Rotten Tomatoes: What Do Your Clients Really Think of You?

Biological tomatoesThe tell-tale signs of trouble.

By Hitendra Patil
Accountaneur

The Urban Dictionary defines “Tomatoed” as the state of a relationship when you're not quite dating but not just friends. Neither party is sure if they like the other enough to date, yet continue to do most of the same things as people in committed relationships. If they get tired of one another, they can simply return to "just friends" status without social upheaval. So named because of the tomato's role as not quite a fruit and not quite a vegetable.

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How can you tell if you're getting "tomatoed" by your clients? How to make it stop? And what does it all mean? Read on...

You're getting "tomatoed" if:

  1. You are in the state of a relationship where you're not quite dating but not just friends. Not in the modern sense of the word “dating” but from the perspective of the client’s thoughts about you, the accountant. You seem to be in regular touch with your client but it seems like a routine. No real immersive experience by anyone. No discussion happens that feels like intimacy with one’s “most trusted advisor.”
  1. You and your client both continue to do most of the same things. You deliver. Client pays. You deliver. Client pays. And it continues. No change. No upgrade. No gifts. No cozy lunches or dinners. Not even coffee together.
  1. You and your client both are getting tired of one another. You have a regular problem getting information and/or payment from the client. The only communication between you is by email. Responses are rare. When a response comes in, it’s almost always a complaint. You are wasting productive hours defending your actions or on endless follow-ups.
  1. Your clients can simply return to "just friend" status without social upheaval. No one else will feel the pain except you, the accountant. You lose a client, even if on good terms. The client has already found another accountant, and the work continues. You have to now put effort into getting a new client.

If these situations sound familiar, you are indeed getting tomatoed by your clients.

How to Stop Getting Tomatoed By Your Clients

  1. Add something to the relationship. Make a checklist of what you regularly do for each of your clients. Like, send monthly financial statements; send an AP aging report, and so on. Then add to that list a regular frequency “personal interaction.” Like a phone call. Like coffee together. Like sharing a specific article relevant to the client’s industry. Revenue from some of the clients may not justify spending your precious time – but maybe you can meet a bunch of clients together – like at an “open house” at your office.
  1. Invest time in identifying up-sell, cross-sell opportunities. Not from your point of view but from the client’s perspective. Ask yourself what else he or she could use to run business more efficiently, productively and profitably. Can you provide that? If not, who in your network can do it for your client?
  1. Give really powerful insights. Like “your profitability has decreased by over 15 percent because of just one thing: your vendor’s minimum order quantity has gone up and your money is blocked in inventory for an average of 72 days, as against previously 42 days. Something that has direct impact on the client’s business and life.
  1. Proactively identify new accounting needs for clients. If your client’s business is growing and compliance requirements have changed, and if you don’t have the expertise to meet the evolving needs, partner with someone, even with your competitors, to be able to meet those needs as they arise. Better to earn a 10 percent residual share on the services you can’t provide than to lose 100 percent of such clients’ revenue to another accountant.

Getting Tomatoed is a Symptom

Getting tomatoed is a symptom, not the root cause.

Loved people are always at the top of someone’s mind. When things get into a routine; you are not at the top of the client’s mind. Compliance needs may sound constant, but clients’ needs, wants and expectations never remain constant.

If you try to meet changing needs with non-changing routine, getting tomatoed is an inevitable result.

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