Passion How do you serve your clients?

By preparing their tax returns? Auditing their financials? Diversifying their portfolios?

Don't make me laugh. If those are your reasons for being, you're not helping anybody.

Just ask Edi Osborne.

“People don't buy what you do. They buy why you do it,” Osborne, a business performance management thought leader and author of Strategic Benchmarking for Success, told a crowd of CPAs at Accounting Today's Growth and Profitability Summit in Las Vegas. “What you do is the manifestation of what you are passionate about.”

Think about it. Is your passion selling tax or accounting services? Is that truly why you got into the business?

Of course not. You wanted to help people, right? You wanted to give your clients insight — to help them understand how the numbers impact their long-term goals.

Osborne Somewhere along the way, though, we all became salespeople. In Osborne's words, we're out there “committing random acts of consulting.” We're trying to sell as much as we possibly can without really understanding what the client needs.

“A lot of folks have had a passion bypass,” said Osborne, pictured at right. “Often, the reasons they became an accountant are not the reasons why they remain an accountant.”

Here's the thing: According to Osborne, the really good clients don't want your services. They want your passion. They want to know that you care about their problems and are committed to finding a solution that's right for them.

“Most firms take whatever comes through the door,” Osborne said. “Tax and accounting serivces should be a byproduct of an advisory relationship. They should not be the focus of that relationship. By focusing first on why you do what you do, you will attract like-minded clients and talent that appreciate and value your passion.”

I could swear I've heard that before. It sounds a lot like BLI Senior Fellow Greg Conderacci's advice for firms. Here's a taste;

  • Ask yourself, “Why us?” Why should a client choose you and your firm over the competition? Do you have a good answer? Does everybody in your firm say same thing?
  • Think benefits, not features. If your answer to “Why you?” is a feature (experience, age of firm, number of CPAs, industry expertise, dedication, commitment, number or type of clients, etc.), you’re missing the boat. What are the specific benefits the prospect is seeking? What’s in it for them?
  • Question for needs. You won’t know the answer to the question “What’s in it for them?” unless you ask what they need.
  • Listen. Regardless of what we think, almost all of us are pretty poor listeners. We hear what we want to hear. We talk too much.

The moral of this particular story? Forget about what you do. Focus instead on why you do it. Therein lies your future.

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