Everyone knows how difficult it can be to find new clients – but the flip side of that is how easy it is to lose the clients you already have, through inattention, complacency, or worse.

“There are challenges that we all face, especially as we get comfortable in our client relationships,” noted Maureen Schwartz, executive director of BKR International (http://www.bkr.com), a leading global association representing  more than 160 independent accounting and business advisory firms in over 500 offices and 80 countries. “CPAs must be mindful of how they talk and act in order to keep client trust and loyalty.”

With that in mind, BKR shared 10 ways to alienate your clients and shrink your book of business. (A slideshow version of this story is available here.)

1. Only talk about yourself. Your clients do not really care that your firm won “Best Places to Work” for three years straight. Clients want to talk about their business and how you can help them. Do your homework. Review their Web site, social media pages and research their industry’s key business trends and challenges. Bring key questions to ask so that you can get the information you need to provide value.

2. Constantly check your phone. Turn your phone off and keep it in your pocket/purse during meetings. Do not keep it on the conference table or in your lap, where you will be sure to look at it. Give your client your undivided attention so you can play the role of trusted advisor.

3. Arrive late to client meetings. Always give yourself plenty of time to deal with traffic, street closings, accidents and other potential time-robbers, especially if you are meeting a client for the first time.

4. Only communicate by e-mail. Know how each of your clients wants to communicate. If you’re not sure, ask them and then note it in their file. Most importantly, know when to pick up the phone.

5. Only communicate when it’s time to bill or renew. Send relevant alerts, timely articles and specific industry information on a regular basis. Show that you’re thinking about them and share why you thought they would find the information interesting.

6. Send a large invoice with no details. Clients hate getting a large bill all at one time. Prepare accurate time reports and send interim bills for work in process on a timely basis.

7. Never own up to mistakes. Once you realize a mistake has been made, contact your client right away. (This would be the time to pick up the phone.) Apologize and offer a swift remedy. Never ignore the problem and hope it goes away. It will come back much bigger, more complicated and more difficult to fix.

8. Eat alone. Instead of wolfing down a cold sandwich or wilted salad at your desk, designate one day a week to take a client to lunch. Make it breakfast if your time or budget is tight. You can easily catch up with your clients in an hour and get to work before the business day begins.

9. Never give away free information. If you bill for every client call, you’ll never hear from them. This creates missed opportunities to discuss new products and services and ways in which you can help. These conversations also help expand your personal relationship. Marketing experts say it takes 14 touches to establish a buying relationship.

10. Excuse yourself from social events. Invited to a special client event where you won’t know anyone? Want to make a flimsy excuse and rationalize to yourself that you won’t be missed? Spoiler alert: You will be. Go prepared with information that everyone can engage in. Popular conversation starters include sports, community initiatives, kids, travel and television shows. Avoid conversations about politics and religion.

 

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