As a bookkeeper, you may think that the foundation of your business is based on the variety of services you offer and your ability to deliver them on time and on budget.
While those are important factors in staying in business, they are not the primary item your customers are looking for when they seek help with their small business financial affairs.
What they are really seeking is trust.
They need to know that you will work with their best interests in mind. They need to believe that you are familiar with laws and practices dictated by governing authorities and that you will ensure they comply with them.
They need to know that you will be discreet in the handling of their business matters and that any suggestions or advice you give are above board and not designed to take advantage of them.
Trust is important in all businesses, but for those who handle other people’s financial information, it is THE most important quality you offer.
If you want to grow your business, ensuring that you place high emphasis on the trust factor will be important.
When trust is in place, your relationship with your client becomes solid and strong. They transport that trust to others, giving you sterling referrals and new clients.
How do you define this elusive thing that we call trust?
It is as simple as your client relying on you to do the right thing.
When there is trust, everything becomes safer and easier. It means that your client will share knowledge easily and freely, and because of that, you can do your job more effectively.
Establishing trust is a challenge for all bookkeepers whether you are meeting your clients face to face or working with them in the cloud.
Here are five strategies to help you grow your business with trust:
Listen well at each client encounter
When you become proficient at your own business, there is a tendency to want to tell clients what they can expect rather than listen to what it is that they want and need.
Such responses undermine trust.
Active listening during each client encounter sends a message that you are open to helping them solve their problems and that you will find ways to help them solve their problems.
This establishes a higher level of trust as you grow together into a package of services to be delivered than if you dictate services and try to make their needs squeeze in between the lines of your predetermined ideas.
Clarify your impressions
In any encounter with a client, there is a point where you think you know what the situation is, and where you know what it is for sure.
To get from that point A to point B, you need to ensure that you seek clarification on any issues that aren’t quite clear.
In our time-pressed exchanges, too often we rush through this process and forget clarification.
To ensure that you are clear about the needs and situation of your client, be sure to paraphrase your discussion at the end. Say something like “after discussing this, I understand the situation like this: …Am I interpreting this correctly?”
Allow the client to correct you if you have mistaken some point. Then follow the meeting with a written summary and a proposal for services to be performed.
Be a straight talker
Be forthright when you hold initial meetings with your clients. Let them know what you can and cannot do and precisely what services they will get for an agreed upon price. Setting the correct expectations is critical to future success.
The minute a client finds an unexpected charge on their bill is the minute the instinct for mistrust starts.
If they request an additional service once you have an established working relationship, be sure to be clear on any additional fees that will be required.
Demonstrate your respect for the client and their business
In all of your written and verbal communication, be respectful. No matter how friendly you and your client get as the time passes, make sure that all your correspondence still stays professional.
Do not make assumptions about your client and their motives. Try to learn as much as you can to understand each client’s business so that they are better able to speak with you using the vocabulary of their industry.
The vast majority of conflicts and misunderstandings are due to a lack of proper communication.
Create an atmosphere of transparency
Make sure that your client knows they can ask for reports regularly and that you will furnish a certain number of updates whether or not they are requested.
Ensure that your client is kept in the loop on key issues, and send written reports if you detect an issue that is worrisome or promising.
Do the job and do it well
Nothing builds trust like consistently delivering a job well done. Set reasonable goals with each client, and achieve them. Keep all your commitments and deliver what you promise.
Always be sure to underpromise and over deliver. Consistently over promising and under delivering is a sure way to losing clients.
Don’t ever expect your client to “just trust me.” Trust is earned. Give them the results and the reasons and they will come to trust you naturally and fully.
Remember the two sides of trust
There’s an old saying that suggests that trust has two sides, character and competency.
When we talk about trust in the business world these days, there is a great focus on building trust between businesses and client, and between team members, and that focus is on being persons of good character.
But even though you may be a good person and treat your client’s business affairs with integrity and honesty, you can’t ignore the importance of competency.
This means that you have to take the initiative to keep developing your skills and knowledge of your industry. You need to be aware of changes in bookkeeping procedures and have a good working knowledge of the taxation system of the country to ensure that you are compliant with standard procedures.
When your clients trust you, they can make better business decisions and grow their own companies. In this unique way, business moves on a personal level of trust.
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