Why “adding value” is the last thing that will build trust

Accountants have it tough. For years you’ve been seen as a leading and trusted figure for business owners. You have the power to change a business owner’s life, as you’re the one they go to for help with their finances, the nitty gritty, the most important part of their business.

So when a potential new client comes to you, it’s only natural for accountants to talk about what they can do, and I’m going to take a guess that a phrase that comes up in every initial conversation is “we can add value to your business…”

Heck you’ve probably got that plastered somewhere on your website.

But here’s the thing: What. Does. That. Even. Mean?!

“Value” is probably the most overused buzzword in the 21stcentury for everyone from sales reps to marketers and of course you, the accountant. It’s especially tough for you because you know what you can do for that person’s business. You know how important you are to a business owner. You know what a difference you can make… and yet you come back to this word: “Value”.

The problem is when you say you can “add value” to that person’s business, or you put this on your website, it really doesn’t have any meaning whatsoever. And I guarantee the prospective client thinks the same. They’re probably sat like Bernard from Black Books:

Why does “value” have no value?

Let’s take a look at what value actually means:

“The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.”

What sticks out for you there? For me, its “worth, or usefulness of something”. It basically translates as something of value means it is worth something to that person, or it is something that see to be useful.

And that’s the problem: This idea of value is inextricably linked to that person’s own beliefs. You can’t put your finger on value. It’s relative, and it’s different from one person to the next.

And that puts you at a disadvantage. You know the value you can bring to the business owner, but how do you frame that to them? You don’t want to be in a proposal meeting, be talking about “value” and the business owner say to you “well… that’s not valuable to me”. Management accounts, for example, might be valuable for one business owner, but it could be of no interest to the next business owner, even if you’re using phrases like “management accounts can really add value to your business.”

That is why saying “we can add value” or even mentioning “value” in your marketing, or on your website, doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t build trust. If anything it causes confusion, because simply saying it holds no meaning and ironically no value.

You have to find what’s valuable to them

Why I like about the accountants I work with is that when they meet with their prospects, they’re not just saying things like “we can do those accounts for you” or “sure, we can take care of the tax returns.”

Don’t get me wrong, they have those services available (I mean if you didn’t as an accountant, I’d be surprised!) but instead what they do is find the underlying thing that’s important to them.

It could be they’re looking to buy a house, or they’re looking to reach a certain turnover, or sell the business within a certain timeframe. That information is so powerful to you, because it gives you the opportunity to frame your services around those goals.

You have an opportunity to say “if you want to achieve this, then you need this” (in more words than that obviously) and that is so valuable to them.

Let’s go back to that definition from earlier: “The importance, worth, or usefulness of something.” That’s exactly what you’re now doing. You’ve identified what’s important to them, and framed your service as something useful in helping them achieve that.

Deep down it’s still “adding value”, but what you’ve now done is put it back on them and helped them recognise how powerful you can be in helping them.

Case studies can also make a difference

Case studies can be a really powerful opportunity to showcase what you have done for your clients.

Think about it: What better way to show how you’ve helped and brought value to a business owner by showing a case study and telling a story about how you’ve done it to someone in a similar position.

I’m a bit fan of the Story Stack by Kev Anderson because it centres your case studies around the client. That’s right… the client, not you. They’re the hero. They’re the ones who’s lives have been made different and the story stack helps showcase how to do that.

Wrapping up

Your audience is much more educated than they used to be, and because of that, it’s not enough to just say what services you offer.

Your prospects will see right through that, and now is the time to start showing what value you can bring rather than simply stating it. Your marketing is so powerful and can help you do that.

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