“What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life?”
Are you an accounting professional striving to make a positive difference to your clients' lives? Your answer to this question asked in a Gallup Poll could reveal the secret to your competitiveness.
In a second question, Gallup asked respondents to list the words that best describe what that leader contributed to their lives. Then Gallup boiled down the words into four distinct categories. Each of these categories is important for the practice growth for accounting professionals.
- Trust (i.e., honesty, integrity and respect)
- Compassion (i.e., caring, friendship, happiness and love)
- Stability (i.e., security, strength, support and peace)
- Hope (i.e., direction, faith and guidance)
In my book, "Accountaneur: The Entrepreneurial Accountant," I explain what these words could mean for your clients.
As an accounting professional, the "tangibles" do matter. Like the financial statements, receivables and payables aging analysis, payroll taxes and so on. Why do your clients obtain these “tangibles” from you and not from your competitor. The answer lies in the “intangibles” listed above.
These intangibles belong to “abstract” category. It is difficult to “measure” them. We can’t say something like “as an accountant, I provide 73.28 percent hope to my clients.”
How, then, accountants can lead with “intangibles” to grow their practice?
Competitors find it difficult to copy your intangibles
The most important factor to know is this. "Intangibles give you a sustainable competitive advantage."
Few people clearly can articulate their hopes. But when people see words that resonate with their hopes, it can create those 'aha' moments.
Similar software, similar education and similar experience help your competitors produce similar tangibles. At similar or lower price. The net result is commoditization and fee pressures. It makes it easier for clients to replace accounting services providers.
Make sure your prospects get to know about your intangible strengths. Obtain from your existing clients testimonials that revolve around the words mentioned above. Words that express your intangible strengths. These are power words that can move the core emotions of people.
It is not a psychological ploy. It is not the intent to use such ploys that can hinge on the border of unethical practice. It is to help people recognize the intangibles. Few people clearly can articulate their hopes. But when people see words that resonate with their hopes, it can create those “aha” moments.
Can you quantify the intangibles?
By nature, intangibles are not easy to quantify. How can your clients understand the value of the intangibles? Can you quantify the intangibles?
You always sell some intangible benefits. For example, when you're truly compassionate and caring, you will notice threats from clients' financial situations. You will tell them so candidly. Your intangible strength converts into a “consulting analytics” service. That has more tangibility attached to it.
Help your clients identify a dollar value of such benefit, wherever possible. For example, let's say you provide “free consulting” along with financial statements. Put a dollar value line item on your invoice for it. At the end of the invoice, provide a “promotional” or “loyalty” or “volume” discount credit. Knock off that dollar amount from the bill via that discount.
You will need to “prime” the prospects’ mind by providing case studies about how your services saved certain costs, reduced time to market, improved ROI, made clients aware of opportunity costs and so on – anything that relates to prospects business. This helps create that extra dollar value in prospect’s mind.
Many times, your prospect may not even know such aspects. You will need to ask relevant questions to help them think what that dollar value can be.
These are just starting ideas for you to recognize and productize your intangible strengths. Do not let your intangible strengths lie dormant in your sales and marketing efforts.
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Hitendra R. Patil is COO of Pransform Inc., and author of "Accountaneur: The Entrepreneurial Accountant."