The one-liner is a comic staple that goes all the way back to Plato. (“A student dunce is voyaging in a very strong sea. When the slaves start wailing, he tells them, ‘don’t cry, in my will I have set you all free!’”) More recently, Henny Youngman turned the one-liner into an entire act. (“Take my wife — please!”) And if you were around in the 80s, you probably remember the absurdly dark Steven Wright. (“I spilled spot remover on my dog and now he’s gone.”)

When you look to build your tax-planning business, you struggle with communicating unfamiliar concepts to prospects and clients. Everybody “gets” tax preparation. But not everyone understands how proactive tax planning is different, or more valuable, or worth paying extra for.

What’s the solution? Here at TMN, we’ve developed a series of one-liners (and two-liners, and three-liners, and other analogies) to help flip switches in prospects’ minds. On yesterday’s Business Development Call, a new member asked if we had collected them all in one spot — and when I realized I hadn’t, I knew I had a topic for this week’s Briefs.

It all starts with the Magic Question:

“When was the last time your tax pro came to you and said ‘Here’s an idea I think will save you money’”?

The answer, in most cases, is “never.” This one-liner immediately establishes your value proposition. And in most cases begins driving a wedge between your prospect and their current tax pro — it implies that of course the prospect’s tax pro should be bringing him ideas, and the only real question ought to be when was the last time it happened?

The 2018 version of the Magic Question takes advantage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to accomplish the same goals:

“What’s your tax pro doing to help you make the most of the new tax law?”

Again, the answer is usually “nothing.” Maybe a newsletter went out. But probably not.

Here’s another way to distinguish tax planning from tax preparation:

“Most tax pros do a perfectly good job of putting the right numbers in the right boxes on the right forms. But then they call it a day. We don’t just help you record history. We help you write it, with a whole lineup of deductions, credits, loopholes, and strategies.”

Okay, that’s a three-liner. But it makes a powerful point. The key to maximizing this line is to deliver it with just a subtle hint of sarcasm — kind of like using a pinch of seasoning to liven a recipe.

Here’s another line for drawing a bright line between yourself and your competition:

“The Tax Code is a series of red lights and green lights — red lights where you stop and pay tax, and green lights where you can go without paying. Most tax pros focus their attention on making sure you don’t run the red lights. But I focus on helping you find the green lights where you can go without paying!”

Again, that’s not a one-liner, but it’s an obvious analogy that everyone will understand. (If you really want to make the most of it, remind your listener that in 50 states, it’s legal to turn right on red . . .then ask them to imagine what the stereotypical conservative accountant thinks about turning right on red!)

And now, in the spirit of the group call that inspired this article, I’m going to turn it over to you, the readers. What one-liners have you found especially effective in building your business? Hit “reply” to this email, and let us know. You might even find fame and fortune here in the Briefs!

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