Clients Buy Solutions, Not Time

Hand building word "solution" with letter blocksPlus 4 notes about client phone calls.

By Jody Padar
The Radical CPA

“Forget about pricing and think about what people buy.”

MORE ON RADICALISM: How to Leverage Social Media | Target Content to Consumers, Not Industry | Social + Strategy = Success | Make the Cloud Work for You | 5 Ways to Capitalize on Trends | Embrace Disruption | New Thinking Brings New Results | 10 Questions to Prepare for Radical Change | Who’s Your Competition? EVERYONE | How the ‘New Firm’ Was Born | Radical Firms Embrace 4 Values | Radical or Complacent? You Choose | 3 Questions to Ask If You Dare
GoProCPA.comExclusively for PRO Members. Log in here or upgrade to PRO today.

Customers are not buying our time. They may be buying our expertise. But they’re really buying a solution to their problem.

Famed management consultant Peter Drucker says, “A customer never buys a product by definition, the customer buys a satisfac­tion. Satisfaction of a want, he buys value.” He’s buying a good feeling.

When lipstick leaves the manufacturer, it’s a solution. When it crosses the counter in a department store, it’s hope. From this perspective, how do we make our services into products or solutions? That’s essentially what you are doing with bundling and packages. You are productizing a service.

The question is, how do we make our services into products? How do we make sure that the experience is a good one? The customer doesn’t know if our calculations are correct or not. What they know is what they feel. Did we solve their problem? Have we added value to their business? Do they have peace of mind?

If you are selling a tax return, forget about the tax return. What is it the customer actually needs from us today to make their business better? They do not need a compliance document that they have to send the government. Sure, they need it but it offers them no value. Nobody ever wants to pay for compliance.

What they want to pay for is something that’s going to help them long term. That’s why it’s a lot easier to sell and provide tax plan­ning over tax compliance because a customer can see the value there. When you look at tax compliance, it’s done, it’s a requirement, there’s nothing else to do. Here is an example of what we sell.

If I don’t bill time, how do I know I’m profitable?

It’s out on the table. You have all wanted to ask that question. Go ahead, ask: If she doesn’t measure and bill time how does she know her firm is profitable?

Here’s how, all of our revenue goes into a “services” income account. I haven’t divided the income into lines of service because at this point, it’s not important to me. But you could, if you so choose. All I care about is my gross profit margin. My fixed employee costs and all of our software go into cost of sales accounts. My concern is whether I am profitable and have a good gross profit margin. Then my overhead and everything falls in behind. You guys know that. You’re accountants. You know how to do this.

What are my job costs? No clue! Time is not a correct measurement, anyway. You need to measure incidents or how many times we’re speaking with our customers so that we can track what the questions are and how we can serve them better. For me, that’s a better measure than my time spent on a specific customer.

We run ourselves more like a software company. We provide a cus­tomer support piece that is part of the product we sell. Unlimited support is part of our tax return package and just like software companies, not everyone is going to call every day.

I love when CPAs talk about it because they always say, “Well, my customers are going to call me all day.” But the reality is:

  1. Most of them don’t really want to talk to their accountant every day. (It’s true.)
  2. When they call, you should be psyched because it’s a way for you to solidify that relationship with them.
  3. The more work you can push out by tax season and get resolved outside of tax season, the better off you’re going to be during tax season. We want our customers to call. We want them to be in contact with us all the time.
  4. You still have to scope the work correctly.

Leave a Reply