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Selling modern accounting to traditional clients

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Most accountants have clients that fail to see how modern accounting can benefit their businesses.

Ideal clients aside, many accountants anticipate a measure of difficulty when serving the needs of any business. This can take the form of poor communication or a general inability to grasp accounting principles.

While accountants are usually prepared to share their knowledge regardless, many dread what they’ve termed the ‘traditional client”.

Traditional clients come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s most often the person who shows up with a box full of receipts and invoices a day before the year-end tax deadline. This individual does little to no accounting work themselves, but instead relies entirely on their accountant.

This puts both parties in a precarious situation.

It’s not only the last-minute work that is problematic to the accountant. Traditional clients’ processes and systems are incompatible with the efficiencies of modern accountants, who have implemented cloud-based solutions in their practices.

The common denominator among all traditional clients is their resistance to change. The fact that their accounting style impedes their business, and that they lose days to inefficient processes, does not change their perspective – they remain resistant to change. Any mention of a new tech-enabled way of accounting is likely to elicit a negative response.

Here are some tips on how to help your traditional clients overcome their tech phobia and move to a modern system that would benefit all concerned.

The tech non-savvy

This client feels that technology is more of a burden than a benefit. Some even claim to be luddites, and prefer to stay that way.

Maybe they tried to embrace a technological solution but had a bad user experience, which only served to solidify their opinion of technology.

But they’re ignoring a reality that’s there simply because they cannot see it: Due to the ubiquity of technology, people are more tech-literate than they give themselves credit for.

For example, one third of the South African population uses a smartphone, and there’s a high likelihood that there are luddites among them. Facebook has 2.41 billion users, and there are over four billion email users worldwide – the chances of your traditional client not being among them are slim.

This means that even the most tech-phobic client has some measure of accidental tech-knowhow.

How to support their move to modern accounting

Mentioning this to your traditional client might help them see that they are already benefiting from technology – benefits that have become second nature. Taking it a step further and switching their business accounting to the same kind of technologies is not such a stretch after all.

By downloading the app on their phone and signing up for a free trial, your traditional client can make the move without effort or expense. They don’t even need a computer – they can run their accounting on their smartphone, allowing for greater flexibility and mobility.

Smart assistant technologies mean that they can use Facebook Messenger to chat to their accounting software in everyday language.

“Cloud accounting isn’t for my kind of business”

The traditional client has decided what cloud accounting is and what it can do, and that their business is not compatible with it.

While traditional clients are more likely to be small business owners or sole proprietorships replete with their box of receipts, other businesses might rely on a spreadsheet or two for their accounting needs. Their accounting software may be so old that it even claimed to be Y2K-compatible.

Your clients hold on to their legacy accounting software solution because it works for them, regardless of how inefficient it might be for their business – and for yours. They don’t yet comprehend how cloud accounting fits into any of it, even though it works for any size business.

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Helping them understand

Often the first step to helping traditional clients move on, is to show a certain degree of understanding and respect for their existing solution.

The spreadsheet they’re using with their ingenious tax calculation formulae added in might work, but it is certainly not the best solution.

A reliance on paper-based accounting by way of invoices, receipts, and ledgers worked well for businesses for eons before the invention of the computer. Focusing on how technology helps improve these processes, rather than replacing them, is a good way to navigate the discussion.

“But this way has always worked for me”

While this may be true, and is a valid point, it is important to offer some perspective.

Your client’s business has grown and, as that happened, they might have gone for the most accessible solution that yielded the quickest results. What they probably didn’t consider was the scalability of the solution as their business grew and the environment changed.

The result is that your traditional client is likely handling their accounting in a way that adds to their work, rather than simplifies it. This is where you can start your discussion on the benefits of cloud accounting. What worked for them before may no longer be the right solution, and they need to move on.

Explore their pain points and offer a solution

The best approach to take with a traditional client is a patient, step-by-step journey through the tasks they need to do, and trying to understand why they do it in that specific way.

By walking through it with them, you can display empathy and understanding, while also explaining that it might not be the best solution for their business today.

If your client has employees, involve them in the discussion. Try to understand what their pain points are and what they would like to see as a solution. It’s likely that a cloud-connected accounting solution would offer the optimal resolution to many of the problems across functions and departments within the business.

Helping clients move to modern accounting

With luck, the traditional client will come to understand the importance of using technology to stay ahead of the curve and to modernise their business.

Emphasise the transformational power of modern accounting, and reap the benefits for your own practice too. Cloud accounting offers instant access to client accounting, meaning you can become a trusted adviser by spotting problems ahead of time, as well as highlighting opportunities for the business.

A modern solution will serve accountant and client, both of whom will receive increased satisfaction from the varied service offerings.

Having regular conversations with traditional clients as part of your standard business practices will always benefit you in the long run. Introducing them to new technologies and modern systems is much easier when you can plant the seed over time, or as part of existing conversations you have with clients.

When done this way, traditional clients are less likely to feel forced into making a decision, and will view a change with less fear and dread.

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