Marketing lessons from a 310-million-year-old fossil.
This month’s TMN Book Club selection, Who Not How, walks readers through the paradigm-shifting possibilities of asking “who can help me do this” instead of “how can I do this” when faced with professional and personal challenges. The book is a quick, zippy read – in fact, the authors could have made the same points in an 18-minute TED Talk.
Still, the concept is liberating and energizing. You’ll see greater possibilities in your career when you look at assembling an entire team of capable people, rather than just stuffing yourself ever-full of new information and capabilities. Here at TMN, we work very hard to be your “who” when it comes to adding tax planning and financial services to your business.
The authors make one specific point that I want to highlight here. In a key chapter on avoiding the wrong “whos,” they recommend a specific mindset that will serve you well in all aspects of your life: always be a buyer.
Like it or not, much of business involves selling. In fact, you shouldn’t even go into business for yourself if you don’t love selling yourself and your value. That’s a problem for a lot of accounting professionals, who don’t like to “sell.” The solution, in that case, is usually easier than you think – it involves re-thinking your definition of “selling” and removing the head trash and stereotypes that usually lead directly to the nearest “buy here, pay here” used car lot.
Here’s the problem. Too much of the time, we go into relationships thinking we should be selling when we also ought to be buying. This is especially true when you sit down with prospective clients.
Wait a minute . . . the whole point of the meeting is to sell yourself and gain a new client, right? Well, no. That may appear true (and notice I said “appear” true, not “be” true) when you’re just getting started and you don’t have any clients. But as your business grows, it becomes less and less true. Many TMN members have reached the point where they really have all the clients they can handle – they just want to replace some of those clients with better ones. (It’s the business equivalent of watching Chip and Joanna Gaines rip out old laminate countertops and replace them with shiny granite or quartz.)
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At some point, you start realizing not all clients are created the same. Some of them are great – they appreciate your value, play by your rules, and pay your bill without complaining. But others just don’t “fit” the way you want to run your business. (The customer isn’t always right.) And some are just a pain in the ass.
Looking back on your early meetings with difficult clients, would you have been better off acting as a buyer? Would you have saved yourself a lot of aggravation if you had asked them to sell themselves to you, too? We’ve all sat down with prospective clients and felt our spidey-sense start tingling – yet for some reason or another, ignored it and chosen to do business. There’s no shame in that. Sometimes, trouble comes dressed as trouble, and you can spot it and dismiss it immediately. But sometimes, trouble comes dressed as your cousin’s college roommate, or your spouse’s aunt, or a Presbyterian. (If they look like they know how to hotwire a forklift, are they really the right prospect for you?)
The same principle applies to all sorts of relationships: vendors, business partners, referral centers of influence, even the friends you make at your kids’ soccer games. Yes, people are evaluating you, for all sorts of reasons. Be sure you vet them just as carefully.
So, always be a buyer. Relationships have to be a two way street. Steven Covey’s fourth habit of highly effective people is to “think Win-Win.” You can’t think Win-Win if you’re only selling and not buying.
We’ve added a new module to the Tax Ninja software: Tax-Advantaged Life Insurance. The module starts by acknowledging that while cash-value life insurance plays a part in many client’s overall financial planning, premiums are generally nondeductible. It then goes on to discuss two strategies that can help lighten that burden: 1) the Section 162 “Executive Bonus” plan, and 2) premium financing arrangements to use nontaxable borrowed dollars to pay premiums.
There’s also an entry in the “Blueprint” section to move the discussion front and center when presenting a plan to a client. The “Blueprint” discussion replaces the little-used discussion of medical flex-spending accounts for W-2 employees. The main text of the plan still discusses that strategy, so it’s not gone completely.
We’re also working on a module for the Technical Training Center with client-friendly white paper. Stay tuned . . . and if there’s another topic you’d like to see us cover, let us know!
The Briefs is a weekly column on marketing and business planning for tax professionals and financial advisors looking to better serve clients and grow their business.
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