November 18, 2022
Read time: 4:48 minutes
Today I'm going to explain 5 tactics my firm uses to make sure CFO clients show up for and stay engaged on CFO calls.
The cards are stacked against us as CFOs:
👉 Finances are a very, very personal topic for business owners.
👉 Feelings of anxiety, fear, uncertainty, shame, and guilt can all come up on any given CFO call.
So not showing up for or not engaging on calls can become a defense mechanism for our clients.
Which means we have to do everything we can to make sure our clients show up and engage - or we can't help!
Unfortunately, most firm owners are haphazard in their approach to CFO call engagement.
It's the CFO's job to make sure clients show up and stay engaged.
Here are the common mistakes I see CFOs making in their approach:
- Their energy sucks
- They are under prepared
- They only focus on the negatives
- They don't tie ideas back to the client's goals
These mistakes are the fast track to 'meh' from our clients.
The good news is that there are a few highly effective ways to overcome these hurdles and maximize engagement.
Here are 5 engagement tactics we use:
Engagement Tactic 1: Have An Agenda
You have to provide your clients with an agenda for the CFO call so they know what to expect.
If the client doesn't clearly understand what to expect, they will find other priorities to invest their time in.
The agenda doesn't need to be overly complex.
Yours might look like this:
• Urgent issues/questions
• Financial health review
• Update cash flow forecast
• 2023 tax planning overview
• Set next month's goals and action items
A clear agenda helps the client understand why the call is important. This leads to a higher show rate. It also leads to the client coming to the calls with better questions.
Engagement Tactic 2: Start With Urgent Issues & Questions
This is a very common miss for fractional CFOs!
Each call should START by asking the client if they have any urgent issues or questions.
Let's say your client is stressing because sales are down 25% this quarter. And you start off talking about tax strategies for next year. Do you think they are even remotely paying attention?
You have to create a space for them to be heard and to get their questions out. Sometimes they just need to vent.
You don't have to answer the question on the spot, but let them know you hear them and set expectations as to when and how you can help.
Give your client space early in the call to share questions and concerns before you get into the details.
Engagement Tactic 3: Celebrate Wins
Let's be honest:
Our industry tends to focus more on what's going wrong...
Then taking the time to celebrate the things that are going right.
But our clients need to hear the good things as much as the bad.
An awareness of the psychology is important:
If you only focus on the negative, the client starts to develop a negative association with the CFO call.
This is the story they will eventually tell themselves if it's all negative:
🙇♀️The CFO Call = 60 Minutes Of Things I'm Sucking At
🙋♀️ I'll find something else to do instead of getting on that CFO call
There are ALWAYS wins that you can celebrate.
Find at least one.
Engagement Tactic 4: Always Point Back To Their Goals
Your feedback and suggestions about the financials should tie back to their goals at least 87% of the time.
When your suggestions don't tie back to their goals, the client starts to feel that your suggestions aren't part of their success. Then they check out.
👉 Here's an example:
• You realize that the client's gross profit margins are horrible.
• They should be at 60%+ and they're hovering around 38%.
• So you start beat the drum on gross profit margins.
That's a good thing!
But this is the client's perspective:
• OMGosh, my CFO is all hung up on gross profit margins.
• What I need is for the business to generate more cash so I can pay for this upcoming wedding!
• When is he going to start showing me how to get more cash out of the business⁇
Obviously increasing gross margins will help the client generate more cash.
But our clients don't always make those connections!
Instead, try this approach:
• OK client, we've got the big wedding coming up in July!
• You need to bring home another $50k to pay for it.
• There aren't many expenses we can cut, but I have noticed your gross profit margins are a bit low.
• If we can get them from 38% to 60%, that will increase your monthly cash from (x) to (y).
• And you'll easily be able to get that extra $50k for the wedding!
Notice the difference?
Subtle but important.
When you nail this piece, clients are eager to talk to you because they see you as the key to achieving their goals.
Engagement Tactic 5: Act Like You Want To Be There!
Our work is stressful:
Never ending deadlines.
Regulations that always change.
Clients that shift priorities or don't do things.
That can take a massive hit on our energy!
And it can even impact the tone we use when we talk.
But our clients still need us to show up with positive energy.
They need us to show up like we're actually excited to be there!
💡 Because service is about meeting people where they need us to be, not where we want to be.
So I want to encourage you to set intention for ENERGY and TONE before every CFO call.
I've found a direct correlation between my energy and my clients' engagement.
When I act like I want to be there, the client also acts like they want to be there.
If client engagement starts to drop, check back in on this list. See if you can find something you can improve on or take a different approach towards.
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