by Tony Vidler
The key to successful professional networking is as simple as creating a win-win…everyone knows that. Networking with accountants will be successful if you know what the “win” looks like for them.
Advisers historically – for all their networking and personal sales and relationship management skills – have not been terribly successful at creating long-term professional networking circles that continually deliver the right type of prospects for themselves, and nor have they been (typically) very good at delivering the right type of prospects for the accountants they are trying to work with.
It is a logical fit for financial advisers to work with accountants; both are after all dealing with related professional issues and often with the same clients (or types of clients), and their respective knowledge sets are highly complementary.
There are the expected issues that have to be resolved, like the professional danger for each referrer in transferring trust and lending their own reputation to another person, together with maintaining the right levels of client consent to data sharing. But this is simply a necessary step in forming any professional business relationship.
Creating the opportunity in the first place is the initial challenge, and often what is missing is understanding what the real WIN is for the centre of influence – and how an adviser can help best help accountants do what they want to do, which is work with THEIR ideal clients on interesting high value engagements.
Most accountants are looking for the right work.
Many accountants get stuck working in “compliance” type work for their clients. The hard graft of sorting and preparing financial records, compiling tax returns and supporting information, trying to explain to their business clients how the tax system works….and often being seen by their business clients as the person who is “not allowing” (say) the business owners’ dream boat to be claimed as a deductible business expense.
So a typical accountant is doing a lot of repetitive work which is often uninspiring and professionally not fulfilling for them….and it is often a begrudging client on the other side of the table. The client doesn’t want to pay any tax….would rather that their financial records were kept hidden from the rest of the world…wants to be able to use their business and its money however they see fit….and their accountant is the only human being they get to see standing between them and their desires. The business owner never, or rarely, actually interacts with the rule makers or tax department officials – it is the accountant they deal with. And at some point the accountant gives them an invoice for dealing with it all, which the client resents to some degree as they didn’t want to engage in this process at all anyway.
Do you think that’s the type of business, and business relationships, that most accountants want? Of course it isn’t….most would love to be able to get away from this type of financial compliance work – and kick it down to the entry level accountant or junior associate who is still learning how to do truly valuable work.
A smart adviser would recognise this problem when forming the business relationship with the accountant, and an even smarter adviser would work out how to take some of the pain away and help the accountant get into the type of work they DO want to do.
And advisers are in an ideal position to do so. When a professional financial adviser engages in their full process of discovery with a client they get a much wider view of the clients personal position, values and aspirations. Using a professional and comprehensive advice process uncovers the critical information that helps us understand what clients really value, and where they want to go. And in comparison to most accountants engagements with the very same prospects, the advisers process is much quicker at uncovering these things.
For the accountant, that knowledge is gold. It is the key to moving them out of “compliance work”, and into “business development” work with their clients. That is where the enjoyment factor and the real business value usually is for both the accountant and the client.
The financial adviser’s real value in this professional relationship therefore is in identifying the opportunities for the accountant to get the types of jobs they want with business clients, and then positioning the accountant to do this work and create value for their clients – in both the accountant’ and the client’ minds. It is the ability to uncover work opportunities of higher value for the accountant which is the big win.
Financial advisers can bring professional process that discovers valuable information of a much wider scope, and at a far deeper emotional level, than accountants generally uncover with their business clients. Indeed, financial advisers HAVE to do this if they are doing their work properly – and they have a professional obligation to identify issues where other professionals have the requisite expertise that the client needs.
Financial advisers also have the sales skills and relationship management ability to get clients to work with their accountant in new and better ways, on far more valuable and important issues than mere tax returns. Financial advisers working professionally with the accountants own clients can uncover and create opportunities for the accountant to get the type of jobs they really want.
That’s the type of win-win that leads to successful networking for all – and for the benefit of the client – and which needs to be “sold” to really get a centre-of-influence strategy working with an accountant.