loui-kiaer-CielzQJR0SQ-unsplash_ accounting advisory services

Accounting Firms Can Boost Advisory Capabilities with These 5 Steps

loui-kiaer-CielzQJR0SQ-unsplash_ accounting advisory servicesThis is the time of year when accountants are usually taking a well-deserved break after a hectic tax season. This (hopefully) one-of-a-kind year, however, has many accounting firms still busy resolving issues related to extensions, sales tax reporting, delayed refunds, the PPP, and more. Plus, 2022 will be here before we know it, and that means that strategic planning for next year soon will begin.

As you do a post-mortem on your firm’s 2020 tax year workflows, processes, and services, don’t overlook potential new opportunities related to advisory services and moving into specialization. Both of these areas can prove to be beneficial for your clients as well as lucrative for your business.

A year like no other

In the past 18 months, many accountants found themselves helping both businesses and individuals navigate the uncharted waters created by COVID. Whether that took the form of additional financial data analysis, help with PPP-related issues, corporate budgeting assistance, or guidance on topics like hiring, furloughs, and compensation, accountants wore many hats for their clients — some of which they may not have traditionally worn!

And of course all of this was on top of dealing with accountants’ own pandemic-related challenges. Just like many of their clients, tax firms’ employees were trying to figure out the logistics of working remotely (while also juggling childcare or virtual students in many cases). Add to the equation the fact that the tax calendar accountants are so accustomed to was turned on its head with deadline adjustments, and the past 18 months have been unlike anything the accounting industry has experienced.

A recent article in Accounting Today makes an astute observation about another phenomenon that occurred in a lot of CPA firms this past year. “Though many firms report they mostly do compliance work, not advisory, often they are not recognizing that the pandemic pulled them into advisory services without a formal effort on their part,” the article says.

Indeed, in this one-of-a-kind year, many accountants were in uncharted waters as they tried their best to help clients navigate the COVID-19 storm. But in many cases, CPAs rose to the occasion, and in the process, may have inadvertently expanded their firm’s offerings to include advisory services. So, how can they capitalize on this serendipitous change going forward?

Industry specialization is the secret

A trusted accountant is an obvious resource for business owners to turn to when they are looking for tailored business advice. But an accountant can’t possibly be everything to every client when typically they are working with businesses in a wide array of industries. This is why industry specialization is often key to a firm’s ability to effectively pivot to advisory services provider.

Follow these five steps to get your firm’s specialized advisory services up and running.

  1. First and foremost, you have to select the industry or industries your firm will specialize in. When choosing your niche, consider industries where your team has particular interests or background. Perhaps that’s not-for-profits, agriculture, manufacturing, or real estate, for example.
  2. Next, you need to learn the inner workings of the industry — the ins and outs, the major players, the lingo. So, roll up your sleeves and dedicate some time to educating yourself on how that industry operates — the buyers and supplies, the latest trends, potential challenges, etc. The Industry Intelligence on Vertical IQ makes this step simple.
  3. Then it’s time to build your network of expert partners related to your chosen niche. For example, if you have opted to focus on real estate, you will want to tap into your network to connect to mortgage brokers, home inspectors, title companies, and so forth. These professionals in adjacent fields can serve as additional resources to you as well as your advisory clients. Also consider participating in trade organizations to build more connections and bolster your reputation in the field.
  4. Share Industry Intelligence with your client during every interaction. In conversations or phone calls, showcase your expertise in their industry. Incorporate industry trends and challenges into your presentations to spur conversation. Print relevant news articles to use as a leave-behind or drop in the mail as a follow-up.
  5. Continue to build your expertise in your niche by staying on top of changes within the industry. This means staying abreast of current events, how COVID has affected the industry, and trade publication articles, which can be found on each Vertical IQ Industry Profile. By continuously educating yourself on the latest industry news, you further build your expertise, which benefits current advisory clients as well as future ones.

A win-win for accounting clients and firms

Specialization has tangible benefits to your advisory clients. You become not just “some accountant,” easily replaced by another accounting firm that has lower rates, for example. Your knowledge of the intricacies of their industry means you can offer insightful, strategic advice. And this provides real value beyond just tax preparation.

But specialization also has advantages to your firm’s bottom line as you have the potential to be more profitable than generalists. You can garner higher fees, and you also can realize efficiencies with office management, marketing, document production, and more.

If you think your accounting firm would like to add advisory services to your offerings, Vertical IQ can help. Download our free eBook, 8 Ways to Use Industry Intelligence to Grow Your Accounting Firm, and learn how to use Industry Intelligence to develop a specialty, bring in new business clients, and grow existing relationships.

Image credit: Loui Kiær from Unsplash

Subscribe to our blog:


Man using laptop for video call; work-from-home

How Everyone Can Win with the Work-From-Home Trend

Man using laptop for video call; work from homeThe COVID-19 pandemic turned the world on its head in countless ways. Among them, many businesses had to reimagine how work would get done to meet demand (or lack thereof) while keeping employees and customers safe. It was a delicate balancing act that required creativity, flexibility, and in many cases, money.

But the larger question may be: What will workplaces look like going forward? A recent research study found that there is often a pretty wide chasm between what employers envision for a return to work and what employees have in mind. Industry Intelligence can be the key to bridging this gap.

A whole new work-from-home world

In April, Arizent, the parent company of Accounting Today, American Banker, Bond Buyer, Digital Insurance, Employee Benefit News, Financial Planning, and National Mortgage News, conducted an online survey of 491 employers and employees across a variety of verticals. The survey was designed to delve into current attitudes about the future of work.

More than two-thirds (69 percent) of survey participants acknowledged that remote work and telecommuting policies will be changed forever as a result of the pandemic. These numbers were especially high among respondents in fintech (88 percent), banking (81 percent), and financial services (73 percent).

Not surprisingly, many employees have discovered that they enjoy working from home, with 62 percent saying they would like to work from home the majority of the time if their employer would agree to it.

The in-person conundrum

And while most employers acknowledge that working from home, at least some of the time, is likely going to be the new normal, there are still some that believe that being in-person in an office is critical to success. Thirteen percent of respondents said it is “very unlikely” or “not likely at all” that they will allow employees to work from home long-term.

Most employers expect that employees will be back in their office full-time within the next year, with just one-third of employers expecting to have employees splitting time between work and home. Employers see time in the office as important for in-person collaboration and customer service.

As a result, many employers (45 percent) plan to keep their current physical office space — good news for the commercial real estate industry. Only 1 percent of respondents said they plan to eliminate their office footprint altogether.

On the other hand, employers do recognize that they could see cost-savings if they were to reduce their office square-footage and allow employees to work remotely all or some of the time. In particular, fintechs and financial services companies are the most likely to allow employees to work from home in the future, but it of course depends on the employee’s role and their work performance.

The secret to remote selling success

It is understandable that employers would have mixed feelings about employees working remotely. In the professional services world, for example, relationship-building and collaboration are of critical importance. Employers in industries like banking, financial management, and accounting may have concerns about how their salesforce can successfully create those all-important interpersonal connections from the comfort of a home office.

But in today’s virtual environment, sales professionals can indeed create the personalized experience their business customers crave, if they have the right tools in place. That’s why companies that are shifting to a hybrid work environment must also shift their investments from office square-footage to things like technology, cybersecurity, video conferencing capabilities, document management, and yes, sales readiness tools.

Industry Intelligence equips sales professionals with the insights they need to sell in a remote environment. The insights on Vertical IQ provide actionable content covering more than 90 percent of businesses comprising the U.S. economy, as well as economic/industry reports for hundreds of cities and thousands of counties across the U.S.

By incorporating this type of tailored content into prospect/customer communications, presentations, and conversations, sales pros will not only provide the valuable industry-specific customers want, they will differentiate themselves from all the competitors who are only sharing generic information. Armed with Industry Intelligence, bankers, financial planners, accountants, and others can effectively nurture and grow relationships, even from a remote location.

>> Related: Webinar Recap: 8 Keys to Remote Selling

Give the people what they want

Looking ahead, many of the survey participants said they are optimistic about the future of their industry. Among fintech respondents, 63 percent said they expect to see a significant rebound in 2021, as did 61 percent of financial services organizations, and 57 percent of wealth management firms. Most respondents also said they expect to hire more employees this year.

But the bottom line is that for many industries, remote or hybrid work is here to stay. Employees have had a taste of the flexibility and freedom it provides, so if companies want to attract and retain the best workers, they are going to need to shift their mindset about work-from-home options. And by equipping employees with the right Industry Intelligence tools, the remote option can be a win for everyone.

Subscribe to our blog:


math blackboard trust equation

Increase the Sum of the Accounting Trust Equation

math blackboard trust equationMost CPAs and accountants are “numbers people,” adept at distilling complex information and analyzing datasets. But being a great numbers-cruncher isn’t enough; there are other “soft” skills that CPAs and accounting professionals must sharpen in order to succeed. They need to build relationships and connect with clients on a deeper level in order to retain their business — especially when another firm offers lower pricing.

So, how can an accountant become the go-to person that clients call when they are making an important business or financial decision? In order to elevate their status as a trusted advisor to their clients, and bolster client loyalty, accounting pros should consider this crucial equation:

Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy
Self-interest

This “trust equation” was conceived by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford in their bestselling book, The Trusted Advisor. Quantifying what it takes to earn clients’ trust, and therefore their loyalty, this concept can help accounting and other financial professionals focus on what matters most to their clients. And Industry Intelligence can serve as the common denominator in order to work through this equation.

Let’s take a look at how each of the components of this trust equation come into play for clients and how Industry Intelligence can boost your status with them.

Adding to client relationships built on trust

Credibility

The first element of the trust equation is credibility, and with good reason. Your credibility is built on years of experience and knowledge accumulation. It includes not only your formal education but also your continued focus on staying on top of changes in your field: changes to tax laws, succession planning, technology advancements, and more. You increase your credibility by participating in professional and community organizations as well.

But another way to enhance your credibility is by choosing a particular industry or industries upon which to focus. Using Industry Intelligence, it is simple to build expertise around particular verticals, which will naturally attract businesses within that niche.

With Industry Intelligence, you can learn the ins and outs of how your focus industry works; have your finger on the pulse of the latest trends and risks impacting businesses in that niche; stay up to date by reading industry-specific news articles. Then consider taking part in those industries’ tradeshows or trade organizations to get your foot in the door with companies and allow you to showcase the expertise you have attained about their field.

Reliability

Next, you want to add reliability into the trust equation. Like the sun rising in the east, reliability means you do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. For accounting professionals, it’s the convergence of dependability, trustworthiness, and professionalism — all crucial characteristics that clients expect.

But what clients also desire — but don’t necessarily get from most CPAs and accountants — is proactivity. This is where Industry Intelligence can really shine, giving you the insight needed to better anticipate clients’ needs and bring them tailored solutions.

For instance, a proactive way to boost clients’ perception of your reliability, while also adding value to the relationship, is to share Industry Intelligence with the business owner. Print out a recent industry-specific news article to drop in the mail and include a note about how the article’s topic might impact their business. Or include information on current trends and risks impacting their industry in your presentation materials to tailor your pitch.

Intimacy

Finally, you will want to add intimacy into your client relationship to build trust. Accounting requires a lot of alone time behind your computer, so it can be an attractive profession for more introverted people. If this is you, it can be difficult to defy your natural tendencies and come out of your shell, but in order to become that trusted advisor to your clients, you must develop a personal, holistic relationship with them.

In business as in life, solid, trusting relationships are built by connecting on a personal level. It’s great to talk about family, hobbies, or weekend plans, but with Industry Intelligence, you’ll get clients and prospects to open up to you about their business. It can serve as an entrée to a frank conversation about their business goals, as well as the issues keeping them up at night, thus enabling you to provide them with customized solutions.

Let’s say your client owns a large animal production company. You know it’s been in their family for several generations now, but the owner is reaching retirement age. You might initiate a conversation like this:

“This is a business your family has worked hard to build and grow over the decades. I know a lot of operators in the meat production industry are older like yourself. Have you been thinking about a succession plan for your business? For many producers, there’s concern about the willingness of younger generations to continue the operations. Have you spoken to your children about a plan? Can we meet with our Business Valuation team to take a look at recent transactions in your industry to give you an idea and a benchmark?”

This is a very personalized and important conversation to have, and it will showcase not only your industry knowledge, but also your interest in the client as a person.

Reduce the self-interest, increase the trust

To be the go-to trusted advisor for a client, they have to know that, not only are you in their corner, you are putting their success first, ahead of your own motives or quotas, and anticipating what’s around the corner for their business, offering strategic advice, That’s why perhaps the most important factor in the trust equation is your ability to reduce self-interest. It’s sometimes easier said than done, but Industry Intelligence can lead the way.

For example, if you are working with the owner of an engineering services firm and have reviewed the Industry Intelligence on their niche, you might start a conversation like this: “Many firms like yours are able to minimize their corporate income taxes by paying employee bonuses and shareholder dividends at the end of the year. Have you considered this option in order to decrease your tax burden? How would you address any temporary cash shortfalls this strategy might create for your firm?”

Another approach that keeps the conversation focused on the client’s goals and concerns is to share local economic data. These stats can segue into an insightful conversation about potential expansion opportunities, or red flags that might be on the horizon for the client’s business. These aren’t discussions about how you can make a sale or increase your billable hours. They are about ensuring the client’s business thrives.

When you use Industry Intelligence to combine credibility, reliability, and intimacy — and you reduce your own self-interest — there’s no doubt CPAs and accountants will increase the product of the trust equation, exponentially boosting clients’ trust in you.

Get started today with a free demo of Vertical IQ!

Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Subscribe to our blog:


smiling saleswoman sales pros thriving amid pandemic pexels-andrea-piacquadio-3786763

Savvy Sales Pros Thrived by Improving Skill Sets Amid Pandemic

smiling saleswoman sales pros thriving amid pandemic pexels-andrea-piacquadio-3786763The past year created numerous problems, both large and small, as people tried to navigate the “new normal” brought on by the pandemic. Those in sales roles were no exception. From office closures and travel restrictions to working from home while juggling childcare and video conferences, sales professionals definitely were put through their paces.

But in a rather surprising plot twist, it turns out that many salespeople were actually living their best life this past year — at least professionally.

Sales success despite pandemic, economic woes

Each year, the CRM company Pipedrive puts together their State of Sales report, which includes international research insights on perceptions, implications, and opportunities for those in the sales profession, as well as predictions for the year to come. The new 2020–2021 report’s findings are based on responses from 1,702 sales professionals, business owners, and other people involved in sales, surveyed between November 20 and December 28, 2020.

The report found:

  • 59 percent of respondents felt they became more successful at sales in 2020.
  • 81 percent said they expect an increase in their sales in 2021.
  • A whopping 92 percent expect that their role as a salesperson will have a positive impact on the economy in 2021.

Jeff Heckler, global head of customer success at Pipedrive had this analysis of the survey results: “Sales has always been a difficult field to work in — even before the pandemic. It is not just about selling skills, rather it is a mixture of experience, knowledge, problem-solving, empathy, and communication. It’s quite possible that extensive experience and skill sets in many different areas helped sales professionals to cope with the new situation faster.”

Difficult times call for innovative measures

Many of us here at Vertical IQ have a background in sales. We therefore know exactly how challenging this profession can be, even in the best of times. But we also know how scrappy and resourceful the successful salesperson is. We are naturally hard-wired to see the potential opportunities created by a challenging situation, not only for ourselves but also for our prospects and customers.

Amid the extraordinary times created by the pandemic, the successful salesperson developed new processes to meet the client or prospect where they were — literally and figuratively. They found new, innovative methods to engage with prospects and clients remotely. They discovered ways to provide insights that helped clients successfully weather the storm.

And this is exactly where Industry Intelligence came into play for shrewd sales pros. By using Industry Intelligence effectively, these folks not only improved the quality of the service they offer to their customers, they actually increased their value. And this past year, working in a remote selling environment amid a receding economy, this was more important than ever.

Industry Intelligence to the rescue

Here are three ways that successful salespeople learned to use Industry Intelligence more effectively this past year — techniques that will continue to create success for them even beyond the pandemic.

Better preparation

At Vertical IQ, we like to remind folks that Readiness Wins. Yes, in “normal times,” you should do pre-call planning to get up to speed on the ins and outs of the client’s or prospect’s industry, but this became non-negotiable this past year. Many businesses were struggling to stay afloat as their industry was hit by shutdowns, shrinking demand, and/or supply chain issues. Other industries saw a boom in business, which may have caught them on their heels.

By taking the time to do effective preparation, using Industry Intelligence to get up to speed on the state of the client or prospect’s industry — trends, risks, opportunities, etc. — successful salespeople were better able to offer meaningful solutions to the unique situations being faced by so many businesses.

Personalized communications

Meeting with clients and prospects in a virtual setting necessitated innovation for the successful sales professional. As with an in-person meeting, you should come to a virtual meeting armed with conversation-provoking questions tailored to the client or prospect’s industry and business. But there were additional ways salespeople used Industry Intelligence to tailor their communications too — techniques that will be effective even once the pandemic subsides.

For example, when sending a meeting invitation (be it an in-person or virtual meeting), they included an economic update for the business’s city or county with a personal note. Once the business owner accepted the invite, they sent a brief thank you email with some industry-focused conversation-starter questions, which they could then bring up during their meeting.

And of course, as usual, they found opportunities to incorporate Industry Intelligence throughout presentations in order to showcase their expertise and the tailored solutions they could offer.

Improved follow-up

Meeting follow-up letters are becoming a relic of a bygone era, but there are new and better opportunities for touchpoints. For example, one advantage of virtual meetings is the ability to create a recording and/or transcript of the conversation. Smart sales folks learned to send this as a meeting recap, along with a “leave-behind” of value to the business owner such as a quarterly industry update or a timely news article.

Bear in mind that this and other touchpoints should NOT be about you, your organization, or even your products and services. Instead, they should provide something of value to the business owner — something they would not otherwise have the time or resources to access on their own.

Vertical IQ makes tapping into these insights quick and easy. By incorporating our Industry Intelligence into your call planning and sales process, you can truly begin to add value to your client or prospect’s business, setting you apart from other salespeople who push products or rely simply on pricing.

Applicable skills for the future

As reflected by the State of Sales report, many salespeople are taking the experiences they endured during the pandemic and applying their new or improved skill set to future opportunities. They recognize that many of those abilities they honed during the pandemic actually made them a better salesperson.

Thanks in part to their improved utilization of Industry Intelligence, savvy sales professionals not only survived the tumult of the pandemic, they managed to thrive.

Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Subscribe to our blog:


man at laptop jeshoots unsplash sales clichés

Moving Beyond Sales Clichés to Add Value

man at laptop jeshoots unsplash sales clichés“How’s business?” This might just be the oldest sales conversation-starter in the universe. There are other similar sales-related clichés you’ve heard, and some you’ve probably even said or written, like:

  • “I thought I’d reach out to introduce myself and learn more about you and your company…”
  • “I’m wondering if you need…”
  • “Did you get my last email…”
  • “Let me know how I can help you…”

And then of course there is the oldie but goodie, “I’d love to learn more about your business…” In fact, this was the title and inspiration for a recent blog post written by Dave Brock, a sales, marketing, business, and leadership consultant and author of “Sales Manager Survival Guide: Lessons From Sales’ Front Lines.”

In the post, Dave shares how, as a business owner, he has been on the receiving end of these and many other generic sales pitches. But he also notes the critical flaw with this type of language. “They put the onus on me to figure out if I can get value, whether it’s worth my time to respond or do something,” he explains. “They make it my responsibility to educate them, so they can figure out how to sell me something.”

An already-full plate

As Dave observes, it shouldn’t be the role of the client or prospect to teach you about their industry or how their business operates. Most business owners have far too much on their plate as it is, wearing numerous hats on any given day. They often don’t have time to check off everything on their own to-do list, much less add “explain my company to a salesperson so they can pitch me their product” to their tasks.

Business owners, especially small to medium-size business (SMB) owners, are looking for solutions to make their jobs simpler and their businesses more successful. Time and time again, surveys show that SMBs are looking for business partners who can bring them new ideas to solve their unique challenges. And I can tell you for certain: Asking them, “How’s business?” does not fit that bill!

Taking the initiative to learn more

Instead of putting the onus on the business owner to educate them about their industry and their company, savvy salespeople will take the time to do their homework in advance of reaching out to the prospect. Not only will this give the sales professional the information they need to initiate a personalized conversation about the client/prospect’s company, it will also arm them with the knowledge they need to provide the business owner with tailored solutions to common issues faced within their industry.

This is where Industry Intelligence is clutch. Spending even 5 minutes preparing for a client call or researching prior to sending a prospecting email can mean the difference between getting new or more business from that business owner, and having your outreach trashed — literally or figuratively. Industry Intelligence enables you to move beyond those tired sales pitch clichés to add value to your conversations.

Two different sales approaches

Consider these two very-different conversations, which could take place either in person, on the phone, or via email.

Conversation 1:

Hi Sarah. I thought I’d reach out to introduce myself and learn more about you and your company. At ABC Bank, we have low rates and fees to help small businesses like yours succeed. Can you share your challenges and priorities? Can we set up a time to discuss?

Conversation 2:

Hi Sarah. I know that landscaping companies like yours are experiencing growth in residential services as property owners, who cared for their own lawns and flower beds to pass time and save money during the pandemic, return to work and have less time for yard maintenance. I’d love to talk with you about how your firm is dealing with the cost of purchasing, maintaining, and repairing quickly depreciating equipment in order to meet this growing demand, and how ABC Bank can help with equipment financing.

As you can see, Conversation 1 puts it on the business owner to explain her situation so that the banker can hopefully sell her on a product or service. Conversation 2, on the other hand, incorporates Industry Intelligence into the pitch. Not only does it show the prospect that you have taken the time to learn about their industry, but you have a specific solution to a timely pain point the business owner may be experiencing.

Showcase your research efforts, win more business

So many salespeople lead with, “I’d love to learn more about your business,” but few take the time or the initiative to actually do it!

By utilizing Industry Intelligence, like you will find on Vertical IQ, you can, in fact, learn about your client or prospect’s niche in just a few minutes. You can then show them that you have taken interest in their business in a very tangible way: incorporating your industry knowledge into your conversation or email, sharing timely industry news articles with a personal note, adding industry data and financial benchmarks into your presentation — just to name a few ideas.

These types of industry-specific sales tactics show the business owner that you have taken the time to learn about them and their industry. It will enable you to have intelligent conversations about their industry and will allow you to offer customized ideas on how to solve their business challenges.

I’m reminded of Dale Carnegie’s bestseller “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” To paraphrase a key message from that book, Carnegie advises that you will accomplish more in the next few months if you develop a sincere interest in people than you will by trying to get people interested in you. By doing your pre-call research using Industry Intelligence, you can move beyond tired clichés to have tailored, engaging, value-added conversations with your client or prospect. You’ll show them that not only would you “love to learn more about their business,” but you actually took the bull by the horns and did your homework!

Image credit: Jeshoots, Unsplash

Subscribe to our blog:


coffee cup by tax documents

How Accountants Can Tackle A Tax Season Like No Other

coffee cup by tax documentsCOVID-19 has created challenges for nearly every industry, and accountants are no exception. A recent article in Accounting Today highlighted some of the issues firms are facing as they struggle to keep up with ever-changing tax laws and deadlines instituted as a result of the pandemic.

For example, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided much-needed funds for struggling small businesses. However, there are a number of variables that determine whether those loans are forgiven, partially forgiven, or not forgiven. Tax preparers must sort out which category their business client falls into. Schedule C sole proprietors may also have the potential for various payroll credits muddying their 2020 return, which accountants must decipher.

Further complicating matters when it comes to filing businesses’ taxes, tax laws related to the PPP vary from state to state. California, for instance, does not permit PPP expenses to be forgiven or deductible. And that’s on top of the state’s already-complicated tax laws around the Affordable Care Act mandate.

Another hot topic is the Economic Impact Payments (EIP, aka stimulus payments). These payments weren’t applicable to everyone, but some people who did not receive a check (or direct deposit) should have qualified via their reduced 2020 adjusted gross income (AGI). These people will have to claim on their 2020 return the EIP dollars they should be entitled to.

Give them what they want…but how?

Accountants and CPAs are waiting for additional guidance from the feds and their respective states on how to address some of these issues when preparing their clients’ tax returns.

While it is of course essential that accountants keep up with the latest tax regulations, they must also bear in mind what their business owner-clients really want from their accountant: a value-added trusted advisor to them and their business. They are looking for someone who understands the nuances of their industry and has insights that can help them be more successful in that niche.

But there are only so many hours in an accountant’s day, and this time of year, those hours are packed! How can they possibly keep up with ever-changing tax laws AND serve as a value-added resource to clients?

Adding value to small businesses

A previous Accounting Today survey of over 1,000 small business owners and executives found that most were using an accountant in the hopes of finding tax savings and cost-cutting opportunities and/or remaining legally compliant. Yet, many business owners are looking for more from the professional relationship they have with their accountant or CPA.

When asked what is the most important quality that their accountant can possess, more than three out of four respondents (78 percent) said the most important attribute of an accountant is that they are “a trusted advisor to me.”

The response to this question should be eye-opening to accountants and other tax advisors — many of whom are small business owners themselves. They know first-hand that running a business is hard work. The hours are long, and it can be tough to accomplish everything on your must-do list on any given day, much less keep up with those “extras” like staying attuned to industry-specific trends and opportunities.

Yet the irony, of course, is that those types of industry insights are the very thing that can help a small business rise above their competition and thrive in the marketplace. As this survey reveals, business owners are literally clamoring for trustworthy guidance on how to avoid industry-specific risks and take advantage of trends to make their business run more efficiently and more cost-effectively.

Incorporating Industry Intelligence

When looking for someone to turn to for this very type of tailored business advice, a business owner’s accountant should be an obvious choice. But accountants typically are working with companies in a wide array of industries — how can they possibly stay up-to-date on the latest trends within all of those niches? That’s where Industry Intelligence comes into play.

Industry Intelligence enables accountants and CPAs to attain that coveted “trusted advisor” status with clients by providing key insights on their unique industry. Using Vertical IQ, you can get up to speed on your accounting client’s industry in as little as 5 minutes, preparing you to offer them valuable information on things like the latest trends benefiting others in their industry, as well as cautioning them about potential pitfalls others have encountered.

Industry Intelligence adds up

If you are a busy accountant, adding valuable insights to client relationships by incorporating Industry Intelligence into your touchpoints can be simple with Vertical IQ. Here are some simple ideas to get you started:

  • Read the 5-minute Call Prep Sheet for your client’s industry prior to your next meeting to quickly get up-to-speed on key trends in their vertical.
  • Print and share the Business Valuation chapter of the Industry Profile to start a conversation about succession planning.
  • Print a recent article from the News section of the Industry Profile, highlight a salient point in the article, and use it as a leave-behind.

Using this type of Industry Intelligence instantly adds value to your client relationships, boosts your credibility and clients’ appreciation for you, and provides them with an incentive to purchase additional cross-sell services from your firm. The cost-benefit is clear.

Let’s get started

For small business owners who use the services of a CPA or an accounting firm, the value of that relationship can and should extend beyond just advice on how to take advantage of tax laws and streamline accounting practices. An effective accountant can make themselves invaluable to a business owner by offering real-world guidance on how to better-run their business.

While the pandemic has created a more complicated tax season, accountants still have a unique opportunity to attain this coveted “trusted advisor” status with their business owner-clients. Utilizing Industry Intelligence enables accountants to provide insights on trends to grow the client’s business or challenges the client’s competitors are facing.

That type of tailored guidance is particularly useful in unusual times like we are experiencing now. But maintaining a relationship with a trusted advisor who can serve as a source for such insights will remain important to that business owner in the future as well. It’s a service that’s valuable not just during tax season but year-round.

Contact us today for more information about how Vertical IQ makes sharing Industry Intelligence quick and simple.

Image credit: Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

Subscribe to our blog:


Jack Hubbard remote selling webinar

Webinar Recap: 8 Keys to Remote Selling

Jack Jubbard remote selling webinarI recently hosted a webinar with banking sales expert Jack Hubbard, chairman and chief experience officer at St. Meyer and Hubbard, to discuss how banks can succeed at remote selling amid the pandemic and beyond. Here are some of the key things Jack shared in the session.

          >> Related: Banking Sales Expert Shares Thoughts on Virtual Selling

Get more out of remote sales calls

While the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are thankfully coming down as vaccination numbers go up, many people are still working remotely. This goes for both bankers and their business customers, and research suggests that many of these folks may never return to a full-time office setting. So, how can bankers adjust to this “next normal,” as Jack calls it?

Business banking customers and prospects do still want human interaction during the sales process, though it varies whether that contact will be in person, virtual, or a combination thereof (what Jack terms “blended environment conversations” or BECs).

But herein lies the problem: 70 percent of bank executives say they haven’t provided their teams with the tools (hardware, software, and/or training) they need to succeed in this environment.

Jack shared three key considerations that banks need to keep in mind as they adapt to the BEC world going forward.

  1. Technical considerations

  • Whether you are using Zoom, WebEx, Teams, or some other video conferencing system, the key is to make the technology yours. Customize your settings and use a branded background, for example.
  • It’s also important to adhere to your bank’s policies around virtual meetings, such as respecting a dress code, if applicable.
  • If your bank permits it, and the buyer consents, it is a good best practice to record all virtual meetings to keep a record of takeaways and use it as a follow-up with the customer or prospect.
  • Using the video conference’s white board or annotation settings is great for visual or experiential learners, but it takes practice to perfect this technical capability.
  • Ensure bankers have the technology they need — computer monitors, printers, ring lights, etc. — to be effective when working remotely.
  1. Conversation considerations

  • Customize your approach including a custom meeting invite, agenda, and follow-up that includes a value add (such as a timely news article from Vertical IQ) to grab the buyer’s attention.
  • Use the buyer’s webpage or LinkedIn profile as your initial screen when you start the virtual meeting, showing them you’ve taken the time to do your homework. It’s a great conversation starter.
  • Ask questions tailored to the buyer and their industry in order to guide the conversation and get better information out of the buyer. Vertical IQ can help with this too.
  • “Turkey feather” your notes, as Jack calls it, by adding color-coded sticky notes of reminders, questions, and topics you want to be sure to cover around the perimeter of your computer screen (don’t block the camera, though!). This allows you to keep your eyes on the screen, showing the buyer you’re engaged in the conversation, instead of constantly looking down at your notes.
  • At the end of your virtual conversation, don’t forget to leave the buyer with something of value. For example, show an industry-focused article from Vertical IQ on your screen and note something you found interesting about it. Then offer to send the link to them as a follow-up.
  • If you have a business partner on the call, be sure they also know how to use the technology and what you’ll be asking them to discuss so you’re literally and figuratively on the same page to have a professional presentation.
  1. Leadership considerations

  • Leaders need to have empathy and patience as people begin to head back to the office and adapt to this “next normal.”
  • They need to be holding meetings that incorporate coaching, including listening in on joint calls (or reviewing the recording or recap notes from the banker) in order to offer constructive feedback.

Other remote selling best practices

Jack shared a few other best practice ways to successfully sell remotely in 2021. One idea is a concept called “TeamBoarding” (since it is a whole-team effort) where bank relationship team members reach out to new business banking customers at certain milestones throughout the first year of the relationship.

Another idea Jack shared is an approach called “3 before 8” in which the relationship manager finds a pertinent news article using Vertical IQ, RelPro, LinkedIn, etc., and emails it — along with a personal note — to three prospects, customers, and/or centers of influence each morning before 8 a.m.

Taking these steps, bankers can elevate themselves in 2021 from relationship managers to “resource managers” — a value-added resource for their customers and prospects.

>> Request a link to The 8 Keys to Remote Selling with Jack Hubbard video replay.

We can help!

Vertical IQ can provide bankers (or other sales professionals) with the tools they need to sell in this remote environment and create the personalized experience their business customers crave. We offer actionable content covering more than 90 percent of businesses comprising the U.S. economy, as well as economic/industry reports for hundreds of cities and thousands of counties across the U.S.

By incorporating this type of tailored content into your prospect/customer communications, presentations, and conversations, you will not only provide the insights they desire, you will differentiate yourself from all the competitors who are only sharing generic information.

To learn more about Vertical IQ or to request a demo, visit https://verticaliq.com/demo/.

Subscribe to our blog:


Boost Your Virtual Sales Results Using Industry Intelligence

The red lights are blinking, the sirens are blaring, the signs that say “Danger Ahead” are flashing: Sales professionals of all stripes are in for a challenging 2021. Yes, 2020 was a rough one, but if you think next year is going to be smooth sailing, I have some unwelcome news for you.

Read more


The Competitive Advantage of the Community Bank

Community banks have had a challenging year; it’s been unlike anything our nation has experienced in the past century. Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which are among community banks’ bread and butter, have suffered record job losses and closures. Between the March 13 COVID-19 emergency declaration and mid-April, total private employment in the U.S. plummeted by over 15 percent — a record drop.

Read more