This means that your Tax Specialists can focus on preparing claims and defending enquiries. But it can lead to a disconnect, where your Sales team are giving one view, and the Tax team have to contradict them, or work with less-than-ideal customers.
This is why we’re advocates for training your whole team to understand R&D tax relief, not just the tax specialists. Training up your sales team means they’re better equipped to support and advise potential customers and they can screen out businesses whose work isn’t eligible for relief. All of this saves time for your Tax team and improves the overall standard of the work you can do and your reputation in the industry.
We recently spoke to Rowan, Madi and Luca, from the Business Development team at EmpowerRD, to find out how they’re using The R&D Community to train themselves and onboard new team members.
EmpowerRD support businesses to claim R&D tax relief through a software platform and their team of specialists.
An R&D sales team focussed on doing right by the customers
EmpowerRD have their whole sales team taking training, as well as their customer support team, their Head of Tax – everyone! Including the whole team in training was a strategic decision that came right from the top.
Our leadership team needed a common tool that we could use alongside the experts in our Tax team, so that everyone was on the same page. We also knew ourselves that we needed some form of specialised R&D training to enhance what we already knew and validate some of that knowledge.
Before we joined, our CEO asked us all to take a look at the free course. From doing that we were able to see that the training was set out well and easy to digest, and that it was a good fit for our team.
Based on the company’s priorities, this decision absolutely makes sense!
It’s important that we show that we’re a credible company right from the first contact. We’re looking to bring value to our clients, and if our team is able to offer informed advice then that can really help. When we’re talking to prospects, it’s important for us to educate them on the scheme and manage their expectations on what they can claim for. HMRC’s definition of R&D is not the same as most people’s day-to-day definition. Having that clearly explained through the training makes it so much easier to explain to those clients who need to understand.
First and foremost, we want to win business – that’s our goal as a team. But we also want to make sure they’re claiming with EmpowerRD because they feel like it’s the right thing for their company. We want to be sure that we’re not one of many advisors giving wrong advice to help them win the business. And if it means that the client decides not to claim, or to use a different company, at least we can rest easy knowing that we’ve done the right thing. We give them the right information to make an informed decision on how they wish to handle their claim – anything after that is up to them.
Improving the training process for new staff
The BD team at EmpowerRD have always spent time learning about and understanding the rules of R&D tax relief. But membership of The R&D Community has changed and improved the training process for new and existing team members.
The way that we’ve been teaching R&D internally has been a bit like passing knowledge from one elder to the next. We all learned from others on our own team and with a little help from the Claims Team. What The R&D Community has done for our newer people is to bring all that knowledge into one place, so now everyone’s learning from the same source.
Specifically, our online courses have given the team a structure around which they can create the customised training that their new staff need.
We were able to go back to basics and think: what do we need to teach a new joiner to EmpowerRD? The first thing is a full understanding of the scheme. We mapped our team training sessions against the courses in the Community – particularly the Qualifying Costs and Apportionments course and the Establishing Eligibility course. Those of us delivering the training did a refresher on those courses, and then we were able to build that into our own onboarding session. After those sessions, our new team members could go away and take that course themselves to double down on the information.
As well as using our courses to help structure the training sessions, The R&D Community provides an R&D Helpline service, which can provide additional support to staff taking the training.
If there are any questions, they can come to us, OR they can come to you through the R&D Helpline. Obviously EmpowerRD are blessed with a team of significant expertise! But jumping on a quick call with Richard has been helpful, especially when our internal team are focused on delivering claims. When prospects come to us with specific questions, your team have been an extra option for us to get those answers.
Beyond just the onboarding period, there are lots of benefits for the team in having a central repository for training knowledge, which they don’t have to put together themselves.
In a small business, you don’t have unlimited resources. We all share knowledge informally but putting that down on paper is so difficult. Having that training content created for us in The R&D Community helps provide a different way of learning than through spur of the moment conversation. We can have group sessions where we go through the key information with people and use examples, use the training courses to fall back on and refresh, or start with the courses and follow up after to round out the learning process.
It has been really, really helpful when we’ve had new people come on board. The three of us didn’t really have this kind of resource when we first started. Of course we managed to learn what we needed, but we could have got there quicker if we’d had access to this training ourselves.
What do you like best about the training?
Before we wrapped up our conversation, the team shared a few features of the training platform and materials which they found particularly helpful.
I like that it separates out the courses that I’ve done and the courses that I haven’t. I know it seems like a simple thing, but we’ve used other training platforms in the past that don’t show you that. It helps us to see how our newer staff are progressing too. If we’re speaking, they can quickly pull it up and we can immediately see the progress they’ve made and what’s been finished.
I also appreciate the diagrams in the courses. Some of the concepts in there are hard to explain verbally, but showing it graphically is so powerful. It has an impact on how you understand things. I’m a very visual person, so that’s allowed a lot of things to click into place.
For me the best part is the on-demand access to the knowledge we need. We can find things out without needing to bug our Tax team. They do have a lot of knowledge but their primary focus is, as it should be, on helping clients optimise their claims. It’s really helpful to have the option of a quick refresher from a course on the platform, or to be able to message your R&D Helpline. That’s been really valuable. If someone I knew in another sales position came to me and said, ‘We’re struggling with answering very specific questions around scheme changes or about eligibility,’ or whatever it might be, I would definitely suggest that they join the Community. It’s a great way to get support without draining the capacity within your own team.
Sounds like a good fit?
If you’ve been reading Madi, Luca, and Rowan’s story and feel like you share the same challenges and values, we’d love to welcome you to the community too. You can:
- See all the details of what’s included and how much it costs
- Read about everything you need to know before you join
- Address concerns you might have about joining
- Download our prospectus to share with your colleagues
- Sign up for The R&D Review, our free newsletter, for insider insights and updates about new courses
We hope these resources will answer all your questions, but if there’s anything you’d like to discuss, please get in touch and let us know!