Making Your Meetings More Valuable to Your Clients
Time is money. And since meetings require your time—and cost your clients money—being intentional about scheduling and conducting meetings will make you far more valuable to your clients and improve your profit.
All meetings should have a purpose, and in our business, that purpose should always be to help the client.
Establish—for yourself and your client—what the specific purpose is before the meeting. Some clients—especially individual tax clients—may not require or even want the traditional annual appointment. Don’t just assume that yearly meetings are important or expected: ask. In this technologically advanced day and age, providing quality service does not automatically mean face-time. What will always be required, however, is that you articulate your value and service in an effective way to the client. Phone meetings and e-mail can be acceptable substitutes, as long as clients are confident that the service you’re providing is first-rate. Establishing these parameters early on helps you build trust with the client, who can then rest assured that you’re taking care of their needs.
Once the need for a meeting is confirmed, agree upon a reasonable duration. This bit of advance planning benefits both you and the client. Most clients appreciate knowing how long a meeting is likely to take—and cost. If you anticipate a meeting will require one hour and they’re counting on a fifteen-minute, conversational check-in, those mismatched expectations can create tension. The reverse can be far more damaging. If the client believes he needs an hour of your time and you have only thirty minutes to spend, you run the risk of that client leaving the office feeling frustrated and underappreciated.
Structure the meeting in advance as well. In this sense, structure does not mean stiff; I am not suggesting that at all. What I am suggesting is that you should go into the meeting with some very basic framework—an agenda, if you will—in mind. Meetings can take on a life of their own, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s desirable. If you conduct meetings well, they will take new directions. Those new directions keep things interesting—and may lead to new possibilities for and with your client. Have a plan to make the best possible use of your time and your client’s, and then communicate that plan as you begin the meeting. In doing so, you’ll remind your client that he is in highly capable hands.
As planning season approaches…Need a meeting check-up? Answer these questions for some insight.
What is the best time of day for me to schedule meetings? When am I most alert and engaged?
How is my schedule currently determined and what steps need to be taken to align my schedule with my peak performance hours?
What steps do I need to take to improve my practice’s scheduling process?
How much time should I recommend/allow for different types of client meetings?
o Initial consultation
o Individual tax
o Tax planning
How can I improve my pre-meeting planning?
How much do I talk versus listen in client meetings? How can I improve my active listening skills?
This journal entry is an excerpt from Accountants Flight Plan. To learn more, please visit our resources page.