Do you often find yourself having to negotiate fees and offering free work instead of getting paid for what you’re actually worth? In this episode of The Abundant Accountant, CPA Shannon Weinstein of Financial Solutions returns to give us more tips on how you can deliver that unique service, establish your value, and get ahead and set yourself apart from the competition.
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Setting Yourself Apart From The Competition: How To Sell Your Value With Shannon Weinstein
Our special guest is Shannon Weinstein. She is a CPA and she runs 100% virtual practice, serving small business owners looking to grow online. She does monthly accounting, CFO services and tax strategy. Her unique approach has enabled her to grow her practice to multiple six figures in revenue in just under two years. During tax season, she spends it in Costa Rica. I’m excited to have her on the show.
Before we welcome Shannon to the show, I know and see so many accounting and tax firm owners discounting, having to justify their fees, devaluing their worth by doing free work, or getting into a price negotiation to grow their top-line revenue. It’s not the best way to retain your legacy clients. Here’s the truth. What I found is that most firm owners are leaving thousands of dollars annually per client on the table by heavily discounting fees, doing the price negotiation thing or doing the free work.
On the surface, it looks like a great strategy out the gate but here’s the problem. The clients get used to paying that, and then they won’t ever pay you your full price. The clients that I work with do the complete opposite. They grow their revenue by about three times where it’s at. They charge more and retain their legacy clients. If you are sick and tired of discounting, getting into a price negotiation or devaluing your worth, then make sure to book a call and let’s chat about your current process.
You can do so by going to TheAbundantCall.com. I work with those who have some revenue. You’ve got clients in. You keep giving away free information or discounting. You are exhausted, depleted, and think that maybe you should go get a job. If that’s you, make sure to head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. I look forward to talking to some of you. Let’s welcome Shannon to the show.
Thanks, and thanks for having me back.
It’s awesome to have you back. I thought our conversation last time was great. Can you share with everyone, if they missed your last episode, who you are, where your firm is and all that?
My name’s Shannon Weinstein. I am a CPA. I’m based out of Connecticut, but I also spend part of my year in Costa Rica, which is fun. I started my own practice in early 2019, specifically serving online service-based business owners and in less than two years, I grew my practice to multiple six figures.
A lot of people are thinking, “How did you do that? There’s so much competition out there and many other companies like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, and my clients are interested in the lowest price.” That’s what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to talk about how you set yourself apart from the competition. In Shannon’s mind and even in my mind, competition to us doesn’t exist. How can we get to that level of mindset?
We were talking about the Little Leagues playing the Yankees, but Shannon has a better analogy for us. That’s what we’re going to have a conversation about. Those of you that are terrified of competition, and that there are many other CPA firms around you, and there’s no way you can grow a firm to six figures and beyond, then this is for you. Make sure to grab your notepad and pen, and listen up.
Shannon, when you first started your firm, you live part-time in Costa Rica and Connecticut. I’m not sure if there’s some tax benefit that I need to know about with that setup. How did you get to the place to grow a firm to over $200,000 in two years? What did you do to set yourself apart from the competition? What are some of those unique things that you did internally and externally as a brand that might help someone here, and that has gotten to a point where you don’t even see it as competition?With the advent of Google and software products and tools readily available to research things, accountants are now not about information but about how to implement and strategize. Click To Tweet
The first thing I had to do was shift my mindset that people aren’t buying a tax return and that people aren’t buying a set of financial statements. Even though we think that that’s our deliverable, what they’re buying is something way beyond that. It’s something that I had to learn what the value was of what I was offering them and what I was selling them. It’s so important to understand your customer intimately in terms of why they’re hiring you, why they’re looking for an accountant, and get much deeper than, “I just need a tax return done.”
Truth be told, you can go to a storefront, your H&R Block or your Jackson Hewitt. If you watch those Super Bowl commercials every year, you remember that they have to go through their taxes. You can go to those storefronts if all you’re buying is the paperwork. When we stop treating what we do as a commodity and people realize that they’re buying you, your advice, your counsel and your expertise, then not only do they pay you what you’re worth. You also start to value yourself and see that nobody else can be you. Therefore, no one can compete with you if your clients are clicking with the way you deliver that service.
The key ingredient in what you said is no one else can be you. I was born that way, but a lot of us are not born that way. We compare ourselves to maybe other firms. You’re in these Facebook groups or other networking groups, and you see colleagues doing so well. You’re reading this and you’re like, “How did she get to $200,000 in two years? How does she live part-time in another country? How is that even possible? There are so many CPA firms. I don’t get it. How is she not burnt out? How does she not see herself as selling paperwork as the deliverable, yet she sees herself so differently?”
When you say you have to shift your mindset first, what was it for you that helped shift? There’s maybe 5% of us that are born this way. The other 95% have some work to do in order to get to the place where you’re not selling paperwork. There is no competition out there. Ultimately, no one else can be you. Every single person is a unique individual unless you are an identical twin.
Things tend to resonate with stories. I’m going to tell you a couple of stories about when I realized this. Number one, I was starting to get DMs on Instagram. I’m the most active on Instagram in terms of generating leads and talking to potential clients. I serve online coaches, course creators, consultants, and every service provider under the sun online. Instagram is a great place to find some of those folks. I’m super active on there.
I found myself checking my DMS and people were sending me either posts from other accountants’ articles that they were reading online or they were asking me, “My accountant said this.” They were all asking me to validate the stuff they were sending me. They were saying, “Shannon, is this real?” It was funny because my initial response was, “Why are you asking me? You’re paying somebody else to answer this. You have an accountant. You have somebody. Why are you asking me?”
Compounded with that, I got off a phone call with somebody who was doing an exploratory call with me to hire me. They hired a CPA to do their taxes but they were still asking me, “We want you to do strategy, Shannon. We resonate with the way you explain things more. We like your analogies. We listen to your podcast. We want to have you available to be part of the team and to be part of those conversations.” I realized that that is trust. I had the trust of these people that are talking to me online. I’ve built that trust with my audience and potential clients. They were willing to pay for the commodity of a tax return for someone else, but they still sought me out for advice.
They weren’t sure of the advice they got from somebody else. One other thing you offered was certainty. Certainty goes back to no one else can be you. When you are so certain about your skillset, about being a CPA, about your knowledge, your education and everything else, that certainty comes through where then they say, “I trust you. I’m willing to have someone else fill in the boxes, but I want you for my strategy.”
That’s where the real value is. That’s also where you can charge top dollar. It is for the strategy because anyone can get a tax return done and have the paperwork filled out. Pretty soon, people are going to have TurboTax or other software that can do it for them. People think that they can do this on their own, but what they can’t do is a lot of the elaborate strategies and the judgment that goes along with that. Once we realize as professionals that that’s where we can best serve, deliver value, and be a trusted advisor, and we fill that role as a trusted advisor and not as a box checker, that’s where people start to trust you.
People value you highly. From a client’s perspective, they start to treat you better with more respect. If you are seen as that box checker, they might blow you off for meetings. They might move you around in their calendar or not respond to your emails. If they see you as a key member of their team, they will prioritize you as well. It permeates into your relationship with the client when they start to see you in a different light as more of that trusted expert, locking arms with a business owner as opposed to just a vendor.
It’s 100% spot on. To become a trusted advisor, it’s not only building trust but also having that certainty. Let’s break that down into three steps. We like the rule of three here at The Abundant Accountant. You post on Instagram. That’s one of the ways that you set yourself apart from other competition and that’s how people find you. Another way that you set yourself apart from the competition is you’re willing to look at people’s questions that they don’t trust from their current CPA, accounting firm or tax advisor.
They schedule a phone call to explore if they would be a great client for you. From the trust and the value, then they switch over. What are some of the other ways that you’ve set yourself apart from the competition in the last few years? What are some other tactical action steps that someone can take to set themselves apart from the competition versus being that box checker? That might be at H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt or using TurboTax at home.
This is also a paradigm shift in our profession. I give away advice all the time. I will give away free education and free advice all day long. Information is 100% free when you’re talking about my Instagram, my podcast or whatever it may be. I’m here to educate. I will talk all day about how much an S corp election can save you money or what tech strategies you can take advantage of. I try to explain it in a way that’s digestible so that the average person can understand, “This would make sense for me. I should ask my accountant about this.” I’ve had people come to me and say they’ve learned more from my Instagram page than they have from the person they pay for this information.
That’s important to me because information should be free. Implementation is where the money comes. For several years, accountants are used to be the oracle or the walking encyclopedia of accounting and tax knowledge. They were getting paid for what they knew. They were getting paid for information. With the advent of Google and all of these software products and tools readily available at our fingertips, to be able to research these things, accountants are now not about information. It’s about how to implement and strategize.We're not charging on effort. We're charging on value. Click To Tweet
I’m 100% okay with giving away information. There’s a lot of hesitation out there for accountants to think, “I have to give them only so much. I have to hold back some because I want them to pay for this. I want them to pay for this information.” The truth of it is that if you give away all the information, you’re not going to give away everything. Look at fitness. We all know broccoli is good for us. We all know we should drink more water. We all know we need to go out and exercise. Do we do it?
No. How many free YouTube videos are there on workouts and yoga? Personally, I hire a trainer. I go to the gym six days a week with a group because there’s a community and I have accountability. Not only are you helping with implementation, Shannon. It’s also about accountability. Maybe you can share a story about when you first started. You were going to give a client some free advice. You gave that piece of advice and the client came back to you in the future, six months or two years, and they didn’t do anything. Did that ever happen?
Did it ever not happen? The story of everything is, “I don’t want to hire you because you’re too expensive. I’m going to go and Google this, and I’ll get back to you.” I give away a lot of advice in coaching programs and things like that. I’ll jump on my online course and my coaching. I’ll say, “Get a separate business bank account, set up a bookkeeping piece of software, and hire a bookkeeper to do this.” I’ll give all my recommendations that I’m sure any accountant is like, “Yes.”
At a bare minimum, separate your business and personal, and do the foundational stuff. I’ll tell them that all day and all night but everyone is like, “Yes,” but they never do it. Why? It’s because they don’t have anyone overseeing it. They don’t have accountability. They hear you and they know what’s good for them but for whatever reason, they don’t want to do it. I will tell them all day and all night, “This is what you should do.” They won’t do it unless they have that accountability. Even though it may seem from what I’m saying, “What’s the point of me sharing this if they’re not going to listen to me?”
Here’s the point. If you keep saying it, something will happen in their business life where they realize that you are right. Whether it’s a big IRS bill or a tax bill, the painful nights of sobbing tears over your bank statements while you’re trying to highlight them, figuring out what’s going on because you didn’t separate anything. Something will trigger an emotional response in them where they will go, “I should have done what Shannon said. Where is she? I need her.” They will realize that your counsel is valuable and they need you because you were there for them to give them that advice when they needed it. Even if they didn’t follow it, they will remember that you try to provide it.
Those are the clients you want. I met a gentleman a few weeks ago. He tunes in to the show. I’ve never personally worked with him, but my free advice lying in the sand is this show or my blog. If you want to craft your sales, have me figure out your pricing, and do all of the other elements for the time you get the lead or the time someone calls your firm and says, “How much do you charge?” If you want to get into the nitty-gritty detail, that’s about implementation and strategizing. That’s what Shannon was talking about.
Information is free. Implementation and individualization cost money.
It costs a lot of money and you pay a premium. The reason why is that when you strategize and you implement and you work with these clients, they do what you tell them to do. They show up to their meetings on time, they don’t cancel, and all of these other things. When there’s a synergy in the value exchange that’s high, there’s high implementation and a high completion rate of getting it done and doing the work. They’re obedient. The more money you pay for a human being is like a dog getting a lot of treats.
It is. This happened to me. I would miss my workouts all the time if it was just me and my virtual workouts. If I hired a trainer at $150 a session, I am not missing. I’ll wake up at 5:00 AM. I’m not wasting $150 per hour. The funny thing is it ends up being worth that money because it’s the certainty that you’ll execute. When you pay, you pay attention. You show up differently. You could say that that’s manipulation but it’s not. It’s a lot of psychology and expression of your commitment when you charge your rates and your worth. What am I worth?
If you demonstrate that you’re of high value through your pricing or however you would like to do that through your services, then you’ll have your clients show up a little bit differently to come work with you. There is a bit of that responsibility you have as the accountant to set the tone and that scene for them. They know what they’re signing up for by enrolling with you. We tend to commoditize ourselves in the industry by thinking, “I’m just doing a tax return for them.”
Here’s a great example. I’m doing an S corp election, form 2553, which is about four pages long. It takes me ten minutes to fill it out. Who am I to charge $2,000 for this? It’s only a few minutes of my time. Who cares what the effort is? We talked about this last time. We’re not charging on effort. We’re charging on value. They see an immense value in your ability to do this, especially if it’s a late S corp election and you got to write a little doctor’s note. It’s important to always preach the value yourself.
If we go back to how I was able to build my practice up, it comes down to setting yourself apart from the competition. Instead of going outward and looking at what other people are doing, you go inward and say, “How can I show up as a trusted person? How can I deliver value? What do I have in my arsenal in terms of knowledge? How can I show up and be present in these different outlets and share my knowledge with people freely?”
I have an Instagram. I have text message marketing. I have email marketing. I have a podcast. I have a multiple of a hundred people on each platform. I have 4,000-something followers on Instagram. Everyone is engaged with an accountant because they’re always learning something new or getting their curiosity provoked by an idea. It’s that one comment on Instagram or that one little piece of engagement to get them thinking about accounting. When they hit tax time or something comes up or they get an IRS letter, they’re going to go back and say, “I should talk to Shannon about that because she posted about that whenever.” They think of me as a resource because of that.
You’ll become top of mind. That’s for all of the CPAs, EAs, tax pros, geniuses, resolution work and CFO services. For all of you, when you get stuck in the value department, the discounting department or doing free work department, you’re like, “I’m sick of this. I need to fix this. I am sick of it,” I hope you think of me. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I have Instagram and I post on LinkedIn. If you’re on my email list, you are getting great stuff.The best way to find out how you're perceived is not to look in the mirror but ask someone who's looking at you and figure out what perception you're putting out there. Click To Tweet
I met a gentleman at an event a few weeks ago and he said, “I’ve sold $45,000 in extra services by implementing everything you’ve shared on every single one of your podcasts.” I was like, “That’s awesome.” He’s one of the 5% that will implement if you share everything and all your information. Anyone who has implemented things from this show is making more money because I’ve heard from you or I’ve read the reviews and you share that with me, and I’m so grateful.
I also know that there are going to be some of you that need a coach or a personal trainer for your top-line revenue in your business. We’ll work on our biceps. We’ll work on the letter S. We’ll work on the letter A. We’ll work on the letter L. We’ll work on the letter E, and we’ll work on the letter S, so they grow big without steroids. It’s about having that certainty in the results that you deliver. I have 100% certainty. Shannon has 100% certainty for her clients.
When you have that level of certainty, for the two of us, we don’t see any competition. There are other people that are helping with sales. It’s not marketing, but sales or the conversion piece. There are probably a lot of people. Sales is a thing in business for a long time. This is not anything new but they’re not me. They’re not fun. I’ve been told I’m a great female drill sergeant. I make sure you get stuff done. For you, Shannon, it’s the same thing. Your clients appreciate that. They get the results and you have the certainty to deliver those results.
Thank you for everything that you’ve shared. I want to ask you though, is there anything that popped up in your head that you want to share that we haven’t talked about yet, and what you did to work on the mindset piece and set yourself apart from the competition to get to the point where it doesn’t exist for you. If someone asks, “Why are you so much more expensive than H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, or me doing it on my own?” What do you say? Is there anything else that you would like to share?
There are a couple of things. One was the analogy we talked about before which was, “Why are you so much more expensive than H&R Block?” I’m like, “Look at a ticket to a Little League game and a ticket to a Yankee game. That’s what we’re dealing with.” Use whatever analogy that makes sense for your customer. That’s another thing. You can go to MinuteClinic to get checked out or you can go to your PCP who knows your whole history and what to expect and has certain training.
When you’re comparing these things, they’re not comparable because it’s a different whole level of service. The other aspect that you asked about was looking at the competition. We all fall into the comparison trap. We all end up through social media algorithms or otherwise, we end up being surrounded by people who are doing similar things to what we’re doing. It’s easy to fall into a comparison trap. I would say, “Put your blinders on. Don’t think of them as competition. Think of them as inspiration. Hone in on what is your unique value? What do you do better than anyone else?”
There is no better way to find that out than by asking people who follow you and are loyal to you. Say, “Why me? What sets me apart? What would you say are my distinguishing qualities?” Listen to them because the best way to find out how you’re perceived is not to look in the mirror but ask someone who’s looking at you, and figure out what perception you’re putting out there. Market research is amazing to find out and listen to people, listen to what they’re saying, and why they’re going with you or how they found you. You’ll get a feel for their values and what they’re looking for in their service provider so you know if you can serve them.
Thank you, Shannon, so much for being here with us again on the show. You’re a regular veteran here. You show up and deliver so much information to other firm owners. Maybe you’re stuck in a job and you want to go out on your own just like Shannon did. You have the freedom and flexibility to live anywhere in the world and have a remote firm. It’s completely possible. Implement some of what she said. Don’t just sit around. If you need accountability, you know who to call. I’m your female drill sergeant. I’m gentler than the Navy SEALs but you’ll get stuff done. Shannon, we will see you in the next episode in the future. Thank you for being here and contributing to others. It’s an honor to have you.
Thank you as always.
What an amazing episode with Shannon Weinstein. There was so much goodness in there. In this exercise that she talked about at the end, why don’t you pick ten clients? Give them a call and ask, “Why me? What sets me apart from other accounting firms that you’ve talked to in the past before hiring me?” Start to see what clients say about you. This little thing she said at the end is a huge mindset shift.
It will help improve confidence and for you to see what they value in you. That’s my biggest takeaway for each of you. As Shannon says, we can give information for free but when it comes to implementation, that costs money. I want you to do some market research on the clients that are paying you and what you want to get paid. It’s not the discounted fee and not the one where you had to just say you would make a deal because you were desperate for a client. Let’s not ask those.
I want you to ask the clients where you know they see something in you, but you’re not sure what it is. I would do that with ten clients. The truth is that firm owners are leaving thousands of dollars on the table annually per client because of heavily discounting their fees, which devalues their worth. We end up doing free work. Not giving free information but doing the free work. We get into a price negotiation to lure clients in. We do that with our legacy clients so they won’t leave us.
It’s a common marketing or sales tactic that has probably been around for a while and looks good on the surface, but it is not the way to get high-paying or highly valuable clients that you can do strategy implementation to work for. It’s the worst thing you could do. It’s exhausting to run a six-figure or more firm based on an outdated tactic like that. The clients I work with are increasing their revenue by as much as 3X by doing the exact opposite. They charge more. They retain current clients at high fees and they also retain their legacy clients.
If you’re sick and tired of discounting, getting into price negotiations, doing this free work, and then realizing, “I devalued myself and it’s cutting into my profits,” make sure to register and book a call with myself or my partner, Denise, over at TheAbundantCall.com. We will peel back the curtain, the layers of the onion, whatever you want to call it.
We’ll get to the bottom of why you’re stuck and why you’re not like Shannon who is doing six figures or more. Six-figures is anywhere between $100,000 and $999,999, but it is possible for you to generate 3X of your revenue, retain those clients, and never have that scarcity brain where you’re like, “I can’t lose anybody. I need to get these clients now.” If you want to explore that and the possibilities that exist, then head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. I will see you all in the next episode. Have a beautiful day.
- Previous Episode – Building Your Ideal Clientele Through Value-Based Pricing With Shannon Weinstein
- H&R Block
- Jackson Hewitt
- Instagram – Shannon Weinstein
About Shannon Weinstein
Shannon is a CPA running a 100% virtual practice serving small business owners looking to grow online. She offers monthly accounting, CFO services and tax strategy. Her unique approach has enabled her to grow her practice to multiple six figures in revenue in under two years and spend tax season working in Costa Rica. Shannon says the best thing about running her own practice is getting to choose clients that align with her goals so she is showing up with as much enthusiasm as possible.