“If you give it away they won’t value it.” Really?
“If you give it away they won’t value it.” Isn’t that what we’ve always heard? This admonition gets applied in many areas of our personal and professional life and in some cases it is the truth. However, when it comes to professional relationships, I would like to offer up an alternative admonition, “Focus on the relationship and the fees will follow.” Patrick Lencioni, in his book, Getting Naked, tells us that if we focus on building trust and serving those around us, fees are less of an issue or even moot. Is this possible? What would this look like in real life? Allow me to introduce you to two equally competent accountants.
Let’s start with George. George gets a referral from a current client. The meeting is set. Accountant George sits down with Prospect Hank. The usual dialogue ensues. . . Talking about how they each know the referrer, common hobbies, etc. Then George asks Hank why he is looking for a new accountant. Hank explains his dissatisfaction stemming from poor communication and high fees. George asks what Hank has paid in previous years for services. George then proceeds to tell Hank all about the capabilities of his firm. Hank asks George about fees. George gives him a range for a typical review and tax return. Hank thanks George and tells him he is interviewing a couple of other firms and he will be in touch.
Enter Accountant Pete. Pete gets a referral from a current client. Pete sets an appointment to visit Hank at his business. Prior to meeting with Hank, Pete does a little bit of research on Hank’s industry. Pete arrives at Hank’s business. They exchange pleasantries. Pete asks questions about how the business was started, what Hank’s vision for the future is, and what made him want a new accountant? As they are talking, Pete asks Hank about some of the industry challenges he read about prior to the meeting. Pete asks Hank what he wants the business to look like in 5-10 years and if Hank has a plan to achieve that vision. Hank indicates that the plan is in his head. Pete mentions the reason he loves being an accountant is so he can help clients reach their goals. He loves getting involved with planning, and in doing so, it helps him provide more relevant services to ensure his clients’ success. Hank asks Pete about the firm’s fees. Pete says, “Because no two clients are the same, it’s difficult to say what your fees would be. However, I promise you will never be surprised by any of our fees. We always take time to talk about what we are doing and get your approval before we proceed. Is that okay with you?” Hank offers his hand to Pete and asks him how soon they can get started.
George is just as good of an accountant as Pete, maybe even better. But there is clearly a difference in their styles. George is focused on selling his firm to Hank. Pete was focused on understanding more about what is important to Hank. What did George give away? His time. What did Pete give away? His empathy. If you don’t give it away they won’t value it? I would disagree. I think Hank found great value in his meeting with Pete. Next time you meet with a prospect, a client, or a co-worker seek to understand what is important to them; creating an empathetic moment in time is worth far more to the value of your practice than selling more time.