I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that the twittersphere and blogosphere, not to mention a vast number of websites, are becoming the domain of the sales people, offering numerous ways to sell their product or their courses or their patented methodology that will make me the accountant that apparently I should be. The bottom line is that unless I change to their ways or use their software my practice is doomed, because the old ways are dying and the sooner I realise it the better. I have to embrace a new ‘advisory’ ethos and ally this development to a ‘digital’ way of working. And if I have any doubts as to how to go about this change then they are there to help me, to mentor me and provide all the software I may, no, not may, will need – and all at a very reasonable price.
They seem to ignore the fact that my clients have been asking my advice from the first moment they became clients. They ignore the fact that I would lose lots of clients if I constantly tried to advise them on a topic they were not interested in, because they knew if they needed help they only had to ask. And they ignore the fact that because I have my clients’ best interests at heart, and understand their aspirations and working practices, I can and will only raise issues of importance that I believe will help them achieve their goals.
The sales teams rattle on and on, and seem to base their research on looking at websites where they perceive a lack of ‘advisory text and content’, which may well be the case. But does that mean the accountant is not an ‘advisory’ practice? Still by far the greatest client winner is personal recommendation, and that’s by a mile. Existing clients don’t recommend a website, they don’t recommend a style, they recommend their accountant because their accountant not only ensured they paid the correct tax, they have also advised them well over the years. Random potential clients trawling accountants’ websites for one that specialises in advisory work will make a choice, but I bet their choice will not be made because they like what the website says.
As for the digital aspect, I simply cannot fathom how they think any practice can exist nowadays without already operating digitally. What they mean, of course, is that we need to be a digital practice that uses their digital offering.
What none of them actually do is help me to become a better accountant – not an advisor, not a computer operator but a better accountant. Clients turn to an accountant because they have questions concerning tax, because they have questions about how they can provide for their family’s future. If they go into business they turn to an accountant because they have questions about VAT, payroll, HR and tax. The fact that we are there for them means we have become their number-one trusted advisors, and what is important to me is the word ‘trust’. We are trusted because we don’t constantly try to sell them something under the guise that it is in their best interests.
Now if those salesmen and women who want to sell successfully to accountants started with the same premise, and stopped shouting at us all day long that we are doing it all wrong, who knows what they could achieve? Sell to me by all means, but sell to me in a sensible way, with recognition that I have a client base that won’t all want what you are selling. Telling me I’m doing it all wrong is most definitely not the way to get either my respect or, more importantly, my business.
• Tony Margaritelli Chair, ICPA
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