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3 Ways CPAs Can Position Themselves As Their Client’s #1 Trusted Advisor

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3 Ways CPAs Can Position Themselves As Their Client’s #1 Trusted Advisor

I had an interesting conversation with someone earlier today. It was about the ways CPAs can position themselves as their client’s #1 trusted advisor.

It’s interesting because there’s a study that was done on business owners that asked, “Who’s your number one trusted advisor? If you could pick one out of all your advisors, who would be your number one trusted advisor?” And the answer is always, “my CPA is my most trusted adviser.”

Then the second part of the study asks, “When was the last time you picked up the phone and asked them for advice?” And you get crickets…nothing…zero.

While it’s quite true that business owners see accountants and CPAs as their number one trusted advisor, they often don’t use us enough! It’s one thing to be seen as a trusted adviser. It’s another thing to actually be used like a number one trusted advisor.


Three Ways CPAs Can Position Themselves

Number 1:

The first thing that you need to do is always be focused on what the clients want most.

You want to figure out what the outcome is that your client is looking for. Most accountants think that it’s always about taxes. But it’s not about just optimizing their taxes. Clients are trying to optimize their life! They have goals – somewhere they’re trying to get to what’s really important.

I had clients who wanted to sell their business so they could retire and then buy a place in Hawaii. That was the most important thing for them. If I was just focused on tax savings, that would have minimized the value of the company. That would have not gotten him to his end goal – which was to sell the business and retire in Hawaii.

So every communication and conversation I had was all about if we’re going to do this, how is this going to make sure that you can sell your business at the highest price possible and so you can retire down in Hawaii? Always focus on the end goal of optimizing your client’s life.


Number 2:

The second way to ensure that you’re always going to be the client’s number one trusted advisor is to do the four planning pillars session with them.

When you onboard a client, the first thing you should be doing is a four planning pillars onboarding session. The four planning pillars is a model and a construct that we use in the Accountant Success Formula which is not just focused on the taxes. It’s focused on the client’s four pillars that hold up the roof of their house. And what the house represents is the life that they’re trying to build for themselves. There are four pillars that hold up that roof and it’s the pillars of business, wealth, retirement, and estate. 

The planning intake session with your clients will give you a clear understanding of each of their four pillar plans. Sometimes this requires a little bit of teasing out to get the entire plan on paper. Focusing on those four planning pillars will make the client see that you’re trying to build the life that they want.


Number 3:

The third way CPAs can position themselves yourself as their client’s #1 trusted advisor is to work with the other professional advisors in their life. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to replace their financial adviser, their lawyer, their banker, or their insurance person. Instead, you want to be seen as a quarterback between those professional advisors and the client. 

Once you know the direction your client wants to go, then you need to go talk to the other relevant advisors in their life. When you bring the advisors into the conversation, the client is going to see you as the quarterback. They’ll see you as the person that’s pulling together all the pieces to help them meet their life goals. 


Become Your Client’s #1 Trusted Advisor

Those are the 3 ways CPAs can position themselves as their client’s #1 trusted advisor. Let’s recap:

  1. Find out exactly what the client wants most out of their life. 
  2. Have the four planning pillars conversation. Always refer back to those planning pillars throughout all your tax planning and discussions with the client.
  3. Be your client’s quarterback and work with their professional advisors to make sure that those four planning pillars are working to give the client the life that they deserve.

I’m Erik Solbakken, reminding you that when you take back control of your business model, you can take back control of your life. Stay tuned for more success tips.


  1. Paul Dunn on August 5, 2022 at 2:52 am

    Nice one, Erik.

    And a lovely view too!!!

    Be sure to keep on creating …..

    ….. impacts that amaze you.


    • Erik Solbakken CPA on August 6, 2022 at 3:42 am

      Thanks Paul

  2. Erik Solbakken on September 12, 2022 at 6:35 pm

    […] Pay attention to your language and make a commitment to no longer going to use inappropriate language with my clients. I’m going to from now on when I talk about my services with my clients. When I’m working with my clients  I talk to them about my services. I only talk about price in terms of the value my clients will receive. Talk about how the price equals value but don’t use the word fee. Don’t use the words cost or invoice either. Instead, always talk about the value that they’re going to receive from your services. Remember, you want to position yourself as your client’s #1 trusted advisor (see my in-depth post about what this means here). […]

  3. Erik Solbakken on October 13, 2022 at 9:06 am

    […] their number one trusted advisor, you can work with them and their other advisors — their lawyer, their financial advisor, […]

  4. Erik Solbakken on October 13, 2022 at 9:07 am

    […] giving them any other advice. The problem is that you’re not positioning yourself as their number one trusted advisor, someone they desperately need and wish to assist them in building the life they want for […]

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