As you strive to grow your advisory services, the process of delivering tax returns is a simple way for your firm to bring value to tax clients. If your firm is new to advisory, or new to an advisory-centric focus, what are opportunities to look for as you deliver your clients’ tax returns?
In this episode of Pulse of Practice podcast, “Advisory concepts to consider when delivering a tax return”, Paul Miller, CPA from Business by Design, and I discussed the opportunities for developing and adding value to your advisory relationships, with the tax return delivery as a key communication point.
Delivering tax returns is your number one opportunity to bring value to tax clients
When starting to shift the way you engage your clients into a more advisory-centric relationship, the delivery of a tax return is a key sales opportunity for an accounting firm.
“So many accountants go into [a client meeting] delivering a tax return saying ‘Here are the numbers. Here is what you owe. See you later,'” says Miller. “There is so much of an opportunity there to be able to say, what if we were to do something different?”
If you delivered a tax return and charged your client a total, what is really included in that total? Or maybe more importantly, what isn’t included? This is your sales opportunity. Any accounting firm can complete a tax return, so what else is your firm bringing to the relationship? Creating a clear definition of scope with your client is where you can add ideas, strategy, planning, etc. This is where you bring value into the conversation.
Offer an assessment, or reassessment, to clients
Accounting firms sometimes make assumptions on the mental state of their clients, assuming they know what they are thinking. As their accountant, you completed the task your client requested. However, if there is something more that could be offered, the client doesn’t necessarily know to ask that question. This is a matter of communicating what is available.
“I like the idea of offering an assessment to clients or reassessing where they are at,” notes Miller. “We often do this with existing clients and say, ‘Let’s take a reassessment of where you are at. Let’s make sure you’re doing what you need to do.”
The pattern of assessing your client’s business is the foundation. Create a checklist to review during each tax return delivery. Where is the growth? How do we protect from risks? What is the next step? Where can I bring value? This thought pattern, especially during the tax return process, is an easy way to start the advising conversation with your clients.
“I’m going to go in after April 15th, sit down with them, and I am going to go through an assessment of what I would do differently and start bringing some additional ideas to what you might need for your tax plan.”
Suggestions to bring value to tax clients should engage, not frighten
The number of possible assessments firms can make in order to bring value to tax clients can be overwhelming. You may have suggestions on the client’s entity structure, improving their qualified business income, how they are paying employees or contractors, etc. Your role, as the advising professional, is to help prioritize what is possible. We must engage the client, not pile thoughts on them until it scares them away. Start by asking yourself, what is your client’s biggest need? Biggest risk? Where can we show good value without overwhelming the client with every suggestion?
“What if I took the lead in the relationship and thought: if this was my business, this is what I would be doing,” adds Miller. “I feel like if we take that approach, we are going to come up with a priority list that we can start to make consumable for whomever the client may be.”
Not only will that process help you start making your priority list, it will help create advisory blueprints, or mechanics, to follow as a firm. Your team may have the same technical skill but not the same mental experience. With a foundation in place, you are allowing duplication to be possible. Thus, your firm can easily look for opportunities throughout your client base to bring value in a unified way.
Recognize your clients are not great at everything, and have it covered
“Our approach with clients, generally speaking, is this is not their thing,” says Miller. “Therefore, we just do it for them. That is built into the advisory process we have.”
“I also have this other theory about clients. Once we hang up the phone or you leave our office, you forgot everything we told you. What I’m saying is, there are going to be things that you know your clients are not good at. That is part of being in a true advisory firm. I already know those things, and we don’t worry about it because we have it covered.”
Encourage your clients to be singular-focused: generate revenue. Once they generate revenue, everything else can fall into place. Then, when your firm is ready to start a conversation when delivering tax returns, you can help your clients understand the value that is missing.
You, as their accountant who is growing the advisory relationship, must start the conversation if you want to bring value to tax clients. Educate the client on what else you can offer them. The clients will be willing to listen if you only make it a priority for your firm.
Listen to the “Advisory concepts to consider when delivering a tax return” episode of the Pulse of the Practice podcast on your preferred platform (Google Play, Apple, Spotify, Stitcher) or here.