Avoid the Trap of Becoming a Software Reseller: Sell Your Service Instead
Posted on 27th April 2017 in Advisory
Written by Freya Hughes
‘This time next year we’ll be millionaires!’ We all love a good bit of optimism but when it comes to your accountancy practice and “selling software”, in Del Boy’s words, don’t be a plonker. The tools that help you be successful in your role are just that, tools. They are not exciting to a business owner or the reason I would choose one firm over another. Instead, focus your attention on your strengths. If you promote yourself, and the service you provide it cannot be copied, and you will get the best advantage over your competitors.
Why do business owners hire an accountant? Because we need you. You have the knowledge and experience that will ensure our business is protected and on track for optimum performance. My expectation of a good accounting firm is that they use the best software available to make their team efficient. If I think about my time running our previous business, cloud accounting was new enough (2013) that it could be considered a competitive point of difference for accounting firms. But even then, it wasn’t the software which “sold” me on the firm we selected. It was the person. If you tell me more about my business than I already know myself, I want you on my team. It’s that simple.
Your knowledge is more valuable than software
Accounting can be traced back to ancient civilisations. While they would have operated slightly differently to present day accountants, apart from software, not much has changed. Figures and graphs have been found dating back all the way to the third millennium! I’ve had this conversation about value so many times with accountants and it has amazed me how many have neglected to appreciate how valuable you are to a business owner. I am not a qualified accountant and I am not happy to have full responsibility for the figures.
You are selling you, not FUTRLI, or QuickBooks, or Gocardless. You are selling – confidence, peaceful nights, inspired ideas, security and assurance. Software alone will not do that, what you deliver as a service, absolutely will. If you asked me: “Do you want a FUTRLI Dashboard or Forecast?” I would look at your blankly, potentially even saying no, because I wouldn’t appreciate what that really is and why I need it. If you said to me, shall we have a look at your business and work out if you’re happy with the direction it is taking – a health check if you like, to see how you compare against your own targets and industry benchmarks? This is when I would bite your arm off, because you are talking to me about my business in fuss-free language that I understand. Software alone is one part of the puzzle, what you bring to the table is what I want to pay you for. And, if you sell on service, you’ll stop me from shopping around because you can’t compare apples with apples when you focus on what makes you unique.
Save your time and reputation
Sales people sadly have a bit of a reputation – look at Del Boy as a great example. While this certainly does not refer to everyone in this field, there’s a stereotype that needs avoiding. You are technically selling your services, but those services are needed across the board in business. Your expertise sets you apart from those clambering over one another to win over a customer. Doug Sleeter for cpapracticeadvisor.com lays it out clearly:
“The fastest way to ruin your hard-earned “most trusted advisor” status is to give vendor sales pitches to your clients, competing with other resellers or even the vendor, and winning or losing based on who can provide the biggest discount.”
The role of the accountant has changed. With a wealth of data available to you thanks to the cloud, it’s the insights this will give you as an advisor that’s important. The software you might be promoting might help you work with this data, but it’s having a deep understanding with the data that’s going to set you apart from the rest, not the software itself.
From the stocking frame to the printing press, making tax digital to financial forecasting, automating tasks undoubtedly increases productivity. Using automated software that links up your (or your clients’) data will save you a lot of time to focus on training your team to become advisors. It’s a critical time to think about how collaboration which tech can work with your firm.
If the software you use is automating processes that used to take up valuable hours of the day, you’ve suddenly got a lot of extra time on your hands. Clients don’t need you to be moving data around manually anymore, but they will need your help to understand their figures. Theatlantic.com sum it up well: “The automation of some tasks increases the value of the remaining tasks.” With FUTRLI, this is where you can start to leap-frog other firms. You don’t spend less time on clients, you spend less time on the tasks that don’t prove your value so you can converse with them and really prove your value.