A study from Salesforce found that 66 percent of clients expect you to know their needs. If you don’t understand a client’s financial goals, you’ll fall short of meeting their expectations. No one wants to feel like a “number,” which is why accountants need to do the following:
- Learn their clients’ goals
- Understand the benefit of goal setting for their client relationships
For example, if you know that a client’s goal is to retire soon, what’s next on their radar? Maybe this individual wants to have money to travel the world and they’re considering selling or handing their business to someone else (perhaps a family member). Each goal comes with its own implications that you can use to meet clients’ expectations.
Exceeding Client Expectations
If your clients seem content with your work, why should you take the extra step to focus on both their personal and business financial goals? Here are a few reasons:
- Trust: Building trust with a client is one way to ensure long-term success. If you focus on an individual's goals, you can meet their expectations and gain their trust.
- Satisfaction: The personalization of focusing on financial goals is what your clients want. One survey found that 8-in-10 clients are more likely to purchase if given a personalized experience.
- Retention: Happy clients will stay with your business. Retaining clients is in your best interest because attracting new ones is always more expensive.
Identifying and Prioritizing Clients' Financial Goals
You won’t know your clients’ goals if you don’t have in-depth conversations with them. An effective technique is to ask open-ended questions, such as the following:
- Where do you envision yourself in five years?
- What milestones need to be met to reach your five-year goal?
- What do you want to do with your business when you retire?
For example, imagine a client saying, “If everything works well, I would like to retire.” You know the client wants to retire, but perhaps “if everything works well” indicates that business needs to stay the same or grow to reach the person’s goal. In this example, you could ask them to define what they mean by “everything works well” and when they would like to retire by.
Strategies for reaching your client’s goals can be anything because it’s 100-percent reliant on what the client wants to achieve. However, it’s important to create realistic plans and stretch plans.
Why both? Stretch goals can help inspire the client to achieve more and may improve performance and create a sense of urgency. Even if the person doesn’t reach a stretch goal, they’ll often surpass their realistic plan, which is always a good thing. Sticking to SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals will put your client on the right track to reaching them.
Throughout the process, whether it’s months or years, it’s crucial to remain in close contact with the client and adjust plans to continue meeting their needs. For example, if the economy impacts the business, you may have to adjust the amount of money the client invests in the company and sets aside for retirement.
Now, finally, how should you go about offering these services? When it comes to offering these services to your clients, you may choose to offer them entirely in-house, partly in-house or partner with another firm to provide these services. What works best for your firm, your team and your clients will vary. As goals come closer to reality, expectations will be met and exceeded, making you an invaluable asset in the process. But first, you'll need to help identify, set and prioritize your client's financial goals. From there, you can tailor your services to help them reach these critical milestones with the services that your firm offers.