Art of Accounting: How I sell coaching and mentoring to clients

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Actually I do not sell coaching, mentoring or consulting services to clients—I sell solutions to problems. And I don’t sell them; I give much of it away. However, I have been getting paid fees from my clients for years that included such services as part of the package. Here’s how.

Early on I realized that my clients rarely would engage me for consulting or coaching services even though they called on me continuously for such services. What I found out is they valued me as their accountant and trusted advisor and they called me first when they had a problem. I also had their ear when I wanted to offer an unsolicited solution to a problem I detected.

I usually bundle my services with a fixed annual price, payable monthly. Included with the usual compliance work are extras including a reasonable number of meetings and unlimited calls. There are items that are not included, and they are clear and specifically listed and acknowledged. One of the things included is “coaching and mentoring,” but they’re not described as such. If they were, I believe very few clients would want them included. They would request the fee be reduced accordingly and for these to be paid as needed—which would be never, and the relationship would deteriorate into a commodity type of service that would not serve the client or me well.

My ego would like to have the client acknowledge the importance of my role, but I can’t eat or invest my ego. Defining the relationship in a way that includes the calls and meetings allows me to eat very well and build my investment account.

Many of my columns have described the consulting I have done for clients, and I could easily write plenty more, and probably will. Today’s takeaway is to do the consulting, but do not define it other than in the context of your availability to serve the client in any way he or she needs you to. And then live and breathe that availability by following through on what you told the client you would do when you were pitching to get the client, and then some more.

I know this is contrary to what many accounting practice consultants say, but this is how I did it and still am doing it. And I have a great practice and client base as a result.

If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. Email me at emendlowitz@withum.com and write a brief sentence about the topic. Include your phone number, and I will call you to discuss.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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