We’ve all been there. You have a client meeting to review the Annual Accounts coming up. You get swept up in the day and don’t spend time planning the meeting. That’s doing an injustice to your client as well as to your firm.
But before we even get into how to conduct better client meetings, here’s an important question for you.
How often do you meet with clients (whether that’s online or face to face)?
Put simply, more meetings equals more opportunities to help clients, and that means increased revenue for your firm.
MORE MEETINGS EQUALS MORE SALES
With that thought in mind, now is a good time to review both the frequency and the effectiveness of your existing meeting rhythms.
Every meeting should have a purpose
Every single time you meet with a client, the objectives of that meeting should be clear to both of you. This requires a clear meeting structure:
We believe there are five essential meetings you should deliver to better support your clients, while at the same time positioning and selling your Business Advisory services. These five meetings are:
The PAM is your first meeting with a prospective client. Ideally, this should be a complimentary meeting that is jam packed with value. Objectives include:
It’s important that you position the value of the Proactive Accounting Meeting well. Add this to your website and position the value of this meeting in your email and other communications.
The CCR is the most successful way for accounting firms to sell Business Advisory services to existing clients.
The CCR is an annual complimentary 60-minute meeting. This meeting is for existing clients rather than future clients. The objectives are similar to that of the PAM, in that you want to establish:
As this meeting is designed for existing clients, the meeting process will encourage questions that go a little deeper to get to the heart of the issues. After all, you already have a trusted relationship and you’ve worked with them before.
The CCR is a very subtle sales process in which you ask questions within different categories, such as:
To take a peek at just one of our categories of CCR questions in our Delivery Notes, ‘Long Term Goals’, click here. To view our entire CCR delivery process, book a demo here, or take a trial of The Gap.
We don’t need to labour the point here. Most firms run this meeting every year for most clients. If you don’t, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to help clients, and arguably, your clients aren’t getting the support they deserve.
Yes, the key purpose of this meeting is to review the draft Annual Accounts and make sure clients understand their tax position. This meeting should also be structured to improve clients’ understanding of their reports, enable you to demonstrate the value you’ve provided to them in the past year, and identify opportunities to work together so that they achieve their business and personal goals.
If you don’t run an Annual Accounts Review meeting with, at the very least, your ‘A’ clients, it’s never too late to position the value in your online and in-person communications. Be bold! Guarantee the value from that meeting at the outset. If you don’t add the value – no fee!
This is a 15-minute meeting to ensure the client has read and understood their monthly Management Reports. Keeping this meeting phone or online based ensures the meeting time doesn’t stretch to an hour. The objectives are simple:
It’s useful to have a process for how you’ll run the call. In the portal, we provide a Momentum Call Script you can use as a guideline.
The accountability or coaching meeting may be quarterly, monthly, or even weekly, depending on your clients’ situation and needs. For example, a mature business may be best suited to a quarterly meeting, whereas a start-up business may need a more frequent meeting rhythm.
You'll provide a sounding board to discuss ideas prior to implementation and identify and help solve the client’s burning issues. You'll also help your client keep their Business Plan alive by resetting their quarterly goals and actions.
Pre-work should be completed by everyone attending any one of the above meetings. This ensures attendees are engaged in the process and have some understanding of what they want to achieve from the meeting.
Pre-work also allows you, as facilitator, to prepare for the session, identify any misalignment between business owners, and prevents the session from becoming a ‘meeting of discovery’. Pre-work adds depth and clarity to any meeting, as everyone knows the purpose of the meeting, the issues that need to be addressed, and therefore the desired outcomes.
If pre-work has not been submitted at least 48 hours before the session, contact your client and reschedule the meeting. That’s an effective lesson in accountability!
All meetings need a clear agenda to refer to at the beginning, during, and after the meeting to ensure objectives are met. If the client starts to go off track, seeking specific advice, use the agenda to bring them back to the purpose of the meeting and gain conceptual agreement to schedule an additional meeting to discuss and address the issue. In Gap content, agendas are clearly defined within a service's Delivery Notes.
Use Delivery Notes* to guide the conversation. They provide estimated timings for meeting segments, questions you’ll likely ask, and reports and information you’ll need to bring to the meeting to ensure the outcomes are achieved.
Meeting Minutes should be completed during each meeting and should be visible to attendees throughout the session so they can contribute to actions and completion dates. Check in frequently to ensure they’re an accurate reflection of what has been discussed and agreed to ‘in session’. Record any additional services required with a due date and the fee quoted. Meeting Minutes should be emailed to the client immediately following the meeting. You’re their accountability framework.
You don’t want to come across as a product pusher. You want to come across as someone who cares and genuinely wants to help their clients succeed. When you’re positioning Business Advisory services, it doesn’t work to tell them what to do. They may have tried some of these things before and failed. To sell Business Advisory services, ironically you need to take off your ‘Advisor’ hat and put on your ‘Coach’ hat. You need to ask and not tell.
For example, the Complimentary Client Review is a subtle sales process that unlocks business potential. You’re simply helping your clients get the three freedoms – Time, Mind and Financial Freedom.
Start by asking simple questions about how successful the business has been at delivering to the owners what they want (more time away, less worry and stress, or more profit or cash). Keep asking thoughtful questions about how the current position could be improved. You’ll recognise the point of client engagement. That’s when you stop asking and start answering, because now, it’s your client who is asking the questions.
This is a very powerful mindset for accountants to grasp. As advisors, we’re used to telling, NOT asking! Check out our ‘Ask don’t tell Video’ here for a great example of how to pursue a line of questioning to get the outcome you need. The key is to Stop listening to reply – listen to understand.
If you’re fascinated with the word ‘sales’ (or if you’re afraid it) have a read of our detailed ‘Selling for Accountants’ resource.
If the outcome of a meeting is a proposal for services, you must gain conceptual agreement before sending a proposal. This ensures your client or prospect understands:
Sending a proposal without first gaining conceptual agreement will likely result in a lower acceptance rate.
And finally, a word on scope stretch. More client meetings is the goal - more scope stretch isn’t! Don’t give away your value at meetings. Stop, pause, and price that extra job. Read our Guide to Minimising Scope Stretch.
We’ve created a short guide for you to share with your Partners and Senior Accountants - Your Guide to the Five Essential Meetings. Enjoy!
Written by: Viv Brownrigg, FCA | Co-founder and Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships