“But my client won’t...” Influencing Clients to Change

Clients who resist any type of change…that never happens, right? Even when it’s in their best interest, we all know it can be difficult for clients to willingly change course. Whether that means adopting new technologies, altering workflow, or opting in for value-added services, it can be hard to get clients to act.

The good news is that there’s an easier way to get clients to adjust. And we have the expert on tap to show you how. Will Hill, Owner and Founder of Will Hill Consults, details his approach to help reverse the trend of slow-to-adapt clients. His strategy will help you and your team move the needle with clients—opening their eyes to high-value opportunities that fuel growth and sustainability.

Prepare to never again utter the phrase: “But my client won’t.” Apply the tips within this article to influence your clients to make positive, long-lasting change.

Untangle first and influence will follow

As your clients’ trusted advisor, it’s your role to move them forward at every level. In order for clients to improve and grow their businesses, change is required. The problem is that change is not always a welcome element. It’s disruptive; it requires time. And it requires added, unnecessary cost—in the minds of some clients, that is.

In order to influence clients, it’s important to first alter your own way of thinking. To untangle outmoded concepts and perspectives about 1) control, 2) battle for time, and 3) bearing toward value.

1. Know your level of control

Maintaining control that moves clients toward success is mission-critical. This means that firms must be positive and proactive about recommending required, positive change. For those who believe that they lack control to do this, it can create a barrier that’s insurmountable. 

Hill is direct on this point: “You must increase your belief about the amount of control you actually have…we can’t turn negative beliefs about control into a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

When you accept or perceive a loss of control, by default, it puts the client in the driver’s seat and weakens your position to lead them in a forward direction. Hill adds: “When we communicate in a powerless way because we don’t believe we have control, that’s exactly what we communicate to clients…You’re in charge of the relationship, and I hope you do this.”

Hill also warns against following a “command-and-control” approach. This occurs when accounting professionals are over-confident about the amount of control they possess and leave clients out of the decision-making process—all or in part. This approach can work sporadically, but it’s not long-lasting. 

So what’s the right approach? Short answer: It rests in your ability to influence.

“You control what you do and say and how you deliver services, but the things you believe are outside of your control are not outside of your influence,” says Hill.

The bottom line is that you must maintain the stance that while you might not be in control of clients fully, you are always in control of how you influence them.

2. Reduce the battle for time

While the battle for time can be a reality (you know…those days when your task list seems never-ending) it can also be a state of mind. And that means that it can be altered.

Hill notes that accounting professionals can lean toward an “if I do it it will get done faster” mentality. This puts you in the position of firing off communications or rushing through technical tasks when in reality, you could have delegated work or created a teachable moment with staff.

“The problem with this is that it’s never a one-time thing. The ‘it’ll be faster if I do them” tasks get repeated over and over,” says Hill. “This leaves you thinking that time is always an issue.”

Accounting professionals must first untangle themselves from this state of mind. When they do,  they can defeat the battle for time to focus on higher-value tasks—like working with clients to influence positive change and provide deeper-level advisory services.

Hill notes: “What you perceive as short-term time savings turn into long-term time drains…and can muddy the waters of client relationships.”

3. Adopt a bearing toward value

This comes down to what you believe about the value you offer clients. This is important because if you don’t see the value, neither will your clients. Further, as a firm leader, if you don’t have a value-based mindset, neither will your staff. What it all comes down to is that your personal and firm values must be in alignment with client value.

“If these things aren’t in alignment, this battle becomes harder and harder to address,” says Hill. 

Hill strongly suggests getting team members involved to ensure alignment across the firm through to the client experience. This requires you to define team member roles and help staff play to their strengths to better serve clients.

“When we play to our strengths and highest use as individuals, we produce a better value for our clients,” explains Hill. 

And a strong value mindset will quickly become apparent to clients according to Hill. “If clients are just there from a transaction perspective, their bearing toward your value is limited. But if they’re there because you play a key role in achieving their business objectives and individual goals…they’re going to see that and believe that the whole firm relationship has great value.”

TRIP forward

Once you’ve untangled your firm from issues with control, time, and value, it’s time to apply your new-found perspective and start to positively influence your clients. Hill offers an easy acronym to guide you in doing just that—TRIP:

  • T: Tell them—Clearly communicate your firm’s value and what you can do to help clients meet financial goals. Just tell them…and tell them frequently. 

“If you don’t tell clients what actions to take, they won’t know,” says Hill. “And if no action is taken, your clients and your firm won’t achieve set goals.”

  • R: Relate to results—“People operate best when they understand the context in which we operate,” says Hill. This requires firms to be clear in their advice and provide insight into potential results. In other words, make it relatable to the client.

    “Firms need to say ‘this is why this matters’ so clients truly understand the actions to results.” 

  • I: Impart tools—Provide clients with the tools required to easily execute actions. Offer them intuitive, cloud-based apps to make their lives simpler. Such tools can include mileage tracker, receipt log, and cash flow planning apps. This can also include your website—which should offer a dynamic and convenient place to collaborate.

“The simpler the tools provided to clients, the more likely they’ll be used,” adds Hill.

  • P: Place it in the path—Put the tools and mechanisms for clients’ success directly in their path—front and center. 

“You want to put the best tools in the client’s path so they don’t have to chart a new course to use this tool to execute. This requires you to do some digging to understand their world and the apps that would benefit them most.”

Go forth and influence!

The time has come to lose the “but-my-client-won’t” mindset. It’s time to take control of services provided to clients, reduce the battle for time, and create clear communications (internally and externally) about the value your firm provides.

When you do this, it’s much easier to move clients to productive, financially healthy action and influence them to make positive change. Untangling your firm from common barriers allows you to confidently influence clients in all areas of operation via regular communications, offering relatable insight on action to results, and putting intuitive tools and technologies in their sightline. 

The time has come to go forth and influence!

Ready to redefine your value? Follow our Redefining Value series to hear from today’s industry thought leaders who share their expertise on timely, relevant, and helpful topics—all geared to help you achieve the life you want.

About Will Hill

Founder and Owner, Will Hill Consults

Will is the founder and owner of Will Hill Consults, LLC; a coaching and consulting firm serving the tax and accounting profession. Will has been serving the Tax & Accounting community since 2001. Will’s excitement and passion for seeing firms achieve their success are palpable in all of his interactions.

Through his 20+ years in the profession, Will has taught countless classes on firm management, change management, and advisory services. His travels to implement software and perform business workflow consulting have taken him to over 400 firm offices to work directly with firm owners and their team members. Will has also managed small and large teams of trainers, consultants, and technical specialists. He has experience re-designing internal corporate structures and workflow in addition to performing that same function on behalf of tax & accounting firms.

Known for his combination of creativity and practicality, you may have read an article written by Will in many of the industry publications and thought leadership sites or heard him on various webinars and podcasts throughout the profession. In 2021 Will was named by Accounting Today in their “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting” list. Will has also twice been recognized by the CPA Practice Advisor in the “Under 40” lists (sadly, no longer eligible for any ‘Under 40’ awards). Prior to his newest podcast series “Lead with Courage”, he was also the creator and co-host of the podcast “Pulse of the Practice”.

This webinar is part of our Redefining Value webinar series. View the other virtual events and learn more about this series.

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