Define Client Wants Vs. Needs

Woman and man shaking hands across a deskBuild looking for opportunity into every job.

By Rob Nixon

Why do clients come to you from another firm? Okay, I know you are good and the best accountant around but really – why?

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Do you ask every client why they left the other firm and chose you? Probably not. When it all boils down, clients leave one firm for another for just two reasons:

  1. Service – lack thereof (not proactive, slow turnaround, poor relationship, poor communication etc.)
  2. Services – they think they need additional services and sometimes they are not getting enough value for what they are paying

The client comes to you with these requests. They want a better client service, with a few extra services at good value for money. So the client wants these things. Is that what they need?

I am suggesting that clients need more than they get from you. However, generally the client dictates the terms – what they want from you. You are the expert in what you do, so how would the client know what they need?

To give clients what they need you have to find out what they need. If you find out what they need (over and above the mandatory compliance) then you will build a stronger relationship with them. If you build a stronger relationship, you will have more loyalty. If you have more loyalty you will get more referrals. More referrals come with choice of who you work with and a larger, more profitable business.

If all you deliver to a client is the bare necessity of compliance then that is equivalent to a grudge purchase. A client does not want compliance – they have to buy it. It’s a bit like buying fuel for your car. Compliance-based services are part of the cost structure of doing business.

Remember this:

“If you are part of costs they can easily get rid of you. If you are part of profit then they can’t get enough of you.”

What does that mean?

If you are focusing on what clients think they want (costs) then they can get rid of you. If you are really helping them to improve their condition (profit) then they can’t get enough of you.

So how do you find out what clients need?

Simple – ask them! However, you are not about to say, "What do you need?" You see, this is the tricky bit – they do not know what they need. You have to be investigative and ask lots of leading questions before you determine what they need.

You can be investigative when you are doing other work for them. As you do the compliance work, think about the clients’ situation and come up with some new ideas that you can take to them.

One of our coaching club members (Craig) came up with a very simple but powerful idea. What he did was incorporate my "Awesome 8" into his end-of-job process. So as the accountants are finalizing the work and filling in the checklist, they have to fill in some extra questions like:

  • How do you think this client can grow their revenue?
  • How do you think this client can increase profit?
  • How can this client improve cash flow?
  • What does the client need to do protect their assets?
  • How effective is the client’s structure for succession planning?

The accountants are trained to look for opportunities as they do the work and then it goes into the review process. The client manager then adds their ideas and a meeting is called with the client to present the potential opportunities.

Graphically Craig’s process would look like this:

The 4-step process











To make this happen what you have to do is have your accountants ask questions on every single client project that they work on. You need to make this part of the review process. That means you will not review the job until the questions are answered. Our network members use electronic tools to make sure this happens every single time.

Here are the eight key questions to ask on every single client you work with:

  1. What ideas do you have to help this client grow revenue or wealth?
  2. What ideas do you have to help this client increase their profit?
  3. What ideas do you have to help this client understand and improve their cash flow?
  4. What ideas do you have to help this client protect their assets?
  5. What ides do you have to help this client with succession planning or selling their business?
  6. What ideas do you have to minimize tax for this client in the future?
  7. What ideas do you have to help this client to financially retire?
  8. What other opportunities are there to provide extra services to this client that they are not already using?

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