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

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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/.

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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.

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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.

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