Once you have clients on cloud accounting you have an amazing opportunity to add value to the numbers. On the old system (hard drive based systems) you might not get the clients financial data until 6, 12 or 18 months after the fact. It’s very hard to offer real value when the data is so old.
With cloud accounting that all changes. You can have access to the data whenever you want. That means if you have the data then you can offer (real time) management accounting, budgeting, cash flow management and profit improvement help. The services are not going to sell themselves however. You need to approach the client, highlight the opportunity and show the client how you can help.
I have a belief system that every client in an Accounting firm should be buying every service they need that helps them achieve their goals. Anything less is doing your clients a gross dis-service.
To find out what their goals are you need to meet with them. For the meeting to be a success you should not ‘wing it’ but follow a structured approach. If you follow my proven 12 step meeting approach (for any value added service for any client) you will make a lot of new value added sales:
Step 1. Make sure all of the decision makers are at the meeting. Absolutely crucial that this happens. If you are making recommendations then all the decision makers need to be in attendance.
Step 2. Set the scene why you are having the meeting. Your client is wondering why they are there. You need to tell the client that there is nothing to worry about and you are here to help.
Step 3. Frame the meeting purpose and time frame of the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to dig deeper into the current situation and offer some solutions on how you can help improve profit, cashflow, revenue & tax minimization. You need to tell the client how long the meeting will last and make sure they are good for that timeframe.
Step 4. Understand the ‘now’ by asking a series of background related questions. Have their data on the screen (bigger screen the better) in our PANalytics product (which consolidates data from cloud products) showing the business performance review. Dig deep with probing questions to understand the current reality.
Step 5. Understand what the clients’ goals and objectives are. You need to transition from the past to the future by asking what they want to achieve in the next 3-5 years. Emphasize with them and reassure them that you can help them achieve the objectives. Write down all the objectives.
Step 6. Ask how they would know if they have achieved their objectives. Again another transition from the future back to how they would know if you have helped them. You’re looking for tangible measures of progress.
Step 7. Ask what it would mean to them if we helped them achieve their objectives. You’re looking for feelings so the project plan becomes emotional above logical.
Step 8. Ask what their current plans are to achieve their objectives. Some clients may have a great plan that may just work. You need to find out if they do. Most will not have a plan of any sort. You need to reiterate that you can help them (you may need to build the plane as you fly it in some cases) and you’re excited by the potential in their business.
Step 9. Ask what the consequences are of not doing something different. If they don’t have a plan you need to ask them the consequences of not doing something different. Let them talk.
Step 10. Ask timing related questions. You’ll need to ask them if this is a sooner rather than later project and what else they have going on that may prevent them from getting started right away. Let them know that you’re going to look at a suitable start date in your workflow system.
Step 11. Tell the client the next steps. It is crazy to offer a price and proposed implementation plan on the spot. Tell the client you’re going to write an implementation plan and send it to them. In it will be some options the client can take. Each option will have a fixed fee and each option will help them achieve their objectives.
Step 12. Book the next steps. Tell the client you will send the implementation plan on X date and you’ll need to meet again to answer questions and work out which option is best for the client to take. Set the follow up meeting date.
The follow up meeting is all about re-aligning your client with their objectives and asking which option do they think is the best one now to help them achieve their objectives.
The 12 step meeting process is a small but important part of my new full day seminar ‘Capitalising on the Cloud’. I am visiting 14 locations throughout Australasia starting next week on March 14 in Newcastle and then around Australia and New Zealand ending on April 16. For details and booking information go to www.cloudseminar.com.au
Marketing anything to clients takes a proactive approach. Some of your clients will ask about the latest and greatest accounting solution – most will not. If you believe that a cloud based accounting system is better for your clients then you need to promote it.
The benefits (to your client) of a cloud based accounting system are very compelling:
- Data integrity – especially when the accounting system is linked to the warehouse, point of sale or inventory system
- Real time and accurate reports – enables your client to make better management decisions
- Connection to the Accountant – so you can advise them if something is not working the way it should
- Reduced costs – no more software upgrades and expensive hard drive systems
- Mobility – access the data anywhere, anytime from any device
All of this leads to enabling your client to run a better business. A better run business means jobs, improved cash flow and economic growth.
Unless your clients know about these benefits then they are not going to switch from their current system to a new one. That’s where you come in. Your clients trust your recommendation – you just need to recommend!
Without a doubt the best way to introduce cloud accounting to your clients is by running events of some sort. The event could be a large scale business seminar, a private boardroom briefing, a small workshop or similar. Your clients need to ‘see’ the product, understand the benefits, how it will impact their business and then make a considered decision. You can certainly meet with your clients ‘one on one’ but that is quite slow.
When running events you need to offer some value – not just selling. The best attended seminars are where the business owner can take away ideas they can apply right away. That might include; cash flow management, KPI reporting, profit improvement or revenue growth. A short 2 hour event will do the trick which includes a ‘demo’ of the new system and Q&A. It will also show that you are serious about staying on the leading edge and looking after your clients.
Talking of seminars. At my upcoming seminar ‘Capitalising on the Cloud’ I will be showing you in more detail how to run events and promote cloud accounting to your clients. I will even show you a pre-formatted presentation (with content) that you can use at your event. You can also get access to a full system kit to give to your administrator so the event runs smoothly. My seminar is visiting 14 cities starting on March 17 in Newcastle. For more information and registration details go to www.cloudseminar.com.au
When it came to numbers interrogation the ‘numbers power’ used to rest with the Accountant. Unless the Accountant is involved with the client in implementing cloud accounting then the power will rest with the client.
The reason for that is the reports and data that comes out of cloud accounting systems are reports and data that Accountants used to provide to their clients for a fee. They are very powerful and tell a compelling story. In essence, software has taken away some revenue from Accountants.
If you just leave it to your clients own devices then you are missing out – big time. Do not let your client choose which application to use (just because their friend recommended it), get involved in the decision. Help them choose an application that suits their business needs. Some firms are considering aligning themselves to one provider only which is crazy. In an Accounting firm the ethical thing to do is help the client chose the application that suits them. That means you will end up having 3-4 primary applications in your client base.
Fast forward. You’ve worked with the client and picked a solution for them. After that some Accounting firms are basically saying ‘go for it’ to the client and letting the client do the data conversion from the current system. Business owners are not that interested in accounting! Do not let them do it on their own. Take it away from them and do it for them. Have a number of ‘product champions’ in your firm that know the products inside out and do it for the client. Charge your client for the conversion as well. At least you’ll know it’s done right – and the client has someone to blame if it is not!
Once you’ve implemented the new system train your client how to use it properly. How to enter data, link to point of sale software, scan invoices, send invoices, manage inventory / payroll & cash….accounting for non-Accountants. Maybe even run a workshop on this.
And don’t leave it there. The real power with cloud accounting is that you the Accountant now have access to clients financial data in real (close to) time. Which means if something is going wrong you can do something about it – before it’s too late. Instead of waiting 6, 12 or 18 months to get the data you can have access to it on any device, anytime anywhere.
To connect to all of your clients (no matter which cloud application they are on) use an application like our PANalytics dashboard below. This will consolidate your clients data into a ‘traffic light’ dashboard system and automatically push information to your device when things are going wrong or right. It will also give you advice, tips and hints as to what to do about what is happening in the client data.
To find out more on how to implement cloud accounting with your clients come to my upcoming seminar which is visiting 14 cities around Australia and New Zealand starting on March 17 & right into April. We’ll have independent speakers, vendors and Accountants who have already implemented cloud with their clients. The day is all about the ‘how to’. You’ll gain knowledge, skills, training, get your team engaged and understand which tools are available for you and your clients to use. Go to www.cloudseminar.com.au for booking dates and more information.
I was honored this week with the No. 1 position of best business blogs in Australia. Smart company did the review. You can check it out here.
The vast majority of Accounting firms operating systems are server based rather than ‘cloud’ based. This has not been an issue up until now because the vast majority of team members in a firm have been ‘office bound’ and any access to data was from the desktop in the office. Having everyone bound to a desk is very last century thinking. The world is flat and with cloud based operating systems you can have team members anywhere working real time with no synchronization or terminal server issues.
Take my business for example. My business is a professional services firm like yours. I have a regular office in Brisbane with 11 team members who live locally. On top of that myself and co-director, Colin, go into the office around 1-2 days per week only. The rest of the time we are ‘away’. I have a full time person Darwin, 1 in Vancouver, 3 (soon to be 7) in the Philippines and 1 in India. That’s 5 permanent locations. Both team members in Darwin and Vancouver were relocating from Brisbane and instead of having them leave the company (both are excellent at what they do) we set them up locally and they continued to their job form their new location.
All team members wherever they are only using 1 database, 1 accounting system, 1 project management system, 1 document management system, 1 document creation system and many other cloud based applications to help them to their job. All systems are linked together so we can see real time what is going on. No speed issues, no dropouts (unless the internet goes down) and improved productivity. The management team get an automatic KPI report every morning that is generated by the system. It just turns up and it shows the heartbeat of the business.
We have team meetings with each person on video on the big screen and other than touching them it is like they are with us in the same room. My cloud based system has been up and running for 2 full years and we could never ever go back to a server based system. The old system was just too restrictive for workflow, collaboration and overall efficiency. Remote people seamlessly working together is just one of the advantages. The biggest thing for me as the CEO is the access to management data no matter where I am.
For an Accounting firm the ideal cloud based ‘practice management system’ needs to be able to do the following as a minimum:
- Everything the current server based system does – tax, accounting etc except for 1 database only!
- Relevant KPI reporting – Revenue, Profit, WIP management, Debtors, cash balance, average hourly rate (AHR) all hours, AHR on job by job basis, productivity etc
- Pipeline management – not current workflow but sales pipeline / opportunity management
- Client relationship management – ability to know what clients are buying what services and the ability to create marketing campaigns to existing or prospective clients
- Run your firm based on best practice – no charge rates ($1 per hour), hours budgets on jobs not $ budgets, pricing up front etc. Link to your clients who are also on the cloud so you can have the heartbeat of your clients
The bonus ‘wish list’ items like document management, document creation, project collaboration can be sourced through other applications that do not require additional client databases to be created. To help you choose the right system for your firm, and to learn about what cloud solutions can and can’t do I am presenting a 1 day seminar with a range of speakers around in 14 locations in March & April this year. For more information and how to register go towww.cloudseminar.com.au.