Empowerment is the key to moving high-net-worth (HNW) clients forward with technology. And to empower, you have to educate them along the way. The goal is to move clients past their fear of change and to understand why it’s in their best interest to adopt advanced technologies—and why it has to be now.
Getting HNW clients to adopt your technology stack is a win on many fronts. For firms, it allows you to standardize and scale services by supporting all clients within the same technology ecosystem (which also keeps staff happy). For clients, it translates to far more efficient support and a rich experience.
Of course, to reap these benefits, it all starts with a conversation. For many accounting professionals, however, that’s the tough part. How do you start the conversation? How do you address fear of change? How do you change mindsets among the multiple personas that make up your client base?
As part of our Driving Digital Transformation series, we welcome Tate Henshaw, CFP, and Co-founder of Arc Business Management, who is an expert in communicating the value of technology to high-net-worth clients. Read on for his proven tips and tactics on breaking down barriers and client objections about technology. Also, get valuable insight into the common persona types and how to deal with each.
Tips to build your conversation confidence
It’s not easy to persuade clients to work differently when they fear change, but it can be done. Henshaw offered a short list of tips and talking points to build your conversation confidence:
- Remember that you’re the expert: There’s a reason your clients come to you—it’s for your expertise. This is true of your financial expertise but also in the realm of technology. If you keep in mind that you are the expert, it will help immensely to start the conversation
- Focus on outputs: Focus on what is going to be accomplished by using technology rather than on the technology itself. For example, Bill.com gets your vendors paid on time, securely, and accurately
- Emphasize transparency: Offering full transparency into a client’s data fosters trust because information is readily available 24/7. This provides clients with ondemand views into their data as well as the ability to monitor the status of activities (e.g., when payments are made and to what vendor). Emphasizing transparency will help move the conversation along
- Don’t argue features: There is no reason to get into the weeds when communicating the value of technology. Again, explain the bigger picture to clients—the bigger value to them like time savings, security, and 24/7 access to their data. At the end of the day, you know what’s best for your clients
- Don’t open Pandora’s box: The point here is to not get bogged down in details that don’t tie back to your outputs. In other words, don’t focus heavily on the numbers, which your clients may not fully understand. Stick to the high-level value points: efficiency, security, control, and more
Understanding your client personas
Your client base is made up of various persona types. And that means approaching the technology conversation will be different with each. Consider the four common persona’s Henshaw identified:
1. Stephen Scroog (I don’t want to pay for it)
For these clients, the number one concern is cost and fees. Henshaw stated, “These folks can worry about a $30 charge even if their net worth is over $30 million.”
This type of client also believes that handling tasks like bill pay is easier and cheaper when it’s performed manually. Of course, we all know this isn’t true. So, for your Scroog clients (and/or prospects), Henshaw shared the following tips to get them on board with your technology ecosystem:
- Increase your fees: Figure out the cost of a service (considering all hours and added resources) and then inflate it by 20%. This gives you wiggle room if the client tries to talk you down. It also makes the client feel like they’re getting a deal if they do strike a deal
- Include the technology: Bundle the technology into your fixed fee. This way clients feel like they’re getting something for free, which can shut down the I-don’t-want-to-pay-for-it argument quickly
- Upcharge for manual work: Start adding fees for manual work. Once a client sees how quickly these fees add up, they’ll be more open to hearing about technology that automates work and fixed fees
Henshaw said, “This also forces clients to see the value of working efficiently and moves them closer to trusting technology.”
2. Nervous Nelly (Technology scares me)
These clients run on fear. Advanced technology represents the unknown, and the unknown is scary. According to Henshaw, the Nelly’s are mainly concerned with data breaches (i.e., if data is in the cloud, it’s not safe ) and loss of control (i.e., when tasks leave their hands, they lose control). This persona also tends to scour the web and hone in only news of cybercriminal activity and threats.
How do you combat those who are too nervous to move forward? Henshaw provided a few sound tactics:
- Offer apples to apples comparisons: Provide clients with real-world scenarios about the dangers of working manually. For example, when you provide paper checks, recipients have your name, address and routing number—making it easy to commit fraud. Manual processes leave clients far more exposed to fraud than if financials are handled within a highly secure system, like Bill.com
- Explain security: Help them understand that leading technologies offer military-grade security, including two-factor authentication and secure data centers with armed security. This is clearly above and beyond any security measures in place for manual processes or with in-house, DIY servers
- Arm clients with reputable information: Explain the security protocols of leading cloud technology providers such as SOC 2 and PCI certifications. “Don’t allow Nelly to craft the narrative about technology. You have to be the educator,” said Henshaw
3. Michael Micro (The hoverer)
This client is always over your shoulder and checking in—a micro manager to the Nth degree. This persona may push back on technology because they feel manually check-ins are the only way to get work done properly and safely.
You can curb micro manager behavior with a few tips from Henshaw:
- Keep them involved with automated alerts: Systems like Bill.com will send auto alerts to keep clients informed. Over time, as they receive more and more relevant alerts, the Michael Micro will start to calm down and trust the technology to keep them in the know
- Talk up collaboration: Make it clear how easy it is to collaborate with clients using advanced technology. When clients understand that they have anytime access to their data and can conveniently collaborate with their accounting professional, it tends to quell micro-manager-like concerns
- Introduce user permissions: Explain how user permissions work and how they are set up to ensure only those who need access to certain data and documents can get it
4. Larry Gitterdun (Mr. Just handle it)
This type of client has no desire to be overly involved and mired down in the details. According to Henshaw, “They just want it to be done. And sometimes this can lead to a client that is totally checked out.”
The goal with these clients is to make them accountable for tasks that need their attention—without bogging them down or frustrating them by constantly putting things in front of them.
To get through to your Gitterduns, Henshaw shared more sage advice:
- Minimize time: Explain that technology can remove the time-intensive tasks of entering and paying bills and monitoring activity. Their time investment can be considerably reduced by removing the manual aspect. Henshaw offered an example: “With Bill.com, we can remove most bill pay tasks so the client is only approving bills.”
- Get to a point of mind reading: This involves deeply understanding what the client’s goals are. Do they want to meet with your firm once a month, a quarter, a year? Ask discovery questions to help you better understand how to talk to these clients and get them on board with technology
- Establish outputs: Once you’ve grasped your clients goals, you can then establish the outputs relevant to the client. This paints a picture of how much the client will be involved, which for Larry will be limited, yet effective
Converse with confidence
High-net-worth clients are a highly sought-after market. To attract and retain them, it’s important to leverage the power of technology to build trust and provide a superior client experience—no matter the persona type. Of course, the main challenge is resistance to adoption.
The key to empowering clients to trust technology is based largely on how you communicate with them—your ability to foster confident, honest, and well-informed conversations. To do this, it’s important to understand the personas that make up your client base—whether it’s your Scroogs, Nellies, Micros or Gitterduns—and then adapt your approach based on what you know about the client.
Using the tactics laid out in this article can help you facilitate healthy, engaging conversations with your clients—no matter their level of resistance. Take the time to craft your message, adapt it to a given persona, and then watch your clients feel empowered to trust technology while you enjoy ultimate scalability.