As an accountant, bookkeeper or outsourced CFO, you have a wealth of knowledge to share. However, I often see you giving that knowledge away for free during sales calls, only for your prospects to walk away without becoming paying clients. As a result, you become frustrated and even resentful. So how do you put an end to this process and ensure that you get paid for imparting your hard-earned wisdom?
When clients come to you for help with their tax return, VAT or corporation tax, it’s an exchange of action with an end result. Something concrete is being done in exchange for money and your clients don’t question whether or not they should pay you.
However, during a sales call, a prospect might mention that they are struggling with their accounting software. They might ask you about the benefits of QuickBooks vs Xero, or how to reconcile bank fees on their chosen platform. You’re keen to make a sale, so you end up spending an hour or two coaching them and fixing their problems, only for them to disappear afterwards without paying you a penny.
So how do you avoid this situation and make sure that you always get paid for your advisory services?
Be Sold On Yourself
The first step to making sure you get paid for your advisory services is to own your worth. The first person to say “I’m sold!” on your value has to be you.
The truth is, if you aren’t sold on yourself, it will be easy for prospects to take advantage of you. You need to see your worth and know that you deserve to get paid.
Your clients pay you for compliance services when there is a tangible process and end result. They don’t question the Starbucks barista about having to pay for their coffee.
You studied for years and invested a huge amount of time, money and effort to attain your current level of knowledge and so you deserve to be recompensed for it. You weren’t randomly given your qualifications; you worked incredibly hard to get them.
Money is an exchange of energy. When you spend time advising a client and helping them to solve their problems, you are losing energy. If your client doesn’t pay you in return for that energy, there is a huge mismatch and it is a drain, not an exchange. And trust me, growing your practice is incredibly difficult when you are drained.
When you wholeheartedly believe that you deserve to get paid for your expertise, it becomes easier to recognise red flags and implement steps to ensure that you don’t keep losing time and energy.
The Four Key Questions
For many of us, money is a difficult topic and it needs to be approached with a certain amount of tact. I’m sure you wouldn’t feel comfortable telling clients “I’m not telling you that until you pay me.” Fortunately, there are four questions you can use to open up a conversation about payment that firmly but politely let the client know they will need to pay for your advice.
#1 – “Do You Have a Budget to Overcome This Problem?”
Let’s say a client comes to you and they are struggling to set up and use Xero correctly. Rather than coaching them for free, you can ask them if they have a budget to overcome this problem. This question let’s the buyer know that they need to make a decision: is their pain big enough to pay for expert advice? This is a yes/no answer and very quickly determines if a prospect is a good fit.
#2 – “What is Your Budget for Overcoming This Problem?”
This question starts a dialogue around the client’s budget and how the two of you will proceed. If you’re speaking to a prospect, you might say “you have to be a client in order for me to give this advice” and then you can start onboarding them. If this is a conversation with a current client, you could tell them “we’re looking at a three hour session to get this problem sorted” or, better still, upsell them your advisory program.
The key here is to make it all about the client, rather than you. Find out what they have the means to do and offer a helpful solution that will allow you to solve their problems and get paid.
#3 – “This Sounds Really Interesting, My Date Rate Is XYZ.”
This lets your prospect know that you are willing and able to help – but not for free.
#4 – “This Sounds Really Interesting, Let’s Talk About Your Budget.”
It’s important to discuss the prospect’s budget. This is a quick way of screening out prospects who can’t afford – or aren’t willing to pay for – your services and showing that you don’t give away advice for free.
It’s important to remember that your advisory services are investments that generate a return for your clients and so you have a right to be paid for your expertise. You are not a charity.
When you are constantly giving away your services for free, you become drained and resentful, and this seriously impacts your ability to build your practice and help clients. As an accountant, bookkeeper or outsourced CFO you have a tremendous ability to transform businesses and make a real impact on the world, but this is very hard to do when you are overworked and underpaid.
If this is how you feel right now, then you are the only one who can change the situation. You may be frustrated, but you need to accept responsibility and start asking the four questions I have outlined in order to take charge of your practice. No-one is going to willingly hand you their money, so it’s important to be purposeful about getting paid what you deserve.