Written by Richard Francis, CEO of Spotlight Reporting
All too often, accountants agonise over what services to offer and to whom. Layer in fear of selling and marketing Advisory services, and you have a perfect storm for inaction and inertia. It doesn't need to be this way. Here's some tips and tricks I used to quickly and easily monetise our expertise and experience:
A Service Matrix is basically a spreadsheet with possible services listed across the columns, with client names listed in rows. By ticking the boxes for services you actually provide and leaving blank the cells where you COULD (and probably should) offer more, you'll find plenty of opportunities to scale advisory fee streams.
Host some free listening sessions, asking clients to share their stories, frustrations and dreams with you. No boundaries, no selling - just listening. The output from this session should be (a) greater understanding for you (b) improved empathy and (c) knowledge that should help you do more of relevance and value for those clients in the future.
It frustrates me that so many accountants and bookkeepers don't charge fair value for all of their work (this is 'dumb' free) but also don't see the genuine 'smart' free stuff they could be doing that's right under their noses.
The single best thing I did to establish my business consultancy firm was to do free seminars at the local incubator. Within months I had secured most of the best start-ups in the incubator as clients, right under the nose of the headline sponsor (a Big 4 firm that are now subscribers of Spotlight and a trusted partner).
Most accounting firms don't do cashflow forecasting or budgeting (unless requested, or just for a handful of clients). This is a huge gap and a real opportunity to engage with, say, your 20 best clients each year. This is high value, repeatable work that should include some scenario planning too for superior client engagement. Read my 'Cash is King' white paper that can help you make cashflow forecasting, budgeting and scenario planning as standard practice across your clients and business.
It's all very well getting some 'partnerships' in place with complementary service providers, such as bankers and lawyers, but these relationships can be very one-sided. Invest the time and effort to get alongside the most proactive bank and law firm in town, make expectations of reciprocal referrals clear, and then monitor and measure outcomes. If the work isn't flowing or is only one way, remedy fast or move on.
Some of my most significant clients responded best when we had a great blend of personal, financial and business discussion. I firmly believe that if you're just focussed on 'business' that you are probably missing out on understanding what really motivates your clients and how you can best help.
Set personal, financial and business goals - 1-year priorities and 3-year aspirations - so that the right professional relationship, cadence and Service mix can be applied. It will change their lives... and your Advisor fee line.
I cringe when I hear of accountants and advisors charging chump change for work of importance and value. Too many in our profession seem to be afraid of negative reaction or just lack the confidence to properly value their many years of experience, expertise and professional development.
The quickest way to increase advisory revenue is to start charging appropriately for what you do now and to stop giving away your intellect contribution for peanuts. Start today!