Online meetings can be tiresome. What’s worse is if you feel frustrated, it’s likely your clients do too. But this can be remedied with a few simple changes that leverage processes and technology to make your meetings more valuable. After all, happy clients equal happy accountants.
Whilst in-person meetings still form a key component for many practices, it’s likely that your firm undertakes at least a portion of its client meetings on some type of video platform. This can provide some challenges, but also brings great opportunities.
Increasingly, the size of your office and the comfiness of your meeting room chairs has become a moot point. It has been argued that the video call revolution has democratised business relationships. By investing in the client experience—rather than a fancy office—your 10-employee firm can be on a level playing field with a top 100 firm.
“You don’t need the large sales force and the fancy offices to look professional. Small businesses now have the same sort of access because it is okay to be sitting in your t-shirt on Zoom. The veneer has gone.”
The client meeting is the most valuable client interaction you will have:
You will have an opportunity to better understand your clients’ business and fears.
You will be able to unpack any unmet needs that you may be able to additionally service.
You will build a deeper and valued relationship.
That’s before we even get started on the importance of discovery meetings with potential clients and the speed at which impressions are formed.
Barry Soraff, Partner at top T00 UK accounting firm, Raffingers, believes there is a correlation:
“The more client touch points I have with a client results in an increased lifetime value of that client”.
Similarly, Peter Jarman, owner of accounting firm PJCO, suggests:
“The more we talk to our clients, the more we become involved in their business. Once we’re fully involved, questions around our costs tend to disappear, as the value we provide is clear. We become accepted as part of the team.”
Client meetings can largely be split into two types:
Those instigated by the client (i.e. a client calling you)
Those instigated by you (i.e. a quarterly business review or an onboarding meeting)
These can be further defined as reactive and proactive communications, with reactive stemming from your client, and proactive stemming from you.
The second sort is entirely within your control, so let’s focus on that. There is a right way and a wrong way to run them.
Low value client meetings are characterised by a lack of process. Typically, these meetings are approached by different team members in totally different ways, leading to frustration and confusion for clients.
They often lack a clear meeting agenda, which is crucial for keeping a meeting on-track. They also might involve meeting notes scattered across a mix of different documents and physical notepads, with meeting actions not clearly recorded for all to see (leading to a lack of progress).
As with all important aspects of a firm’s business, there needs to be a system or a process based on evidence that will deliver results. One such framework is the Prepare. Meet. Act. workflow.
Successful preparation for a client meeting involves two things:
A clear meeting agenda. There’s no excuse for not setting a brief agenda. Ideally this should be agreed several days beforehand, allowing parties to add additional points as they see fit.
‘Pre-meeting work’ assigned. Meetings aren’t a place to be examining reports or filling out forms. This should be done beforehand so that everyone is on the same page when the meeting rolls around.
There are a number of things to consider during a meeting with a client:
Agree on a single platform for the whole team. Jumping between different platforms causes confusion and wastes time.
Take notes. You don’t need a complete transcript—the more succinct the better. But key discussions and decisions should be documented clearly and stored in a central location that everyone can access. You might also make additional notes that are private to you and the team.
Assign actions. Meeting actions should be assigned in a central place where individuals can check them off and monitor progress.
The end of a meeting doesn’t signify work stopping. More still needs to be done:
Complete meeting notes. Record of a meeting should be tidied up and completed directly after the meeting. That’s when your memory will be freshest.
Share summary and actions. Meeting notes and actions should be circulated amongst attendees in a timely fashion. This will likely be via email, but ideally a copy of these notes should be stored in a central location to be referred back to at any time, by anyone.
Confirm follow-up meeting. Wherever possible, this should be booked during the meeting ( also known as ‘Book a Meeting from a Meeting’ or BaMFaM).
Connect4 is a meeting platform uniquely designed to help accounting firms implement the Prepare. Meet. Act process for better client meetings. It’s a central location to set agendas, store meeting notes and assign actions. Using a dedicated platform like Connect4 ensures you and your team run meetings the right way, with structure, preparation processes and follow ups.
“We’re excited by Connect4 because it truly puts the client at the heart of our service offering. It enforces really good meeting behaviour—setting agendas, scheduling follow-up meetings etc—there’s no getting away from it.”
Through running client meetings the right way, Joe has been able to safely step back from running all his client meetings to empowering his team to run client meetings and relationships.
Spend some time thinking about your last client meeting. Was it truly valuable? Did you and your clients come away energized and ready for action? If you didn’t follow a clear process, try using the Prepare. Meet. Act framework. Let’s start doing online client meetings the right way.
CEO & Founder, Connect4
Andrew Jordon is the CEO and Founder of Connect4, a client meeting platform that allows you to have structured and efficient client meetings. Andrew is a trained accountant in Corporate Tax and M&A. He opened the UK office of Fathom, reporting software in the Xero eco-system whilst also founding Advisable, an educational platform for professional services. Andrew is the youngest trustee and treasurer at Prison Fellowship, the world's largest Christian nonprofit organization for prisoner and justice reform. He's delivered over 50 sessions in prisons in Australia and the UK, focusing on restorative justice.