Tax season is often a CPAs busiest time of year. Many firms do not see clients during tax season in order to focus on getting the work done. Although approaches such as papers left with receptionists and e-mailed information from tax clients saves time you can devote to
preparing tax returns, there is also a cost that may be overlooked. The cost is the inability to connect with client needs during tax season.
Talking with clients and reviewing changes in their lives or their businesses while preparing tax returns is often the primary conversation with the client during the year. These tax preparation conversations are typically about changes affecting the client’s financial situation or business. In this way, the tax return provides access into some of the most important aspects of the client’s life or business. Connecting with the client regarding these changes puts you in the position to offer solutions to problems, answers to questions and referrals to colleagues who can help your client.
While some CPAs value the time and the focus on just getting the work done, others miss the client interaction. For most firms, I have been recommending a middle ground this year. This middle ground amounts to analyzing the client list and making strategic selections of key clients to meet with face-to-face for a few minutes. These are clients who are experiencing key changes or events and who are the best match for their ideal client.
Conversations with select clients during tax season will build loyalty and provide opportunities to offer clients valuable solutions throughout the year. This approach is a four-step process.
Step 1: segment your client list based on life events or business needs and identify clients within each segment who are the closest match for your ideal client. Look for such life events as marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, retirement, buying a business, death of a spouse, etc. Look for such business situations as profitability issues, very rapid growth, very small number of younger leaders, partners going through divorce, etc.
Step 2: identify solutions you can offer your client. A client in his or her mid-fifties, for example, is likely to be concerned now about his or her retirement income. The solution you might offer is an investment strategy (if you are qualified) or a referral to a financial advisor you trust. You might be able to offer a range of profitability strategies to help your client stabilize his or her business or achieve strategic goals.
Step 3: talk with the client long enough to explain the issue you have identified and suggest a meeting after tax season. Explain that you believe you can be of help with these needs or that you have some solutions that might be appropriate. Remember: you are not selling services. Do not sell and do not talk about services. Keep the conversation focused on solutions you can provide to help your client.
Step 4: schedule a meeting with the client after tax season. Do the research, prepare
carefully and thoroughly, and meet with the client to discuss solutions. Throughout
this process, of course, you must be careful about remaining within compliance guidelines for these discussions. This process will, I believe, accomplish two important goals for you and your firm: your interest in and concern for your client will foster client loyalty and by offering solutions, you will demonstrate your understanding of the client’s needs and your ability to provide help. It is far more important to the client that you understand and offer help than that you try to sell additional services.
If you connect with client needs during tax season, you build loyalty and increase the services you provide to your ideal clients. This process requires very little time during the busy tax season. Yet spending just a few minutes with the client will lay the groundwork for a larger role with the client throughout the year(s) to come.