It’s not rocket science to say that online software is automating traditional accounting tasks (tell me something I didn’t know) and that accountants need to broaden and sharpen their business advisory services. But there’s a big gap between where we are now as business advisors, and where we need to be.
Hope is not a strategy
And yet for many accountants, the desire to do just that is aspirational. What business advisory services am I delivering? How do I get my clients to buy? And even if I knew what I was selling, how do I monetise those services? How do I turn a dashboard or management accounts (yawn, more reporting your clients don’t understand) into something they’d pay for? And last but not least, how do I build recurring business advisory revenues to replace compliance decline? I don’t want to have to sell it again and again each year.
No system, no scale
Every one of your business advisory services should have a clear system to cover the marketing, selling and delivery phases. The ‘system sniff test’ is simply this – ‘Do you have a flowchart that sets out each step and links to every template?
For example, you run a quarterly management meeting with your client. Does your client have an annual business plan on one page as a framework for your work together? Do you send them ‘pre-work’ before each session and are you working to a clear agenda and producing a crisp action plan after each meeting? Is the outcome of that session the updating of your client’s business plan, ensuring a dynamic and high-value experience? If so, you have system. Now you can start to scale.
Light touch, low value?
And yet so many accountants are providing light touch (and low value) advisory services. A dashboard with some insights or some regular reports with highlights. But where is the value? If you can’t express the value to a client, then there probably isn’t any.
Let’s be very real about the challenges your clients have in their businesses. Viewing a dashboard without any intervention from you isn’t going to change much. If it were that simple, your clients would have fixed their business challenges years ago. They need to be accountable to someone – you. Work together tactically to change the things that just aren’t working.
What shows up in the dashboard is just the outcome of poor process and behaviour. Help fix that.
Light touch doesn’t cut it.
Learn a new language
Clients want help to achieve ‘the three freedoms’ - Financial, time and mind. Always link the benefits of your services (yes, even compliance) to those freedoms.
To add value, your services need to deliver clear outcomes to your clients. Start talking the language that business owners want to hear, not accountanese. Don’t focus on inputs or methodology, focus instead on the outputs and value for your client. For example, your client needs a forecast. The outcome for your client is not the forecast itself, it’s improved cashflow management and a better relationship with bankers. It’s sleeping at night. Learn a new language – your clients’ language.
What advisory services?
With just on 150 firms in our Gap community we’ve found that the most needed and valued business advisory services include dynamic business planning, accountability coaching and cashflow management. This is the business advisory trifecta.
Moving up the business advisory food chain, VCFO as a service is gaining traction. This is a high value, sticky service that is not compliance dependent. Would you like tax with that?
Firms who are growing their VCFO income streams are future proofing their firms. Beef up the value. Add annual business planning, KPI goal setting and accountability coaching. Super-high value!
Time to mind that Gap
Come to our Mind The Gap one-day workshop, 19th May, the Novotel Auckland Airport. You’ll work hard and learn lots. How to open your capacity for business advisory, how to deliver a free client review that subtly sells new services, how to sell without product pushing and how to deliver a powerful business planning session. And, you’ll receive your free ‘Complimentary Client Review’ kit.
Delivering business advisory services requires a new mindset, a delivery system and sales training.
Let us show you how.
Viv Brownrigg, FCA
CEO and Co-founder, The Gap
About the author
In 2014 Viv joined forces with Mark Jenkins to create The Gap; a community of Accounting firms throughout NZ and Australia delivering systemised Business Development services to SME clients, driving client stickiness and recurring BD revenue. Viv is committed to driving thought leadership and the industry change required for Accountants to step up and take their rightful place as trusted coach and advisor to the small business community.