Captain Kirk’s Secret to More Confidence and Higher Fees

Captain KirkAny Star Trek fans in the room? I’m talking the “real” Star Trek, with William Shatner as Captain Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, the perfect pan-ethnic supporting cast, and one poor schlemiel in a red shirt who beams down to the planet and never makes it back alive.

Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets had one rule so important they called it the Prime Directive: “No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet.  No reference to space or the fact that there are other planets or civilizations.” In other words, no interfering with any other civilization’s development.

Here at TaxCoach, we have our own Prime Directive: Lucror Vestri Dignitas, or “charge what you’re worth.” Not quite as grandiose as the Star Trek directive. A little mercenary, even. But still well worth remembering as you build your tax and financial services practice.

Yesterday, I spoke with a new-ish TaxCoach member who’s struggling with our prime directive. Not only is he not charging what he’s worth, he’s actually giving his knowledge away for free! (He’s not the only one… you know who you are.) He’s got plenty of experience in the business, and plenty of expertise for his chosen target market. But he’s still worried that he’s not quite ready to beam down to the planet all by himself.

Here’s the exercise I suggested he use to build his confidence and generate a referral or two. It will also lay the groundwork for charging higher fees down the road. And you can put it to work yourself starting as soon as you close the window on this email.

He told me that over the next week, he’ll be delivering about 30 tax returns, including 10 entity returns. (I realize some of you are financial advisors and don’t prepare returns – bear with me, there’s meat for you here, too.)

I told him that he should sit down before every one of those appointments and quantify exactly how much he’s saved each of those clients. In some cases, with simple 1040s, the answer may be zero. In other cases, with more complicated entity returns, it could be thousands of dollars per year.

Quantifying the value you deliver to your clients is the single most powerful confidence boost you can give yourself. Do you realize how lucky you are to work in a business where you can quantify at least part of your value to your clients, in cold hard dollars and cents? If you were a contractor, it would be hard to attach a value to your kitchen remodel – and harder still to demonstrate how much more valuable your work is than Kitchens-R-Us. If you were a therapist, it would be hard to put a price on a client’s improvement. If you were a teacher, it would be hard to quantify how much better your students do than anyone else’s. (And if you could, your union would be suing to block the testing!)

But you’re not any of those things. You’re a tax professional – and tax professionals measure their value in savings.

So, before every appointment, quantify your value.

Next, make sure to communicate that value to your clients. They come to you for “the numbers,” right? How the heck are they going to know what you’re worth if you don’t tell them?

Communicating your value – which is probably something you’re not already doing – does two things. First, it gives clients a reason to refer you. If you’re like most TaxCoach members, referrals are your single most important source of new business. But you won’t get nearly as many of them as you deserve if you don’t give clients a reason to refer you. (For more information, and a three-step system for turning those declarations of value into paying referrals, see the “How to Double Your Referrals This Tax Season” presentation in the TaxCoach University section of the site.)

Second, communicating your value literally tells your clients how much you’re worth. You can’t really expect clients to pay what you’re worth if they don’t know what you’re worth, can you?

Finally, I told our member, at the end of the week, add up all the savings you’ve created for those clients – and pat yourself on the back. Hell, post it on your office wall for other clients to see – we’ve got a placard for just that in the marketing templates section in TaxCoach. It’s far too easy to take your own value for granted, especially in the middle of busy season. Quantifying your value, even on the fly like this, can be a real antidote to the sort of “me too” attitude that leads to low fees and a less satisfying business.

Star Trek’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk knew he was hot stuff – and that made watching him all the more fun. Quantify your value, to yourself and your clients, and you’ll have more fun too. Try it! Let us know how much you come up with! We’d love to share your story with the rest of the TaxCoach community!