How often are you asked for free advice? The second you let people know that you’re an accountant, they probably start asking you question after question.
It can get overwhelming, plus giving all of that free information away doesn’t help you AND it doesn’t help those friends of yours either.
Not to mention, that when you give advice away for free, the prospect rarely (if ever) takes action on the advice you gave?
It’s a pretty common occurrence, one that many of my accountant clients have experienced.
In fact, when someone pays for your services they are much more likely to take the advice, put it into action and then benefit from that action.
The key here… Stop giving away everything for free! 😉
There is a better way to serve your prospects, prove your worth and land the new client without sharing everything you know.
In this episode, Denise and I share all of our reasons for not giving away information for free, plus we share how you can still serve your clients without giving **too** much away!
Enjoy, and thank you for listening and tuning into The Abundant Accountant Podcast!
Special thanks goes out to Denise Mandeau for taking the time to chat with Michelle. Be sure to join us next week for our next new episode!
Here are a few key secrets we talked about in this episode:
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P.S. Do you feel like you give away too much information for free? Or you’re tired of inconsistent income after tax season is over? Or you feel like you’re not being paid what you’re worth? If you’re like many accountants you may feel like you’re on the cashflow rollercoaster!
There is a solution – a proven, time-tested way to get off that cashflow rollercoaster once and for all. You’ll be able to connect with high-level clients & business owners that you want; communicate your value, have a proven process that you can follow, collect higher fees with confidence and be paid what you’re worth so you can work less and make more money! Join our Abundant Accountant Masterclass today!
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The Problems With Accounting Firms Giving Advice Away For Free With Denise Mandeau
Welcome to the Abundant Accountant show. This is where accountants come to learn all the ways you can grow your firm. When you are in doubt, we are here to help you out. If you’re ready to learn and ready to grow your firm, then you are in the right place to sharpen those skills and increase your revenue.
Denise and I are often asked a lot, “How much free advice should you give away to potential clients?” We wanted to have a conversation about that in this episode. We totally get it. We’ve even been asked this ourselves. We always talk about it. Should we go on and do all of this content and provide it to you for free? After all, we do want to build the know, like and trust factor with each of you. We know that building trust is the number one way to work with future clients that you want to help and serve. Why not help a little first and then you might want to work with us in the future? You never know.
It’s a great way for you to get to know us. We love doing it. That’s also the number one thing. You want to make sure that you love what you do if you will be giving away any free content, depending on how much advice you’re going to give away for free. We’re going to talk about that. Also, in this episode, we will help you determine how much free advice and what type of free advice to give that is best for you and your clients without sacrificing your value. That is the topic for this episode. Welcome, Denise. Thank you for being here.
I’m so excited. This is our first in the series. I love working with you and the accountants and helping them grow their businesses. I’m super excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Let’s give a little bit of background on us for those of you that might not know us. My name is Michelle, also known as the Pitch Queen. It’s more like selling your services and offering and working with clients instead of baseball. I’m not a baseball pitcher. I have a degree in Finance. I have been in sales for a very long time.
I worked at an accounting firm that some of you might have heard of before called Moss Adams in Seattle, Washington. After about three years of that, it wasn’t my thing. Probably like a lot of you here, you wanted to open up your own practice or your own firm. You didn’t want to work in one of the big 5 or 4 or however many are left now.
That was the same for me, but I loved working with people. Through all of my years of experience that I’ve had, I’m now here to help each of you grow the business and firm or practice that you love, and work with the clients that you love to work with too. A lot of our students in our classes call them the PITA clients. I won’t go into detail but I think you all know what PITA might stand for. We want to work with people that we love too. That’s a little bit about me. Denise, would you like to introduce yourself?
I am Denise Mandeau. I’m the East Coast representative. I live in New Jersey, just ten minutes from the beach. I have been helping people understand how to engage in sales conversation for years. I was in the financial services industry for over 22 years and have worked with professionals. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I’m 21 years old. I’m not going to tell you how many years that is now. I love having these conversations and helping you grow your business so you can be doing more of what you love, which is serving people and connecting with them sooner, and being able to help them solve their problems. That’s why we’re here. I’m excited to be of service to you.
Thank you for being here. Denise will most likely be here once or twice a month, so we’ll see. Make sure to get our reminders. I only send them once a week so we don’t overwhelm you with anything. Let’s get into what we’re talking about. Why would anyone give away advice or content for free? Denise, you can give your take after this, but giving away free advice can be an investment in the future of your business and position yourself as an expert in the industry.
I’ll give you an example. We love to work with accounting professionals to build confidence in your sales conversations as it relates to working with the clients that you love. Sometimes, let’s say a client comes to you. They might say, “The CPA or enrolled agent down the street will work with me but it’s $200 less, so bye.” We lose clients all the time because of price or that’s it. What we found working with a lot of the accounting professionals that we love to work with is positioning yourself specifically in a niche or an industry.
Maybe all you do is you’re the book bookkeeping expert queen. If that’s your thing, maybe you can teach business owners best practices for bookkeeping. That’s what we’re talking about. Ultimately, you have to know how much, when and what type of information you do want to give away. It’s very important. Where are you going to draw a line in the sand? Otherwise, you run the risk of selling yourself short and devaluing your services.
You might be wondering, “Michelle and Denise, why are you here talking to us about how much free advice to give away or how much free information to give away?” It’s a great question. Number one, we love it. Number two, we also know that as it relates to your sales conversations and growing your businesses, it’s a very detailed process. Even if we were here for the next 20 or 30 minutes, I don’t think that today will completely transform your business unless you are holding yourself accountable well. Denise, from your point of view, why do you think we give away the free advice or education that we provide now?
The number one answer that we get from all of the feedback that we get from our students is you want people to like you. You want people to know that you’re smart and that you know your stuff. What do we hear over and over? “How many of you get those? I have a quick question,” and you don’t want to not answer them. That’s an example.
You give away a lot of free advice just by answering quick questions or you’re out at a networking event and somebody’s like, “You’re an accountant. What about this? What about that?” We get that all the time and we don’t realize how much we give away and it’s not serving people. You think you’re giving away value but maybe sometimes it’s not that valuable. How can you answer a quick question without knowing the person’s situation and without understanding what’s needed? It’s like a band-aid. We don’t want to give out band-aids.
The main problem is that you’re devaluing yourself and your services. You lessen your value if you give away too much free advice. Remember, Denise, we were working with Kate. Before she started with us, she was giving away a lot of free advice. What she told us and I don’t know if each of you might resonate with this, but she had a lot of clients asking her that exact same question. “I have a quick question,” or they wanted to change entity types. Maybe it was LLC to S-Corp or C-Corp or whatever it is. She literally gave them a list of things to do and then she didn’t charge for it.
The next year goes by, it’s time to do the tax returns. The client didn’t do anything that she had asked them to do. Number one, the advice was given away for free on real detailed information, which Denise and I are helping you but we don’t give you all of the details. We’re here to inspire you and help you a little bit but ultimately, if you want to get help with your sales conversations, we need to talk.
Just like Kate, she gave away this information for free. She met her clients a year later. They didn’t do anything that she asked them to do because there wasn’t a value tied to the work that she suggested. What if Kate would’ve charged her clients $2,000? I’m just making numbers up. If someone makes a large investment in you, they’re more bound to follow through and do the work. It didn’t help Kate because she didn’t get paid. It didn’t help the client because they didn’t save any money, which was Kate’s whole plan for them. Everyone was lost in that situation. It was like a lose-lose-lose situation.
There are other ways that you can show your value. You can speak to your clients in terms of results and share with them how and why maybe they need those results. As Denise was saying earlier, ask good questions to get to the root cause of the problem, and then they don’t need to know or want how to do the exact thing. Kate provided the how. However, Kate’s client never paid her. The clients never paid Kate for the how, and so the how never got completed. Denise, how often do you see that happening?
All the time. I remember even Lauren had some of the same problems. People would call and say, “I have a question.” She’d spend her time with them and everything, and then they wouldn’t even implement.
What we found was that a lot of people wouldn’t implement the free advice that you were giving.
They’re wasting your time and theirs just because they’re curious. Sometimes that is true. They’re not testing you to see if you’re smart. You have a degree. They already know you’re smart.
We work with some of the most intelligent humans on earth and that’s why we love it. That’s why we are here bringing you the Abundant Accountant show. It is so you can have a life filled with abundance, not only with enjoying your work and working with the clients that you love but ultimately, having an abundance with the actual work that you do. It will turn into more revenue in your business because they go hand in hand.
Always remember, relationships and rapport are the priority. That’s the basis for everything we’re talking about. By providing some free advice or free content like what we’re doing now, we are building a business relationship and we’re building rapport with each of you. You get to see what Michelle is all about. You get to see what Denise is all about and you get to see if you like us. Over time, you’ll get to know us. Over more time, hopefully, you’ll be able to trust us along with other people that we’ve helped.
Learn what some of your clients’ challenges are. Get down to the bottom of what’s painful to them and where can you help and be of service, then research those topics to talk about and help them understand maybe industry-specific circumstances. In Kate’s example, I don’t remember what industry they were in but maybe her clients were in construction. Maybe there’s a great article that Kate could have emailed to all of her construction clients. That is a good piece of free advice or free content to share. You’re not giving away any of your knowledge or any of your expertise. You’re not telling them how to fix the problem. You’re simply building rapport. You’re building the relationship, and that’s what this is all about. Denise, what did Lauren do?With a good piece of free advice or free content, you're not giving away any of your knowledge or expertise. You're simply building rapport. You're building a business relationship. Click To Tweet
She stopped answering the questions that are like, “I need a quick question answered.” She started asking more questions. We taught her how to answer a question with a question, and then she started finding out, “Are these people even qualified? Are they somebody I even want to work with?” Just because somebody asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer them. That’s a big lesson to learn.
That is a big lesson. We’re going to talk about that in a different show. Let’s go over to another problem, which is devaluing yourself or maybe even your services. If you continually give away free advice, people are less likely to take action on the work like we just talked about with Kate and her client because there’s no value attached to it. As I mentioned earlier, it is a lose-lose situation. Have you dealt with anything else like that with other clients that we’ve worked with her, even before when you were a financial advisor too?If you continually give away free advice, people are less likely to take action because there's no value attached to it. Click To Tweet
I experienced that even myself. When I would give that time away and those answers to people, not only did they not value it. They didn’t value me. Why do they need to hire me? I’m going to give it away to them. That’s what happens. When you train people that it’s okay to do that, then they don’t think they need to hire you for anything. You’re devaluing yourself because now it’s like, “Why should I pay you? I could get it for free.” That’s rampant in the industry too.
It is, especially in the accounting field. What are 1, 2 or 3 things that come off the top of your head for someone reading? Where should they draw a line in the sand? Which 1 or 2 pieces of free content or advice do you think the accounting professionals are okay to give away? Where do we stop and close our mouths and we do not do that until we get paid?
It’s okay to give very general information, meaning to point to some of the problems that people are facing or that they have an area of expertise in. Maybe some new law came out or something like that and it affects a particular industry that you’re serving. It’s something that they need to be aware of that there’s something going on. It’s going to be helpful for them to know something that they didn’t know before that might impact them.
Awareness content. I like that.
Communication would be something because it’s all about building relationships. It might be something fun that you could provide like statistics or something. Statistics wouldn’t be fun but for some accountants, it might be.
For the clients, it might not be so fun. For me, it would be. If you sent me statistics, I am a left-brain entrepreneur, so I am all about the stats. I will take statistics and spreadsheets all day long. For those of you that might not know me yet, my nickname is Spreadsheet. One of my good friends is Monique. She’s a comedian. She’s like, “Michelle, between you and I, we make one whole person.” I am super left-brain and I am all about spreadsheets. Anyway, go on.
Maybe you have a specific niche that you’re going after like doctors or professionals or the manufacturing industry. It’s something that would be of interest to them. Maybe something innovative is coming out in their industry and it could be a great thing for them to invest in to grow their business. Something that’s not specifically related to giving them actual advice on a topic that is of interest and adds value.
I consider it insider value. What if we call it insider value? You know about it because you’re the expert but your client or your potential client wouldn’t know about it. You’re able to provide some insider value that will help the person, but you’re not solving any of their massive problems. The clients that solve massive problems are paid clients. We save that time for paying clients.
That insider value is all about uncovering some problems that you may not be aware of. My job is I’m here to protect you. If you keep doing that, it’s going to stir their interest, “There’s somebody who cares about me that’s going to protect me. Maybe I need to get more in touch with you or listen to you more.”
The solution is not only being clear upfront about what you need from your clients in order to start working with them, but continuing to focus on the results that you can get them, and how you can be of service to these people or to your clients. Providing insider value is a great way to give not only maybe some free advice or free content, but you’re not there to solve any of the problems at the end of the day.
Also, remember that even in this situation with Kate or with Lauren, neither of them had enough information on the client’s background or on their business. It can’t be a quick easy question. There’s nothing quick and easy about a long-term business relationship. It’s like getting married, Denise. I’m not married but Denise is married. I don’t think there was anything quick and easy about how you and your husband have been married for so long. I see it as you’re creating a marriage with your future client.
The best thing is your intention is to become their trusted advisor or their go-to person. It’s not only about saving them taxes. That’s a big part of it, but it’s about understanding their life and what’s important to them. That’s how you build relationships. That’s why people are going to want to engage with you because you care and you show that.
You have to care and you are the expert. Remember, you are the expert. Denise explains this so well so I’m going to let her have the floor. Denise, when you go to the doctor or the surgeon to diagnose you, would you expect them to just do it for free? Typically, I pay copays. If you don’t have insurance, which most people have to have insurance these days, but nothing is done for free when you get to the nitty-gritty of someone’s problems.
Have you ever called a doctor and said, “Can you even get him on the phone for free advice?” Think about that. You can’t, right? You got to get through nine people to get to them. When you go to the doctor’s office even, before you even see the doctor, you get to pay your copay. They don’t even talk to you. They won’t let you through the door until you pay for that to even talk and find out what their advice is, and what they can provide for you.
We might see a doctor provide some free advice or content on a TV show. Maybe that doctor is speaking at a conference and you get to hear them for fifteen minutes. That’s the kind of free advice that’s okay, insider value.
You’re not going to find out if you need brain surgery by listening to the doctor on TV. You’re not going to be able to diagnose that. For some of your clients, it’s like they have cancer. They have cancer in their business and they expect you to give them a diagnosis with a quick question. You can’t do that.
The “I have a quick question” doesn’t work. Also, would you take free advice seriously from a doctor who didn’t take the time to ask you the questions or do a full exam on you? I don’t know, Denise. Would you?
Hell no. I’d be running away.
I would be bolting the other way. At the end of the day, remember you must pay experts for their time and their expertise. It means that for each of you, your clients or your potential clients must pay you for your time and expertise. There is no quick question. There is no quick email at the end of the day when you step back and analyze.
Think about how many email questions you respond to last week, and add up how much time you spent on that exact task, like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. How many quick questions or email responses did you provide to your clients? Tally up the amount of time it took you and what results did it bring not only to the top-line revenue in your business, but did the clients even follow through and benefit either?
At the end of the day, it’s all about serving our clients and helping them. I don’t think we’re doing that. The problem that I’m getting to is wasting time. We are probably all wasting time, which was our most valuable resource. You can’t get time back. All the time that you spent on small calls and answering people’s questions add up. If you add up all the small calls you took or all the emails that you’ve sent and you’ve never charged for them, it will all add up to a lot of money. It’s not only in time, but time translates to dollars.
People will be shocked if you do that exercise. You’ll be shocked at how much time and what that is costing you.
What we recommend you do is take an inventory and reflect on the total hours that you invested and the total dollars that you received in return for all of the time you spent on small calls answering the, “I have a quick question” or all of the emails that you got from non-paying clients. Add it all up and then see how much revenue did you get from that.
Another point, Michelle. It’s not just from non-paying clients. Some of your paying clients are doing that too.
Should we share the story about Mark? Mark, if you’re tuned in, this is you giving the gift of the lessons learned in your ten years in your CPA firm that a lot of other accounting professionals can benefit from. Mark and I did this exercise. I think he had three people or three employees on a client, and the client had fifteen different entities and lots of emails back and forth. They were billing per hour and per time before.
What he found was not only did a lot of the team miss the amount of time that they were spending answering calls and emails but also Mark’s time was never billed for. He didn’t even have enough time to calculate the time that he spent on his clients. The ending of the story was they had to separate the relationship because it was costing him money. It might have been break-even some months, but most of the months, it was negative on all of that.
As Denise said, you’re paying clients could be a big piece to this puzzle of wasting time, which is your most valuable resource. What about attracting the wrong types of clients? You attract people who are only interested in free advice. When you give away too much free advice or the wrong free advice to the wrong people or whatever, they’re not paying potential clients. One of the things that you do is by providing free advice, not only will it take time away from your ideal and paying clients like what Mark was dealing with but it’s also not even fair to them. It limits you to what you can provide for free.
You have to create some boundaries of this is what I will do and this is what I won’t do. One of the boundaries that Denise and I have is we host this show once a week. We provide you with some free advice and free content that will make a difference in your business. However, we don’t do one-on-one calls all the time with people that are not our ideal clients. We do not send emails to every single person that asks us a question.
We host live Q&A calls so a group of people can come together and ask us anything they want as it relates to their sales conversations. It’s live but you know what? We love doing it. We don’t tell you how this is going to play out in your system, practice or firm with all the details because that would be doing you a disservice. We wouldn’t know all of the issues, problems, struggles or challenges that you might be having with your sales conversation. It’s not the best thing for you to do.
It’s like we had a recipe for a delicious chocolate gourmet cake, but we only gave you three ingredients but there were fifteen. How would that come out? Not so good.
That’s a great way to put it. With your clients, think of it, especially with all of the accounting professionals that we’ve worked with, the CPAs, enrolled agents, bookkeeping experts or whatever your expertise is. It is a very detail-oriented business that you’re in. Each client is unique and not the same as any other client.
I don’t think anyone we’ve worked with has had a client like, “They’re like them.” It just doesn’t happen. It’s making sure that you create great boundaries as to what you will provide and what you will not provide until you get paid as a paying client. Remember, these are good points. Do you prefer to get paid for work or to run a nonprofit? With Kate and Lauren, both of them weren’t running a nonprofit.
When you have that sense of, “That was a waste of time if I deal with another client that tells me I’m too expensive and goes down the street,” or whatever those things that are coming up for you now, remember to think that you are in business to have revenues and have profits just like your clients are. Why do you have to run your business any differently? Denise always likes to talk about our tire kickers or window shoppers or price shoppers. There will always be those people out there. They’re never going to go away. Recognize them for what they are and just know that they’re not your ideal clients.As an accounting professional, you are in business to have revenue and profit just like your clients are. So why do you have to run your business any differently? Click To Tweet
However, you might get referrals from time to time from people that are not the best fit for you. You want to keep an eye out for that too. One of the things on the Abundant Accountant show is don’t fall into scarcity. Denise can talk a little bit more about the scarcity mindset, but I feel like if giving away free advice is the only way to show our value in work, then why do you even want paying clients? You have to draw a line in the sand and know your worth and stick to your boundaries as to here’s what we will provide, some insider value as we talked about. Free advice is okay if you use it correctly and have the proper game plan in place.
Sometimes those tire kickers or window shoppers are the right client but if you don’t know how to address them, then you can miss out on some potential opportunities to turn them into premium high-priced clients. If you’re always focused on that because that’s what you’ve been conditioned to do, then you’ll keep attracting those people because it’s energetically even. If that’s what you think about most, you’re going to attract more of them. If you’re always like, “The price shoppers,” guess what? You’re going to keep getting more of those. There are ways to address that and turn it around. As Michelle said, maybe even turn them into a referral source for you.
What’s the number one way you turn those people around, Denise? We’ll give away a little nugget now.
I don’t know. They should tune into our webinar when we do that. They can find that out. They can find out the answer.
At the end of the show, we’ll give it away if you want to dive in a little bit deeper on how you can do that.
We don’t have enough time to go through that thoroughly.
We don’t want to provide you with a pre-band-aid on something that you can learn from. To sum it all up, focus on the results and the service instead of the free advice with your clients. If you do need to provide something, think about the insider value. We want to attract your ideal clients. Your ideal clients are the people that you want to work with, and not the price shoppers or tire kickers that are looking for something for free and they’ll never value you anyway, no matter what.
We want to focus on increasing your value. By providing some insider value or doing things like what Denise and I do through our show, we are providing you with an opportunity to get to know us or maybe like us, and then over time, you’ll build a trust factor. It helps us increase our value to you so you know we’re the real deal and we know what we’re talking about.
Between Denise and I, we have well over 40 years of experience. We know what we’re talking about but maybe you don’t know us yet. This is an opportunity for you to get to know us, learn from the Pitch Queen team, have the life of abundance that you’re looking for, and have the practice and firm of abundance that you’re looking for. Enjoy every single day instead of being stressed out and tired, which is what a lot of accounting professionals that we’ve encountered are struggling with. You do want to position yourself to stand out from other competitors.
There might be a CPA down the street. There might be an enrolled agent down the street. How are you different? Show your expertise and results. I can tell you now, most accounting professionals do not send any insider value information. If you do that one thing now, you will start to set yourself up and position yourself differently than the other people in your industry. You’ll also be seen as an authority in your industry.Most accounting professionals do not send any insider value information. So if you just do that one thing today, you will start to position yourself differently from the other people in your industry. And you'll also be seen as an… Click To Tweet
Being an authority means that you know what you’re talking about and you don’t have to prove yourself when you’re meeting with new clients all the time. A lot of times, and you might resonate with this, you’re with a new client and you want to answer all their questions because it’ll make your clients think that you’re smart and you know everything.
Trust me, Denise and I know. We have not met one accounting professional that wasn’t super intelligent and super bright. That’s why we love what we do because we get to work with you. It’ll help you be seen as an authority in your industry. Denise, is there anything else you would like to add to the end of this episode?
The reason why we love helping and serving CPAs and accounting professionals is because we want you to have a great life. It’s not just about you. It’s about you, your families and your businesses. We don’t want you to work so hard. We want you to work smart. We want you to make more money. That’s why we’re here, to help you do that. We appreciate you and we love hearing success stories. We love making a difference for you and it’s an honor.
Thank you all so much for joining us. It was an honor to be here, as Denise said. We will send out a message on our next episode. Have a great Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evening, whatever day you’re tuning in to this.
Thank you so much for joining Denise and I on our first episode of the Abundant Accountant show. It was an honor to spend with you and talk about two main things. It’s about how much you want to value yourself and not devalue yourself when it comes to giving away too much information or free advice. At the end of the day, it’s a time waster, and people don’t even implement anything if you give it away for free.
It’s a lose-lose-lose situation as we talked about. Coming and being from a place of service is what it’s about. What we suggest as we discovered here is to create awareness content for your clients. Keep them aware. Maybe it’s in a specific industry, niche or type of client with a net worth of $1 million or more.
Always be providing insider value like we are providing to you a lot of insider value so you can better your sales conversations and feel more confident as it relates to enrolling the right clients into your services in your accounting practice or firm. If you have a quick second, I would be grateful if you could leave us a rating and a review on iTunes and subscribe to the show. We always like hearing from you.
One last thing before I let you go. If you have ever felt like you give away too much information for free or you’re tired of not being paid what you’re worth, then you probably are like many accountants that we’ve worked with and you may feel like you’re on a cashflow roller coaster. We have a solution. You can join us for our Accountant Masterclass by going to TheAbundantAccountant.com to learn how to communicate your value, collect higher fees with confidence, and be paid what you’re worth so you can work less and make more money. We would love to see you there. Thanks again for tuning in and have a great day.
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