Effectively implement tax planning strategies with clients
Each year, we grind away for hours recording the tax impact of our clients’ prior-year activities. How many times have we wanted to say, “Why didn’t you call me?” when faced with a detrimental tax decision made by a client? Not all decisions should be made based on tax impact alone; however, how much better would it be for clients to be aware of that impact before decisions are made?
Building a multidimensional approach to implement tax planning strategies for your clients will provide clarity and structure to your advisory practice and marketing efforts. Understanding how all the steps work together will help you create a plan for future service offerings and business development.
Analyze your client list
Know your clients! This is the first step in identifying relevant tax strategies. Naturally, when you’re meeting with clients or reviewing tax returns with them, you can quickly point out actions they can take to improve their tax situation. However, depending on your clientele, they may not be ready to hear what you have to say. Also, as a major filing deadline approaches, you may become reluctant to devote some of your time to tax planning exercises.
Typically, tax professionals have a good idea which niches they serve. What may not be known are the specifics. Take a few hours to make some observations about your client list. Consider the following questions:
- For business clients, how large is the business? What kinds of entity structures are in place?
- What industries do your business clients represent? How many clients are in each industry?
- When do operations tend to slow down?
- What business cycle are they in?
- How long do they take to pay their invoices?
- Are they seeking an advisor or just another commodity provider?
- Do they struggle to get their information to you in a timely manner?
- Do they have a succession plan?
- What stage of life are they in? Are they nearing retirement?
- Who usually communicates with you?
- What questions are you asked repeatedly?
- How does the client prefer to communicate?
After you know more about your clients, you can start building a roadmap of the types of information they need and how you can help them reach their goals.
Understand your clients’ needs
Now that you know more about your clients, it’s time to dig deeper into their personalities. No need for the psychologist’s couch here, but there will be some insight and possible research required. It’s likely that your clients have a variety of needs, but the Pareto Principle tells us that 20% of the issues are causing 80% of the problems. What issues typically plague those in the industries you serve the most? Do your clients often bring up the same types of problems?
One great way to find out what clients need is just ask them. Choose a week in the not-so-distant future to spend 15 minutes a day reaching out to at least your top five clients. Ask them how they’re doing and what keeps them up at night. Be sure they understand this is a check-in call if you think they may be concerned about getting invoiced for the time.
Another way to find out what clients want (or need) is to host an informal survey. If you have a social media presence, these platforms offer the ability to ask quick questions. You also could create an online survey and send it to your current clients with a request for their participation. A simple instruction to your staff to keep a running list of the types of questions clients ask most often can offer valuable insight into your clients’ minds.
With the details you have discovered in your client analysis, you can begin to brainstorm how the services you (or those in your business development network) offer can help clients meet their needs.