be with your firm and in your life so you can get paid first, never discount and avoid all those pitfalls along the way and save you a ton of money in the process. Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. We look forward to speaking with you soon. Let’s welcome Dominique to the show.
Thanks for having me back, Michelle. It is great to be here.
It has been a little while, but I am very excited about our topic because this is a timely one, especially as everyone is burnt out after tax season and not feeling the love. On the show, we have Dominique Molina here. She will tell you who she is if you are not familiar with her, but talking about doing the work that matters and getting paid well for it and being appreciated and loved by your clients. Dominique, do you want to share who you are with those that do not know you?
I have worked in the tax industry since I filed my very first tax return at the age of fifteen. I spent four years in college, getting a degree in Accounting. I went on to get a graduate degree in law school so that I could learn Tax Law. I have been doing a lot in that time to hone my craft and be as good of a tax planner and a tax preparer as I can. For the last number of years, I have been teaching CPAs, enrolled agents and attorneys advanced tax reduction strategies for businesses. Michelle, you might say that I had seen just about everything, but I have seen nothing compared to the bad behavior from tax clients that I have seen in the last few years.
I bet, especially we have had a pandemic and the law is changing and the date is changing. Everything is changing for people like me. I am not the CPA. I do not prepare anyone’s taxes, but I do know that there have been so many changes even just for the regular people or your clients.
People do not often realize that being tax professionals, we have carried this nation’s economy on our backs to avoid financial collapse during this whole pandemic. People do not realize the severity. Not only have we had to master 77,000 pages of tax law, but at a moment’s notice, four major new tax laws, including more than a hundred changes in the last few years. That was all while we are trying to facilitate the entire Federal stimulus program. It has been a lot. We know the value of what we bring. We know that this is true and what we have had to do to jump through these hoops, but I do not think that is very clear to our clients.When you distance yourself from being seen as a service that people are entitled to, rather than a service that they want to be invited into, you’ll start to see a major difference in the behavior of clients. Click To Tweet
I did not even know there were a hundred changes in the law in the last few years. It’s the lack of education for people like me as well. What is an area or how would you recommend an accounting firm owner bring this to the surface so you can feel the love from clients and you can feel appreciated when a lot of it stems from being under-educated when it comes to all of these changes being the taxpayers?
A lot of it has to do with the clients themselves. When we look at this concept of high-value services, that is not a service that is a fit for every single taxpayer that is out there. There happens to be a tremendous amount of demand. There are 700 taxpayers for every one of us, but we do not need to service 700 people to make a very good living. Perhaps we should not service that many. If the pandemic season has taught us anything at all, it’s just because people are going through a hard time, that does not excuse rude and egregious behaviors because people do not like how much tax they have to pay.
A lot of this is about finding high-value customers and then offering them a high-value service that is appealing to them. I know the stimulus has been appealing, but there is this expectation that we are going to do this for people and do it for free often. It’s the expectation that is out there. There is this entitlement that goes along with it. When we can distance ourselves from being seen as a service that people are entitled to rather than a service that they want to be invited into, that is a major difference. You will start to see a major difference in the behavior of clients.
It goes from somebody being disgruntled with what we are doing because frankly, they do not understand it and they never will. We have to get over the fact that people do not understand and they never will. Instead, focus on the things that people can understand and want. Once you figure out what that service is, then we look at offering this to high-value clients. We should certainly treat every client as if they are our most valuable ones, but there are differences in clients.
These high-value customers have outstanding customer lifetime values. They help us attract new people to us. They are loyal. Those are the people that we want to retain. Sometimes we accept this poor behavior from people and we forget about it in the summer months. It wears off and we are able to get rejuvenated and we get our energy level back, but we do not make changes in the practice that excludes that bad behavior.
That is what ends up having people burnt out right around this time. If you are reading, you probably feel burnt out, unloved and undervalued. It is this cycle that in the summertime, you have forgotten about it because you might have been on 1 or 2 vacations or had a lot of cocktails. Now, how do you stop this vicious cycle? What you said that I like and want to go deeper on is having a service that you can be offering for your clients where they are invited into versus being entitled to. You focus on tax planning, but what other services or ideas do you have about creating that niche or that service before we can go and find those higher-value clients that would fit for that type of service, for a firm owner reading this right now?
We have to identify the service first before we can then identify who is a good fit. In these times, it is all about the experience. We may think that we have a great experience for clients but it is about identifying what they want to experience, and being able to demonstrate that different experience from the get-go. There are a lot of things that we can do with technology to remain in constant contact with people. If we look at survey results, the number one thing that tax clients want and look for in their tax advisor is they want the advice and the responsiveness to that advice. In other words, if they do not perceive me as being responsive, then I am not the one that they trust to come to with advice because they view that I am not there and I am not available.
Even though I might not be picking up the phone and contacting and reaching out to people every minute, if I can create that impression because I have text messages going out, I have emails going out, I have videos out with my face, I have my administrative staff that can make calls on a regular basis just to reach out to my clients, we instantly start to create a high-value experience, such that then we are in a position to attract the high-value customer. It starts with that customer experience, no matter what your services are in the end. I focus on advanced tax reduction because it is easy for people to understand. It is very easy for me to communicate the value of that because I can tell them the value. I can say, “If I am saving you $300,000 in tax, that is how much I am worth to you.”
It allows me to present some context and meaning for my fees. That’s what makes them feel desperate and want to be invited to take part in that process. You can do this with lots of different services that you offer. I am going to encourage everybody to focus on those services that deliver obvious value. If you can help your clients and you are already helping your clients be more profitable in their business, let’s say your skill is you go through and you weed through somebody’s income statement, and you can point out where they are wasting money. Whenever you can save them and make somebody more profitable, that is a high-value service. If you pair that with a high-value experience, now you got a whole package to offer.
The experience has to have some responsiveness in that because people like me do not understand what the services are or we might be in the unknown a lot. We put our trust in our firm owners and CPAs, EAs and others. From my point of view, and maybe you can share it from the firm owner’s point of view, being overly communicative is a good thing.If you pair a high-value service with high-value customer experience, you’ve got yourself a whole package to offer. Click To Tweet
There are different ways to do that without it being a time suck. If I have 25 or 50 clients, it is far easier for me to be truly responsive and extra communicative than it is if I had 700 clients. One thing is thinking about, “What do I have to do to create this experience for my client?” That might mean shedding some of the obstacles to that. If the truth is that I cannot provide that level of responsiveness, I have to address the big obstacle and that is what is preventing me from giving somebody what they want.
As I was saying that you create this high-value experience and you pair it with high-value service, the opposite can be true as well. Just because I offer a high-value service saving hundreds of thousands of dollars off of someone is tax liability every year, if I do not pair that with a high-value experience. Let’s say now I ghost people. I have done the plan and now I dive back down into my stacks of tax returns and I disappear for a couple of months, which is what people’s impressions are. Their impression is their accountant has disappeared.
There is inconsistency in the whole offering. That diminishes trust. You can still have somebody that is disgruntled with your work even though you deliver a high-value service. We have to walk that walk fully and envelop that in the whole experience so that the whole thing is positive. I do not think, Michelle, that you mean, “I want someone in constant communication.” I do not think you expect as a client to get a phone call every week from your accountant.
I mean being educated in what is going on and being in the loop. I was sharing with a bunch of students in the eight-week Sales Mastery Course that I have, we put our full trust in you. It is similar to if you were the surgeon or the anesthesiologist, you are putting us under because we have no idea what is going on behind the scenes, and then we just come out of the other side fully repaired or our legs are put together again and walking. Behind the scenes when you were put under, we have no idea what happened underneath the anesthesia.
When we provide all the documents and financials, we do not know what you are doing behind the scenes. It is very similar to you going to get surgery and they put you under. My boyfriend had a colonoscopy where they put you under and clean out your colon. He is like, “I have no idea. I walked out and I guess I am all cleaned out.”
I have heard tax work was compared to a colonoscopy, Michelle.
It possibly could be for you as the practitioner and the one doing the work because if a client brings you things and it is a complete mess, it is like inside the colon where it is a complete mess and the doctors have to go up there with a camera and figuring out where to look. My point is that when you are put under, we are putting our 100% trust in you. We need to feel that we understand what you are doing for us. It is not a weekly call by any means but it is a summary. It is an explanation. It is maybe a video.
I love how earlier you said video. A few of my students have done that. Even a simple return or a 30-second to 1-minute Loom video explaining what happened in your taxes will answer a bunch of questions. It will remove the back and forth from the experience between the client and the firm owner.
You can’t see what is going on behind the scenes. You shared your boyfriend left assuming that everything turned out okay, but oftentimes people assume that if they cannot see it, nothing is going on. There is no better way to make somebody feel completely invaluable than to not give them attention, to ignore them and not see them. People like to be heard and seen. Even something as simple as we take for granted that we know the 15th is a filing deadline, but to send out a note that says, “Happy Tax Day. Reminder, your payments are due. We get to celebrate because the statute of limitations is now expired for 2019 tax returns.” Those communications are building the relationship. It is bringing them more into what is happening behind the scenes in something that is understandable.
It has to be understandable. When my boyfriend got out of the surgery or clean up, they went in and set all the medical jargon for him. They said, “We did not see any polyps. It does not look cancerous. You are good to go,” in general terminology.Make it easy for clients to do business with you. Click To Tweet
Even a photograph. It is part of the journey. The starting point for this is to create a client journey map where you map out each of your client’s journeys for different services that you offer. Sometimes you may have a process for completing a tax return, but then when a consulting job comes up, you do not have a firm process for that. You want to have a map for each one of your client’s journeys in their experience with your company.
Can you share what you have done? Considering we are talking about doing the work that matters. Let’s focus on the high paying stuff. What does your client journey look like? You are getting paid well for what you do and others that you teach, but if you are doing the work that matters, what does that client journey map look like especially as it relates to building the communication, the relationship and all that stuff behind the scenes?
In the tax planning process, our client journey experience starts with a link. Whether that person is being introduced to us by someone else or they have responded to our marketing, perhaps they have met us online or maybe they have read one of our books, they get a personalized link where they can come in and sign up and create their own portal. Once they sign up by clicking on the link, there are prompts that tell people what to do. There is a prompt that pops up that says, “Please tell us who you are. Fill in your name. Please upload a copy of your most recent tax return.”
Let’s say they are not ready to do it at that moment. Let’s say the first thing they do is set up the portal and then they go away. We have reminders that will pop back into their email that says, “You are almost there. We are moments away from being able to tell you what we can do to help. We just need that tax return.”
Do you recommend any services for this portal that you have used before?
There are lots of providers. We are using technology. One thing I look for in my communication technology is automation. I am looking to see if there is a trigger that happens that causes automated communication. The trigger, in this case, could be that somebody has not been there for two days and they did not upload their tax return. That is a trigger in my system that automatically sends out communication.
Therefore you as the customer, Michelle, are getting that constant communication, but I do not have to think about it. I do not have to log in and go, “Did somebody that I have not met yet upload their tax return?” They get the experience. Once they upload that tax return, that is another trigger. It sets up a reminder. It sends workflow to my calendar to let me know, “There is a review. There is an evaluation that needs to be done.” There is an email that goes out to schedule a Zoom meeting with that person so that they can pick a time that works for them. It is convenient. This is all happening easily but the experience part of it as well. I have made it user-friendly to do business with me. That is one of the things you want to nail down.
You want to make it easy to do business with you. I am not saying this as a fault, we all have a lot on our plates and you probably are not answering your phone. People go to voicemail but think about it from the client’s perspective. They leave a message and now they have to wait for you to call back. When you call back, maybe they are not available. You have the phone tag going on. That is not a pleasant experience, but if you can create that seamless process even with technology, it is the idea that you are creating this positive experience.
It goes back to what you mentioned earlier. It is shutting down some of these obstacles and having the triggered automation in whatever the communication system or platform you use for your firm is. It’s crucial in creating a high-value experience, which then you will be able to sell your high-value service that matches that.
It’s having additional triggers, automated workflows, and communications that take place even after you have now solidified a relationship. On the tax planning side, we do an evaluation process. We meet with the client. We quote our premium fee and our premium price and what we can do for them. Once they accept, I can tag that client in my system so that now they get a customized engagement letter sent out to them and they get a customized questionnaire. It happens on autopilot.Don't focus on getting 700 or 7,000 clients. It's really the lesser number that add more value to your firm that deserve your time and attention. Click To Tweet
What I used to do before we had some of this cool technology available is I would meet with somebody and I am in meetings all day. It would be the end of the day, and I am going to follow up and send an email and say, “Here is the questionnaire we talked about eleven hours ago.” To have that seamlessly happen just because I clicked a mouse on my client’s name is so helpful for my experience as well as for their experience. Once you do that, you can set out to charge premium fees and be appreciated in that process.
Charging premium fees is what we are talking about, and getting paid well for the work that you do and doing the work that matters. I am sure if you are reading this, it seems daunting to learn all of these. I imagine that you are like, “This sounds great, Dominique, but where do I even start?” I am all about taking action and doing something after you read this episode. If you had to share step one, what would be the first step to getting into the groove of which offering you are going to put together, and then also creating this high-value experience in the firm, so you can focus on doing the work that matters and getting out of the rut of feeling the burnout that you might be feeling right now and just wanting to lay on the couch, drink a cerveza or a glass of wine and turn on some Netflix? We are talking about how to end this cycle.
It starts with exactly that. It is considering what your high-value service is. I invite you to think about what are the times when you have worked with clients where they have been thrilled with the outcome and with the work that you have done. It does not happen that often when I am preparing a Form 1040 and presenting it and somebody is like, “Thank you so much for that form. That is great.”
Sometimes that happens. There is some appreciation there but you have to dig to think through it. Maybe you do not have that experience. Maybe you have not had that yet. Can you learn something from colleagues? There are lots of chat boards. There are people you meet at different conferences. Can you recall or even inquire of your colleagues what are the services that they offer where they have gotten a great response from their clients? Those are usually going to be a good bet. Sharing personal experience, it is has got to be understandable. People do not understand what the value is of the filing. It is hard to describe that.
If that is the road that you are going to go down, if that is the hill you are going to die on, insisting that this thing is valuable, you are going to always have a fight on your hands. You need something where the value is obvious so that when you simply point it out, it is understood and it is clear. It has got to be so clear that they can instantly see why they would want to work with you. You want to then include that experience all the way from the beginning, from the time that someone is a prospective client all the way through when they are a client and you are delivering your service, and then retaining them.
Once you have completed that work, it is staying engaged. It is still having that positive experience year-round, and not just dropping them because the work is over at that moment, but finding those touchpoints so that you can continue to bring them value. I recommend jotting out that and brainstorming that customer journey and looking for all the places that you can add wow. Where can you insert that wow factor?
That is a great next step for those of you that want to start doing the work that matters and getting paid well for it instead of dying on the hill. It is hard to show the value of some compliance type work, but being able to make the value obvious and clear. It is obvious that your clients get excited about it. Is there anything else, Dominique, that you want to share? That one step or that next thing that you did not mention yet in order for someone who wants to focus on doing what matters and getting paid well, and having this high-value experience with the high-value service that they are going to leave with.
I am leaving you with a clue and even some hope. We can sometimes recognize what is not working by people’s responses. When you found yourself justifying or having to justify your fees or explain, “How did you come up with your fee? Why does it cost that much? Why do you have to do that form?” That is a pretty good indicator that the person that you are working with does not value that service. At the end of the day, we have laws and we are there to help keep our clients in compliance with those laws. The work has to be done, but that does not need to be your wow service. If you have to justify or explain, that is not the best service to lead with and have that be the hallmark of the experience with your firm. You want to look for something else in that case.
Lastly, it is to be aware that you do not have to take every client that comes along. High-value clients behave very differently than non-high-value clients. Do not be afraid to pass on people. When you feel like people are nagging and exhibiting poor behavior, it is time to let that go and walk away and say, “I wish you the best. I hope that you are able to find what you are looking for, but that is not going to be here.” Knowing that there are people out there. They might be a little bit more difficult to find, but they are worth a lot more individually. It is about creating that space so that you can provide a high-value experience for people. Do not focus on getting the 700 or the 7,000 clients. It is the lesser number that adds more value to your firm that deserves your time and attention.
Thank you, Dominique, for being here with us on the show. It is always an honor to have you. We will definitely see you in a future episode. Thanks for being here.
Thanks, Michelle. Let’s celebrate the expiration of the Statute of Limitations. It is past now.
Congratulations. Go celebrate, have a cerveza or a glass of wine, and start writing and mapping out your client’s journey. Focus on step one. Think about the services. Ask yourself the questions that she brought up. I will see you in the next episode.
What an amazing episode with Dominique. Hone in on what is that high-value experience that you want to create. What is that high-value service that you want to offer that matches the experience? It could be advanced tax reduction. I learned from one of my clients a word called fractional CFO. I did not even know what that was. What does that experience look like for you and in your firm? What action steps can you take today? What can your client’s journey map look like? What kind of communications and automation would you be able to invest maybe 2 or 3 hours a week creating so that your communication process with your clients is easy and seamless versus exhausting and daunting?
Map it out, get on the whiteboard, grab a piece of paper, and have it be understandable so you do not have to be on this hill of volume and dying on that hill from being so exhausted and burnt out. Remember, in the service that you come up with, having a value that is the obvious and clear that will retain your clients have you be excited to meet with them monthly or quarterly is what you want to focus on.
Keep that in mind. For those of you that are extremely sick of grinding fourteen hours a day, maybe this tax season had you done with wanting to even have a firm, and you are sick of sacrificing your time with your family and friends, you are done with postponing vacations and exhausted being on that daily financial rollercoaster, then know that none of that is your fault.
Nobody is training you on how to fix and solve these problems and connect the dots. I want you to step up, take complete control of your firm’s profitability and be able to double your firm revenue with ease. If you want to have that, then here is what I have for you. My team and I have set aside time to speak to you personally about how you can apply some new ideas like charging premium fees, not giving out discounts, getting paid what you are worth, not doing free work, getting paid upfront, never sending out a proposal or quote again. All of these things that might feel heavy and like, “Michelle, I do not know how to do that.”
If you are willing to pull back that curtain and get crystal clear on where you are at now and what are the things that are keeping you stuck, then head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. We will get on the phone for about 45 minutes. We will identify where you want your firm to be. We will ensure that you have a plan to get paid first, avoiding all the pitfalls, and saving you a ton of money in the process. You will have a plan with the exact next steps so you can double your firm’s revenue. You can triple your fees and get out of this rut. Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. My team and I look forward to speaking to you.
- American Institute of Certified Tax Planners
- Surgent CPE
- AICPA Women’s Leadership Summit
- Sales Mastery Course
About Dominique Molina, AICTP President
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 business consulting firm, serving hundreds of business owners and investors across the country for seven years. She has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from San Diego State University, is a licensed CPA, has a Masters of Law – LLM, Tax Law, from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and is a Certified Tax Strategist.
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.