39 – Demonstrate your competence

“We value our intellectual property and so we make sure we do not give it away until the client has paid us for it.”

So spoke the next bright young thing at a recent conference we attended. The point he was trying to make was that he was worried that if he told his clients too much they would not have any reason to pay him for that knowledge.

This is an understandable sentiment. But it is a bit wrong-headed. Experience shows that it is those advisers who happily and readily make their knowledge apparent who attract and keep the most clients. The reason? Well, clients are buying your knowledge. So, demonstrating that knowledge lets them see what they are buying.

How to do this? The simplest way is to get yourself a functional website and fill it with quality information. Many advisers do this by linking to Dover’s own website. Linking works better than cutting and pasting – if you link to us and we change the content, your website is automatically updated.

But there are other ways as well. If you are writing a column, for example, don’t make it a teaser. Make it so that the article can be used by clients who you might never meet. Set out the problem and then set out the solution. It is amazing how many clients love to have a meeting in which you repeat everything that they have read in an article you have written. They can even be disappointed if you miss a bit. These loyalists are the best kind of client. 

Alternatively, if you are meeting with someone face to face, get started on problem solving as soon as possible. Listen to their story and gather the facts you need, but don’t wait. If you can help in the first meeting, do. 

For example, we once obtained a client whose previous adviser had told him that he would have to pay $100,000 in CGT on his former home. He had moved out of the home into rental accommodation a couple of years previously, and the property had been rented out. His previous adviser was unaware that he could continue to claim the principal residence exemption for up to six years after he left the home.

This was the first thing we discussed in the meeting. He mentioned the CGT and we asked a few simple questions. Then we solved the CGT problem.

We almost needed to cancel the remainder of the meeting, given that the client felt $100,000 richer: his concentration was gone for a quite a while! Remember, the principles of self-assessment mean that ATO would not have known that the tax did not have to be paid. If he had paid the $100,000, the ATO would not have sent it back. 

When we told him about the saving, he was not yet a client. Perhaps there was a risk he would not sign on now that we had told him how to save $100,000. But think about it: if we have just solved one problem, we can probably solve the other ones as well. Having solved this problem in the first five minutes, he was rightfully asking: what else does this guy know that I need to know? And what else does he know that my current adviser doesn’t?

He happily signed on.

Remember, if your business is selling knowledge you need to demonstrate you have knowledge to sell. You need to give clients a good reason to pay you a fee.

The Dover Group