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4 reasons why you are struggling to upsell advisory services to your clients

Posted by Heather Townsend on 16 Mar 2017
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Many accountancy firms are grappling with the challenge of selling advisory services to their clients. In this blog post, Heather Townsend, Author of ‘The Go-To Expert’ explains why many firms struggle to upsell advisory services to their clients.

Your existing clients are the easiest people to sell advisory services to. However, I keep hearing how challenging many firms are finding it to do this. If you can’t get your existing clients to buy advisory services from you, what hope have you got of selling advisory to new clients? In my experience, there are many different factors at play here, but I will focus on the top 4 reasons why accountants struggle to upsell advisory services to their client.

1. Selling the wrong thing

One of the biggest challenges around the introduction of advisory services is defining what services to offer clients. It’s all too easy to define a set of advisory services, and try and flog these to your clients without any research to understand whether your clients need these services. The easiest way to upsell advisory services to your clients is to firstly help them buy and secondly help them buy something they really, really need. If you don’t understand their world, their challenges and their pain points, how are you meant to put together an irresistible set of advisory services that your clients really want to buy? Don’t fall into the trap of following the herd when you decide what advisory services to offer. Do your research and really listen to your clients and what they want to buy.

2. Not defining the value for the client

Unlike mandatory compliance services, advisory services are purely optional for a client. This means that the biggest competitor you face is inertia rather than a firm down the road. Let’s take management accounts as a great example of where you can add real value to your client; helping them be in control of their day-to-day finances. However, if you try and sell management accounts to your clients without explicitly demonstrating the value to them it’s going to be a tough sell. After all, who wants to spend money on just another report which they can probably produce for themselves? Whereas if you sell them monthly or quarterly management accounts to help them keep control of their cash flow and take informed decisions on business strategy, suddenly your clients can see the value of management accounts (or your Spotlight Reports).

3. Poor sales skills

In many ways, you can be a glorified order taker when you sell compliance services to your clients. You know your clients need to take them, so your challenge is to convince them that you are the right person to help them not that they need them. With advisory services, you must not only convince them that you are the right person to help them, but also that they have a deep, urgent and pressing need to take this service. Without good sales skills, you will struggle to make the sale. Not everyone was born to be great at sales, however, with a tried and tested process and checklist for your meeting with your client you can radically improve your ability to sell advisory to your clients.

4. Selling to the wrong clients

Stating the obvious, but not all your clients will need more than compliance services. Very often their business is just not big enough to warrant anything more than basic compliance and some simple tax planning advice. Consequently, you need to spend time upfront to analyse which of your clients are correctly positioned to need your different advisory services. For example, an established business where the owner is 55 or over is probably a potential candidate for retirement coaching or exit advice. Whereas, these services are unlikely to be needed by a 30-35 business owner with a turnover of under £500k. 

To summarise

To successfully upsell advisory services to your clients you need firstly to be selling them services they want to buy. But equally importantly, use a tried and tested sales process/checklist to help them see the value in your services.

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About the author

Heather Townsend Jun 2014 low.jpg

Heather Townsend is an award-winning and best-selling author who helps small firms grow profitably. She is the lead tutor on the Excedia Advisor Academy and regularly blogs at growing your firm and Accountingweb.

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