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Implementing Advisory Services in your Firm. An interview with Darren Glanville

Posted by Gayatri Wood on 14 May 2015

Recently we looked at how you can value price for success with your accounting firm. This included practical tips on putting together packages, building your individual services and then building package offerings to adopt a value based pricing model for your firm. To follow on from this, we interviewed our UK Director of Sales, Darren on his thoughts on being an accountant during this shift and asked him for some practical tips on how you can roll this transition out within your firm and to your clients.

From your industry experience, what do you think about being an accountant during this shift to advisory services?

I remember reading a ICAEW publication on The Profitable and Sustainable Practice. The stand out message I took away from that was the most engaging and profitable firms are switching their emphasis to derive up to seventy percent of fee income from added value services. Throughout my career, Sage, CCH and more recently, Xero - that message has always stuck in my head. I’ve always tried to work with accounting firms to improve their practices whether that be in back office administration, or providing them with practice wide solutions for statutory accounts preparation or tax returns.

I think it’s the most exciting time to be an accountant, technology has never existed in the way that is does now. For the last seven to eight years, we’ve had the rise of cloud computing to the point where we accountants have direct access to instantaneous data like never before. From access to bank statement information, simple data capture from receipts and invoices and the speed of data processing being done in a fraction of the time. This transition allows accountants to leverage these efficiencies and move into the space of becoming a trusted advisor.

With technology becoming a major enabler of being able to process data quicker, it gives practices the platform to review their prices, how they engage their clients, how they process data and shift their time to providing advisory services. In the age of information and data being so readily available, clients want these types of services. There’s no better time to move into that advisory space!

How do you recommend identifying where an accounting firm's existing clients sit in their value based pricing model?

I’ve worked with practices to help them do this by creating a service matrix to understand their clients buying needs and also to identify some basic cross selling opportunities as well. Some quick ways to get started are:

  1. Create personas of clients, whether that is by the size of client, industry, profit margin etc. Then create groups from those "personas" and match it to your model.
  2. Having your data readily available, whether in Excel or in a CRM system, list all the services you provide in a custom field/row or column.
  3. From here take your different personas and identify what services are common between them and fit with each persona.
  4. Then highlight what clients in a particular persona are not currently receiving the services the rest are. Why would customer B not have the same services as customer a when they have the same profile?

From here you would’ve produced:

  1. A list of personas and what value pricing package they fit into.
  2. Those customers within that persona that are currently receiving those services and just need to be moved to the new value based pricing model.
  3. Those customers that can be upsold to as well. You can think about doing some preliminary targeting these customers through events or marketing.

Alongside this, ensure all of your staff are aware and up to date with all the services you provide and this is communicated to your customers also. Often as the need arises you bring in additional services, however long standing clients may have not been made aware of them and they are not being reengaged.

All staff are sales people, so ensure regular internal training is done and a consistent approach is achieved amongst the staff to result in consistent approach being received by all the clients in the practice.

For the customers who just need to be moved to the new value based pricing model, a good way to implement the change is at each of your client’s upcoming review, give them a taster of what the new packages will provide them (like a dashboard of their current performance and KPI’s). This gives you a visual representation to talk to them about their future plans, financial and non-financial KPI’s and what level of support you can provide to assist them (figuring out what package is best for them). In doing so you’re opening up your scope for growth as well as you may find they would like to receive more support from you now knowing what additional services you can provide.

How can accountants gain higher monthly revenue from their clients using value based pricing?

Again when re-engagement comes around on an annual basis, review the current pricing for each client. Using a staggered approach means you’re not overwhelmed trying to change people while adjusting to new processes and you can also iron out any teething issues. Look to switch the client to an annual engagement model rather than relying on one off engagement to continue. Communicate it to them and tie that back to your services matrix you’ve created.

Also move them from an annual payment to a direct debit payment, psychologically you’re getting them used to a monthly payment model, while easing the burden on cash flow for both parties. If you’ve already implemented a value pricing model, where does the client fit into the new matrix? Have you highlighted them as not receiving the same amount of services as other clients in their persona? Benchmarking their performance against the other clients in their persona and explaining additional services you offer that can get their business performing higher and move them up the value chain.

When an accountant has brought their clients in to re-engage them, how do you suggest best approaching a conversation with them?

It’s a great idea to build a question funnel so you feel prepared going and talking to clients. Utilising a question funnel can help you see areas where you can provide a solution to the client. It could include things like:

  • Tell me about the business
  • How many staff do you have?
  • What services/products do you provide?
  • Who are competitors?
  • What are your objectives over the next six to twelve months, two to five years?
  • How do you see yourself achieving those?

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Gaining this information from clients will help you to understand three fundamental questions about their business?

From here as an advisor, it helps you define goals and objectives with the client and you can make them SMART goals.

Being able to demonstrate you have a greater and deeper understanding of client’s business, know what to measure as success and know what services you can provide to support them.

Lastly, focusing on one element at a time and break down goals into specific measured plan of action. From there turn those into KPI’s to be measured and reported on - financially and non-financially. This provides the basis of what data you need to report on to measure success for your client.

If you have any tips of your own please comment below. Additionally if you have anything you’d like us to address in our upcoming blogs please let us know and feel free to discuss this blog with Darren on Twitter - @dazglanville.

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