Use this formula to build trust with customers
Clients sometimes see CPAs as simply compliance, tax, audit, or insurance professionals. But there are benefits to customers seeing you as more of a partner and a guide.
The “trusted advisor role” in an accountant’s career is more critical than ever, according to Angie Grissom, owner and relationship manager at The Rainmaker Companies in Nashville, Tennessee, who has nearly two decades of experience in business. helping accountants and consultants become better communicators. and leaders.
“In every market over the past year, business leaders have had to adapt and change the way they recruit, lead, nurture and develop their employees or they risk losing them. It’s the same with customers, ”said Grissom, who will speak on gaining customer trust, as well as other topics such as agility and change management, in a July 29 session at AICPA AND CIMA COMMIT 2021.
CPAs can position themselves to be the ones clients seek advice from when making financial or business decisions – and in doing so, become more valuable.
To become that go-to professional, CPAs need to make a connection and then a relationship with clients, Grissom said. This can prevent customers from going to a lower priced business or someone who feels “new and shiny,” she said.
One way to develop a deeper relationship with customers, said Grissom, is to work on the “trust equation” described in the classic book The trusted advisor, by David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford. The confidence equation looks like this:
Confidence = Credibility + Reliability + Privacy
Based on Grissom’s experience, here’s how accountants and finance professionals can interpret each area of the equation:
- Credibility comes from the knowledge acquired through diplomas, continuing education and professional activities. To increase their credibility, professionals can become more involved in industrial niches or be certified in different fields. For example, a manufacturing CPA might attend manufacturing industry events and read business documents, Grissom said.
- Reliability means more than just doing what you say you’re going to do, showing up on time and being professional. Instead, it should include offering customers crucial and critical information and insight, while proactively bringing them ideas and solutions. “When professionals are able to understand the activities of their customers and prospects in a way that anticipates needs, it establishes them as being more reliable,” she said.
- Privacy is the area where accountants, who are typically more focused on the technical aspects of their jobs, typically have the most difficulty, said Grissom. It involves getting to know someone else as a human and getting them to open up enough to have real conversations that provide answers beyond what the numbers tell you. “Intimacy is about building the relationship beyond just focusing on the business over time,” she said. “It gives you a holistic understanding of what the customer is dealing with.”
- Reduce personal interest by focusing on the needs and interests of the client, said Grissom. They need to know that you are focused on their success, not just hitting a quota or the checkbox. Ask probing questions that may require outside expertise, then offer to help you find the solution. “It shows the customer that you are all about them and not just about a sale,” she said.
The trust equation is used to help professionals shape the way they want clients, colleagues and members of their community to see them, Grissom said. “Each person has the opportunity to determine how they wish to be known,” she said. “Many never ask this question in their careers, especially at the beginning.”
By thinking about how they can improve each part of the equation, CPAs can develop a plan of action to improve their relationships with others. The equation applies to professionals at all levels of their careers because “every relationship can be improved,” said Grissom. “There is always work to be done.”
ENGAGE 2021, The AICPA and CIMA’s premier conference for accountants and finance professionals, will be held online and in person this year. Join us at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas or remotely July 26-29 for keynotes and sessions on accounting and auditing; tax; Technology; leadership; personal financial planning; diversity, equity and inclusion; and more.
– Dawn wotapka is a freelance writer based in Georgia. To comment on this article, contact Courtney Vien, a JofA editor-in-chief at [email protected]