Have you ever looked at a set of your client’s financial statements and seen a line item for ‘Consulting’? Perhaps you asked the client what it was for and when they told you that they hired a consultant to help them with something in their business, you thought, ‘We could have done that!’ But your client never thought to ask you, because they didn’t know that you could do that!
There is constant chatter around the accounting profession around the need to develop more skills in business advisory work. We agree with all of that, but the question that’s rarely asked is, what does business advisory actually mean? One simple response is that it’s anything that is NOT compliance, but that is not overly helpful. A key to offering your existing clients a broad range of advisory services is to firstly determine in which of those services you wish to develop and promote expertise. Here are some examples of business advisory services that many of our clients excel in:
- Optimizing systems and processes
- Strategic planning
- Financial reporting
- Business sale or succession planning
- Business continuity planning
- Tax planning
- Budgeting and cash flow forecasting
- Lending services
- Asset protection
- Business valuation
- Accounting systems review
- Goal setting
- Organizational development
- Key performance indicator monitoring.
You may have expertise in one or more of those areas already, and I hope you’ve picked up a couple of ideas for new products that you could develop. But perhaps more important is, how do you ensure clients understand that you can help them and how do you know which clients are the most likely to want to invest in your advisory services?
Most firms we know work with hundreds of clients. Let’s imagine a simple scenario where you plan to develop a business advisory service around goal setting. (Incidentally, if this takes your fancy, feel free to take a look at our Strategize product to see how technology can help you bring this sort of service to life for a client.) Let’s also imagine that you have 200 business client groups in your firm. Which of the 200 should you approach first?
Well, that’s probably the wrong question. Pre-judging clients can be very dangerous. We make assumptions that ‘this client will want that’, or ‘that client would never buy this’ but those assumptions are often wrong. The only way to really know which of the 200 would be interested is to ask them all.
I’m going to assume that you’re like most accountants - somewhat time poor! So if I said to you, go and call all 200 of those clients and figure out which are the most likely leads for your new goal setting service, the most likely response would be to make very few of those calls - if any at all. Again, this is where technology can help you.
The Panalitix ClientInsights application is designed to help you deploy short, well-crafted questionnaires to clients to gather their input on how well they manage certain processes in their business as they relate to the services you might offer. It also encourages clients to advise you on how important they consider improving those processes to be. Then, using a weighted scoring system, ClientInsights presents you with a qualified list of prospects for the service under consideration in order of likely propensity to consider purchasing the service.
If your clients are like most clients, you’ll deploy the questionnaire to all 200 (remember, no pre-judging!), perhaps 150 will ignore it, another 20 will consider it interesting but might ask you to circle back to them at a later date, leaving 30 that might respond. Of those 30, you might find 10 hot leads and if you close 50% of them, with very little work you have five new clients engaging in your new product offering.
This is extremely useful for three important reasons:
- It saves you a huge amount of time - always important in a professional service firm
- It gives clients the opportunity to consider their circumstances and identify where they can improve (even if they don’t work with you)
- In the above example, if you engage with five clients, you have a new revenue stream.
What if you planned out 2019 and decided to select four of the services listed above (or add one or two of your own if you already have speciality services)? That way, you could design a quarterly ‘conversation’ with clients and generate leads for new work in the process. As an entrée to becoming a business advisory specialist, that might just make some sense.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Director & Co-founder at PANALITIX
Colin is a Chartered Accountant who, having spent almost 10 years with one of the fastest growing and most innovative firms in the UK, has since invested over 20 years helping business owners to improve their businesses with a focus on attracting new clients, better managing existing clients, developing new products, building an engaged team and strengthening internal business processes.
Colin's primary focus at PANALITIX is on product development and business improvement content. He is the author of the bestselling book “Accountants: The Natural Trusted Advisors".