Many accountants complain that their clients just are not interested in taking a management accounts service from their firm. In this article, Heather Townsend, founder of ‘The Accountants Millionaires’ Club’ explains how to sustainably sell management accounts to your clients and where most accountants are going wrong with this.
Clients do not want to buy management accounts
The accountants who complain that their clients don’t want to buy management accounts are absolutely right. They don’t. There is little to no value in a report. Seriously. What there is value in is the insight and interpretation of the report. After all if your client is on a package such as Xero they can get several management reports from within Xero. If they are a micro business, e.g. under £150k turnover, they may not need anything more than what Xero provides.
Clients only want two things other than help with their compliance
Your client is forced by law to do their year-end accounts and tax returns. As a result it is much easier to sell these types of services to clients, as you know and they know they need them. However, when it comes to any service which is optional, i.e. they can easily do it in-house or are not required to do it by law, they have no need to buy this from an accountant. As a result there needs to be a compelling reason to buy an optional service. Many accountants forget this when it comes to the sales conversation.
If you are going to sell something other than compliance related services you need to be giving your client insight, accountability or a mix of both. These are the only two reasons that a client will buy more than compliance related services from you. Therefore, the key to selling management accounts is to not sell the accounts but the insight that goes with the accounts. You may find that a client also values the accountability, which goes with sitting down regularly to discuss their management accounts.
You need to identify your clients’ pain points
Given that your clients need a compelling reason to buy management accounts from you, you need to understand their pain points. Where can the insight you provide with management accounts help relieve a client’s pain points? As a result before you start to provide a management accounts service to clients, do your research. For your ideal client – or a segment of your ideal clients – what do they really care about? Is it net profitability because they have an eye towards exit? Is it their day-to-day cash flow requirements because they are a business with a large need for working capital, e.g. retailers.
Once you have identified your clients’ pain points, it’s much easier to ask the right questions to quickly dig down to identify what insight they would value from you. And when they need insight, this typically means which management reports would they want you to provide and give commentary on?
Stop being an order taker
When you sell compliance related services it is easy to become an order taker. After all, you know that they need your compliance related services so you don’t need to dig into their business affairs that much. In effect you can become more akin to a waiter serving customers in a restaurant.
When I speak to accountants who are struggling to get their clients to take management accounts or reports from them, they all insist that they don’t act like an order taker. However, when we dissect their sales meeting technique, they realise that they are acting as an order taker. If you are selling effectively, rather than being an order taker, there should be no need to tell your prospective client about the range of services you can provide them.
If you want to get the right clients to take management accounts you need to propose a solution to them to help them solve their pain points. Rather than tell them about the range of services they could buy from you. In practice this means spending over half of the new business meeting finding out about their business, their goals, their challenges and what they are motivated to do or solve. Only once you have a clear picture of this can you suggest a solution, i.e. providing them with management accounts and reports.
Other people in your practice need to be able to deliver a management accounts service to your clients
Hopefully as a result of reading this article you realise that delivering a sustainable management accounts service is NOT about pressing a button and sending a report across to the client. For clients to get the true value of a management accounts service they will need to spend time with someone from your firm. If you want your management accounts service to be scalable, it has to be able to be delivered by more than just one person in your practice. This means training up more your staff to have the commercial nous to be able to give your clients the insight they require from the management accounts.
Heather Townsend is the Founder of ‘‘The Accountants Millionaires’ Club’. In 2015 the ICAEW decided she was the number one online influencer for the accountancy profession. She is the author of 4 books, including The Go-To Expert, and ‘How to make partner and still have a life’ (co-authored with Jo Larbie).