Creating a Standout Experience Through Systems and Automation
0:02 Elyse Archer
Welcome to She Sells Radio. I have to tell you, I am so excited for our conversation today. If you heard episode 142 with Mark Magnaca. The CEO of Allego, you heard him rave about our guest today. When I asked him about what was a really standout sales experience that you had recently? And when he described the sales experience and what it was like working with our guest I knew I had to get her on the show, to just share her magic and share how she does this. So my guest today is Catherine Tindall. She’s a CPA and a partner at Dominion Enterprise Services. Which is a concierge tax advisory practice and she works with very successful entrepreneurs with small business owners to reduce their overall tax burden which I think could be a very fascinating topic in and of itself. But what I really want to dive into today is to learn more about this incredible customer experience that my friend Mark raved about and how we can implement just some of her magic and strategies in our own client experience. So Catherine, welcome to She Sells Radio. I’m so happy to have you.
1:12 Catherine Tindall
Yes, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here!
1:14 Elyse Archer
We were talking in the pre-chat and we got connected through Mark. We also bonded, we’re both moms of little ones, toddler’s. Your daughter Alice is 13 months, right?
1:26 Catherine Tindall
Yeah, it’s going by really fast.
1:28 Elyse Archer
Oh my gosh. I’m just curious. What’s the biggest thing that has shifted for you since having her? In terms of how you think about your business and just life in general.
1:38 Catherine Tindall
It’s funny, it’s in the opposite direction because my mind is very systems oriented. I realized when I had her that I had to treat that relationship in a similar way. We have to have processes. We have to have systems set up for how things are going to be done so that I can actually get something done. Because with a little one, it can become a full-time production pretty quickly if you don’t have good help in place and good boundaries with different things.
2:18 Elyse Archer
It’s so true and I love that you said that. I remember for me it was probably the first six to eight months after we had our little one, Jack. I was flying by the seat of my pants and it was a mess. It was good in many ways and also very stressful and chaotic. There’s systems that run the business, there’s systems that streamline everything on that front. I’m treating this like it’s just flying by the seat of my pants. Why couldn’t I do the same for this? And you can be present. It frees you up to be present with your little one. This is teeing up perfectly to what I want to talk with you about today on the episode too. Because I know you do this so brilliantly and so beautifully with your clients. That actually worked out really well for an answer so thank you. I am so curious. I’m so excited to get into the topic at hand before we do though I just would love it if you could give us some context on your background. What got you into the space that you’re in?
3:37 Catherine Tindall
Basically I’m a CPA. I’m a certified public accountant. I’ve always been in tax professionally and I worked for other CPA firms but I always had my eye on having my own practice. I had more of an interest in doing things out of the box when it comes to planning, client relationships and really retooling the model of how a CPA tax practice works. I decided a couple years ago that the timing was right and I founded the current company I’m with, Dominion Enterprise Services and we’re a mix of a tax advisory practice and specialty tax credits. A lot of like the covid tax credits that are out there right now is another part of what we do. But I really wanted to turn the firm into something that was much more process oriented, much more systems oriented. I always noticed that in other practices the bottlenecks and hiccups in the client relationship were things that we could fix but it just never happened. It was always hair on fire trying to get through deadlines. Instead of looking at our systems overall, be it like the sales cycle or the production cycle. How to really make these things streamlined so that the client has a really good experience.
5:12 Elyse Archer
That’s so powerful. I love how you said just thinking outside the box and looking at what needs to shift in the mold. We’re kind of getting to know each other here. A lot of my background is I’ve done door-to-door sales. I’ve sold yellow pages back in the day. There’s a lot of organizations that have created very innovative sales processes and there’s also a lot of stuff that I find very outdated. There’s little things we can do that make the experience so much better both externally and internally. We should just dive right in because when I had Mark on the show, he told me about a great sales experience recently. This is episode 142 for anyone who wants to go back and watch the video. He steps away from his desk and comes back and he’s like, “Look at this”. He was so excited by it. It was a letter that you had written to him to prepare for a conversation. Give us some context of this and how you do this with your prospective customers. I was excited and I want to learn more.
6:33 Catherine Tindall
Early on I realized when I started my own firm that I had never been trained in sales. I came into it with a very technical mindset. I’d always worked well with clients and helped them through their situations but selling is a very different discipline. Building rapport with people. Understanding personality types. All of those were things that I wasn’t even aware of until I really got into a sales role. I need to learn how to do this because it’s different from what I’ve been trained and taught in school and through my professional experience. So I had some coaching and sales training specifically for people that are in my industry. One of the things they talked about was you have to have a system in place for how you’re going to interact with people. When you’re in the kind of role that I am, it’s not somebody buying a product. It’s a very high trust decision for people because it’s something so technical they can’t really make the choice themselves. It’s like with a doctor. A doctor will give you medical advice and you have to trust them. You can do some of your own research but ultimately when it comes down to it, part of what you’re paying for is the trust in that relationship. I thought as part of the sales process that’s really the big thing that I’m trying to do is show people that I’m a trustworthy person. That is where my services come from and why I do what I do is from a sense of wanting to serve other people and for their well-being. I originally wanted to get into medicine but I ended up switching to tax because I realized that some of the control things that I wanted to have were going to be much harder to achieve in medicine than having a tax practice where I feel like I help people just as much because there’s so much fear and anxiety that goes on around it.
9:01 Elyse Archer
For sure! It could be one of the most daunting things you ever deal with.
9:08 Catherine Tindall
I thought there’s so much digital noise that goes on out there. One of the things I really do as part of my practice is that when I’m interacting with anyone, I treat it as it’s going to be a lifelong relationship. That’s why I do things like handwritten cards and I have this little book that I love that’s called the Jim Rohn treasury of quotes that I found out about from another mentor. I send those to people because it’s like little entrepreneur pick-me-ups because it’s like little quotes. It’s those kinds of touches and then have systems so that they get executed pretty much every time.
9:57 Elyse Archer
This would be so fascinating and obviously you’ve got things that you do that are proprietary and that’s great and we honor that. If we could break it down on the front end of the sales process. What are some of the systems that you put into place and then on the back end from customer experience. One of the things I keep reading about you and the testimonials is even after someone’s become your customer the customer experience is exceptional. You do the handwritten note but that’s on the front end, right? Before someone has had a conversation with you, is that right?
10:47 Catherine Tindall
When somebody initially gets in contact with me. The first thing that happens is, my assistant will go in and pull up anything that she can on the person and save it to a contact file so I can review it before I talk to the person. Whenever I talk to people, prospects or other referral partners, I always take call notes and send them the call notes after the call. I also have it for my record but it shows them that I was listening to them. Those are some of the pieces and I maintain everything through a hybrid CRM workflow software that’s designed for accountants but it would be useful for a lot of people in a lot of different applications. It’s called Karbon with a K. It’s really the mental work of engineering. How you want things to go and then just implementing them to work with the technology that you have. That’s what I’ve found to be the key thing. It’s that mind work that you do designing out a system. How you’re going to execute it whether it be technology or other people that help you in the process because I’ve got a couple assistants that help me with a lot of my outreach work and they help me with mailings and we’ve developed systems to make it efficient and able to be executed.
12:29 Elyse Archer
I know that our listeners love this too because we may be wired the same way like you said, systems oriented like your brain thinks this way naturally. Mine, it takes an oomph to get there. I’m kind of let’s just meet, let’s connect, let’s vibe off of each other. When you have a great system in place it empowers you to do that. More effortlessly because you’re not getting caught up in it. It’s empowering to have this in place and I want to pause on what you said about. I want to think through how I want this to go. If I could have my perfect customer interaction on the front end like what would happen, what would be the touch points and how can we systematize it. How can we make it better? How can we elevate it? You’re getting me so jazzed up about this. I want to do this for us now. That would be a great takeaway for everyone right away and a great action item is to sit and just map out what is our perfect client experience on the front end. I’m assuming you’ve done this on the back end too.
13:54 Catherine Tindall
That helped me with that technical background of tax work. There are so many little steps that go into dealing with someone’s tax situation with filing the returns, which payment is going to come out of which bank account and what’s going to be the timing. There’s so many little pieces that we’re always having to track and tick and tie. It should be something where I treat it as if it’s a work item as if it’s a tax return or a tax credit. A lot of what goes on in sales is trying to not pre-engineer deep connections but it’s to make sure that you are getting there.
15:09 Elyse Archer
I love what you said about getting the client file, doing the review on them ahead of time. What sort of reactions do you get from people? Because one of the little things we can do to your point if there’s so much digital noise in general is if you just make people feel seen and make them feel like they matter. That in my experience is, maybe 90 percent. It goes a long way to see what sort of feedback and reactions you get from people with those little extra touches?
15:43 Catherine Tindall
Mountains of positive feedback that’s why I keep doing it. But part of it depends on what product you’re working with and what you’re selling. For us the product is the relationship and the service, that’s why it’s so important for us to do those pieces. I know for some people if they do really high volume or where you’re not going to be talking to the person it’s harder to get to that level. For most people once they change who their tax practitioner is, that’s a relationship that goes for like 10 years. I’ve found it’s important to tee that relationship up with those personal touches and really put the effort in.
16:42 Elyse Archer
What’s the average length of the sales cycle in your space?
16:49 Catherine Tindall
It depends on what they’re looking for us to do. We do a lot of tax planning work and those tend to be long-term relationships and on the other side we do a lot of tax credit work. The credit work side, our sales cycle is very short. It can be 10 days, 7 days. On the tax planning side it tends to be a lot longer because one of the things that I do as part of that sales process is, I do a deep dive into what’s going on in their situation. To make sure that I’m going to be a profit center for them. Because I don’t want to go into that relationship not knowing that I’m going to be able to deliver what I promise. So I take the time to look through what they’ve got going on. My discovery call is usually like an hour long where we really get into the tall grass because I really want to understand what their goals are and make sure that I can do what I promise and the right fit. A lot of times I’m just not going to be the right fit for people and I try to help them get with another tax professional that’s going to be the right fit for what they’ve got going on.
18:04 Elyse Archer
And your mindset, it’s everything that we teach in the She Sells world. Truly being of service and there’s a lot of lip service given to that sometimes and there’s people like you who actually do that. So I appreciate that. Given that longer sales cycle I would imagine right off the bat, you’re making a great impression with the handwritten note and the quote, but then for people who for whatever reason it’s a longer follow-up. Do you have a system for touch points scheduled every month, every couple weeks? Anything that you can share with and some of your better longer term follow-up touch points are. That would be amazing to hear about.
19:01 Catherine Tindall
A lot of people who get referred to me when they’re not quite ready for tax planning. I talk them through their situation and it’s more often I get people that want to start working with me and I say that the timing isn’t quite right yet. Your income is not there yet or there’s not enough that I can do based on what your situation is. I put something on the calendar where I’m going to follow back up with them again. And that’s usually what I leave it out with people because the thing with income tax is you do it once a year. When you file your tax returns but it’s something that is going on all the time because it’s how you behave. I always try to make sure that whatever the next step is going to be, whether it’s me getting them connected with another tax professional or me following up with them again in a couple months when the timing’s going to be better just based on what their situation is. That’s always clarified and then put on the calendar and I track these prospect relationships as if it’s a work item. It’ll just show up and be kind of my unfinished business. Section of things unless the next step is not a good fit I’m going to send them to another tax professional and so I’ll mark the job as completed and keep call notes. If they come back to me again, I’ll have the full history of what we had previously talked about and that’s usually how I handle those.
21:25 Elyse Archer
I’ve just put it in the calendar whatever the next step is. I didn’t do that for so long and then I had a mentor teach me that several years ago. I was like it makes all the difference in the world just put it. You do that for pretty much, everything.
21:45 Catherine Tindall
And I do a lot of time blocking too which is a really helpful technique. Basically anything that’s going to take me more than a half hour to do it lives on my calendar, time blocked. When I log into my computer the next day I know what I’m working on for the full day and like when I need to work on it so I actually get all my things done.
22:05 Elyse Archer
I’m getting just so inspired by how we can tighten up what we do in my business. The one other piece I want to ask you about Catherine is, so someone comes in and they have that great discovery. You decide they’re a good fit for you as you move forward. Anything that you want to share on the back end of that. On the customer experience side about how you keep that energy going? How do you continue to deliver that exceptional experience after someone has said yes?.
22:45 Catherine Tindall
One of the things we do when people come into the firm for the tax planning work is we do an onboarding call. Which I think is really helpful and then we have a full onboarding guide that basically explains to the client how things work in the firm. We go through a lot of things. How do you login to the portals that we use? What are deadlines for certain document submission? What’s the best way to get in touch with us? How do you submit a ticket? We do a full long meeting and just get all the loose ends wrapped up. One of the things that I do as well, for most of the long-term planning clients, I have a separate work item that’s called monthly touch. It’ll ping me once a month. Because they’ll have things going on and they don’t realize that’s going to have a tax effect and should have talked to my CPA about it.
25:09 Elyse Archer
I’m going to have one of my team members listen to this too. To think about how we can shift things. Thank you so much. Before we wrap and you tell people where they can connect with you, anything else that you feel is a needle mover in terms of systems client experience. I don’t even know what to ask because you’ve got so many ninja things. Is there anything else that you think would be important for our listeners to know?
25:49 Catherine Tindall
The biggest needle mover for me overall was realizing that I needed help and seeking help. Because I was coming from a very technician background. I worked with a sales coach and a coaching program particularly for how I do my sales process and how I do my client onboarding. I just found that to be invaluable because one of the biggest things I’ve learned on my entrepreneur journey is don’t DIY stuff. It’s going to take you forever. Do the things that you’re really good at and sub out everything else because you’re not going to make any progress if you’re just trying to DIY everything. A little bit more than that.
27:05 Elyse Archer
A little bit more than that.
27:09 Elyse Archer
Thank you for sharing so generously what you do and your processes. What I love about this is regardless of the industry, even if you’re not an entrepreneur but you’re in sales I know when I was in sales working for other people I treated it as if it was my own business which I think is part of what created the success there. If you want to succeed, implement these things regardless of whether you own your own company or not. Tell everyone Catherine, where can they connect more with you? Where can they get to know more about your company? If they want to consult or maybe connect with you on Linkedin. What are the best ways to go from here?
27:46 Catherine Tindall
The best way to get in touch with us is visit our website that has a lot more resources on the work we do. Part of our practice is with planning for entrepreneurs but the lion’s share of our practice currently is doing Covid tax credits for companies who had employees. I encourage you if you haven’t gotten formally assessed. It’s something well worth checking out because we’re seeing companies save well over six figures with some of these Covid tax credits that are still available. I have a bunch of resources on my website where you can learn more about what’s still out there. But that’s a good way to get in touch and also on Linkedin. I’m fairly active on there as well and always posting little things so those are two good ways to kind of get connected.
28:33 Elyse Archer
We’ll link both your Linkedin as well as your website in the show notes. I’m so thrilled that I asked Mark that question and then he brought you up because this has just been such an enlightening and such an exciting conversation. To think about how we can make these small adjustments that make all the difference from a client experience standpoint for us, as business owners or sales professionals. So thank you Catherine so much for your time and and just for leading the way in this space. This is so powerful.
29:08 Catherine Tindall
Thank you so much Elise! It’s an absolute pleasure I always enjoyed anything that I can do to help somebody else. I’m always grateful for that.