Go beyond what your clients might expect.
By Hitendra Patil
When did you last buy new software for accounting, tax preparation, practice management, sales tax calculation or payroll processing?
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Think for a moment: How did you arrive at the decision to buy the new software? What did you think before buying?
Most likely it was not the features that made you buy the software. It was your image of how your life would improve after you started using the software. Most likely, you imagined a better life because of some ongoing challenges that frustrate you.
Technology is just a means of delivering a better outcome. It helps you achieve new outcomes based on new thinking. If you simply accepted the current situation and felt no need for a change, you would not have bought the new software (unless the support for older versions was totally stopped by the vendor).
The seed of any new accomplishment is the new thinking that leads to it. You did the new thinking because you understand your life (that is, your work-life) better than anyone else. So you think of new possibilities and then look for means of getting there. Or sometimes you see new things in the market and – aha! – you think of new possibilities for your life.
Not everyone is as knowledgeable and deep-thinking as you, the accountant, are. Steve Jobs was a master of thinking of new ways to do things, not for himself but for customers. He created new thinking in the minds of people and then he did something that not many entrepreneurs do, which was: Create new thinking and help people turn it into reality.
Steve Jobs was a master marketer. But he was also an extremely successful businessperson because he made things happen. He created highly effective products that not only made people learn new ways of thinking but helped people make the transition to the new reality.
Countless behavioral science research reports indicate one key to creating new value – not just identifying new value and creating it, but making the transition possible, easy and economical. That transition is the how that you need to figure out after figuring out the why and the what. The when is much faster if your clients see how to get there.
Accountants: Sell new ways of thinking
Most clients expect the routine things from accountants – balance sheet, income statement, tax return, audit, cash-flow report and so on. Clients and prospects are thinking the same things when they meet you. So how do you sell them new ways of thinking?
Uberize THEIR thinking
Studies indicate that as many as one in three American workers may now be freelancers, contractors or temps. They are becoming extended workforces – or “micro-entrepreneurs.” New generation technology entrepreneurs focus on solving specific problems within these micro-entrepreneurial niches, doing a few things exceedingly well rather than doing several things in an ordinary way.
That is what Uber did to the process of hiring taxis. Uber took the pain out of hiring a taxi, making the payment and reducing the uncertainties before, during and after the ride. They made payments easier and recordkeeping still easier. That was the how of it. But first Uber
- imagined all this was possible,
- created the technology to achieve it and
- actually made people think of a new way of hiring a taxi.
Then Uber made the how that converted people’s new way of thinking into a convenient reality.
Uberizing the experience of your accounting clients is not limited to implementing new, convenient ways to do the current processes. You will need to create and sell new ways in which your accounting clients should think. Then you need to make their transition to this new reality easy and convenient.
CPA Derek Davis identified compliance problems faced by new, shared-economy, self-employed contractors. Recordkeeping became a burden on these self-employed contractors, most of whom are not sufficiently tax-savvy and organized. For them the challenge to comply with tax laws is a daunting process.
So Davis is Uberizing how the Uber-economy-entrepreneurs will become tax-compliant. He has created a convenient process (the how) to overcome these problems via BonsaiTax. But before he created the technology, he identified a new way of thinking for these people, and in selling his service product, he is actually selling a new way of thinking – how to be tax-compliant in an easier way.
But creating new technology is complex, costly and risky!
To Uberize, it is not always necessary to create a new technology.
What did Uber do to the process of hiring taxis? Yes, they created a new technology, but it was after they figured out the changes required for the process.
And therein lies the hint for accountants:
Which processes can you make simpler, faster and, ideally, more economical for your clients?
That will be the what of the new ways of thinking.
The next step is to design the new process of how to get to the newwhat.
- Can you take away the steps that are annoying your clients?
- Can you shorten the time-consuming steps in your customer interaction and service delivery processes?
- Can you identify inefficient processes at your firm and transform them into more user-friendly and efficient processes – or altogether eliminate some steps?
You can use existing and emerging technologies to define new ways of thinking for your clients. It is just a matter of, well, new ways of thinking.
So don’t sell accounting: Sell new ways of thinking.