If there’s one conversation that every cloud-enabled accounting or bookkeeping practice must have with their clients, it’s the “cloud conversation” – the discussion that covers how you’re going to fulfill their needs with cloud accounting technology.
Not every cloud conversation will be the same – even if you’ve defined your ideal client, you’ll always be dealing with varying levels of tech-savviness and comfort with change. Fortunately, there’s a growing awareness among small businesses about cloud technology – in fact, some are even starting to adopt these tools prior to reaching out to an accounting or bookkeeping service. For these types of clients, your conversations are less of a “sell” and more of a “tell”.
Whether you’re working with an existing client who’s resistant to change, a cloud-savvy new client, or an indifferent client switching to your firm, there are a few general principles you can follow to have more effective cloud conversations. Ensuring that these types of conversations go well is critical not only for closing new business, but also for effectively setting client expectations and developing better business partnerships.
Carrie Mulrooney, Director and CEO of Mulrooney & Associates Incorporated, is a seasoned pro when it comes to communicating the benefits of the cloud. In 2017, Mulrooney & Associates was recognized by the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada as Canada’s Bookkeeping Firm of the Year, and Carrie was recently named one of the Top Ten Influencers in the Canadian Bookkeeping World by Intuit and K2E Canada. Since the beginning of her cloud journey in 2014, Carrie has successfully managed many cloud conversations, mastering value positioning and solidifying her role as an advisor.
We recently chatted with Carrie to get her insights on how she manages cloud conversations with her clients. Read on for her actionable tips!
1. Strategically position the benefits
Best-in-class firms usually leverage a standardized tech stack (i.e., a select few applications that all clients must adopt in order to work with the firm).
In Carrie’s experience, your client (or potential client) will better understand the benefits of your standard tools if they’re positioned in terms of their particular business needs, challenges, or opportunities. To successfully communicate the benefits, it’s important to do your homework about the client’s business.
“I learn a lot about their business upfront – what their needs are, what their pain points are, why they’re coming to us, and so on. We even analyze their books,” explains Carrie. “Once I have a good idea as to where they’re at, that’s when I’ll have the cloud conversation. Out of the five platforms that we use in our stack, I can usually tell from that conversation which apps will work for them.”
In general, some of the benefits of cloud accounting technology for small businesses include:
- Saving time – Time-consuming administrative tasks such as data entry can be easily automated, enabling business owners to spend more time working on their business (as opposed to in it).
- Eliminating paper – The cloud eliminates the need for paper-based processes, allowing small businesses to free up office space, better track documents, and become more environmentally friendly!
- Increasing flexibility – The ability to access financial information anytime, anywhere means that business owners can work where they want, when they want.
- Easy audit-proofing – Tools such as Hubdoc allow source documents to be automatically attached to transactions in your general ledger, as well as centralize documents for easy access.
- Better advisor collaboration – With tools that automate many of the tasks associated with compliance work, small businesses are empowered to rely on their advisor as a valuable business partner.
Listing the general benefits of cloud accounting technology can help; however, referring to those that speak to the client’s unique challenges and goals will provide meaningful context. Are they looking to do less administrative work? Do they seek greater flexibility? Positioning the benefits in these terms will help them to see the value as it applies to their own business and facilitate greater buy-in.
2. Lead by example
Another way to better position the benefits of cloud technology is to lead by example – i.e., by adopting your standardized cloud accounting platforms and processes at your own practice.
Mulrooney & Associates has implemented cloud tools at their own practice, and Carrie acknowledges that this has helped them better position the value of their technology for all clients. “I can talk to them about the benefits of us using cloud technology at Mulrooney & Associates and how it’s helped our business, and how we’ve helped our clients with it. I think that that really says a lot right there. We’re passionate about what it is that we want our clients to use because we see how much it can benefit them.”
Adopting cloud-based technology and processes at your own firm will not only show that you “drink your own champagne”, so to speak – it will also enable you to have more effective cloud conversations. In addition to being able to speak to best practices based on your business’ own learnings, your commitment, passion, and excitement about your choice technology will be apparent – so much so that your clients will likely get excited, too!
3. Be prepared to offer more advice
If you’ve successfully positioned the value of your cloud accounting tech stack during your cloud conversations (which, for some clients, might take a few meetings), your client will likely be ramped up and ready to go. In Carrie’s experience, they’re usually excited and anxious to get started. “Sometimes, we hear, ‘What else can we automate?’” she says.
As such, you should be prepared to answer questions beyond “why” – specifically, those that pertain to “what?”, “how?”, and “now what?”. For new clients, have your fixed pricing options prepared, and for all clients, standardize your onboarding process to ensure the client’s cloud transition goes as smoothly as possible. (Pro tip: Mulrooney & Associates uses Practice Ignition to automate the proposal process.)
Given the growing awareness of the cloud technology ecosystem, it’s also important to be prepared to demonstrate deep knowledge of your selected apps. Be prepared to provide a demo, explain the nuances and differences between competitive apps, and speak to how your app stack integrates and passes information.
Launching a prosperous partnership
Regardless of the amount of persuasion or education required to get your clients on board with cloud accounting technology, having successful client conversations will also help to position your value as an advisor and business partner.
Strategically communicating the benefits of cloud technology, leading by example, and demonstrating a depth of knowledge about your apps will not only get your clients excited about the cloud – it will show them that you understand their particular business needs, and you’re dedicated to helping them get there. Building your relationships with this type of mindset will help both you and your clients forge productive and prosperous business partnerships that will last long into the future.
Improve your business partnerships by effectively setting expectations.
Download our free checklist on setting client expectations to learn how!
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