Many accountants say they do business advisory work but actually get very little take up of these services. To be successful at it, you have to see it from the business owner’s point of view.
If they’re going to commit time and money, they want to know you can deliver real value. They want to see how you can help them face the challenges of an uncertain business environment. And they want to be confident you’re the right person to do it.
Here are the top three mistakes I see accountants make when they’re trying to sell their advisory services.
You give away the crown jewels for free
This first mistake stops your existing clients from even needing your advisory services – because you’re already giving them away for free!
How many times has a client said to you, ‘can I just pick your brains for a minute?’ And you’ve listened to the question, told them the answer (in some detail), and then realised afterwards that you’ve just given away all your hard-won expertise. Without earning a penny from it.
To stop this happening in future, here’s how I suggest you respond to these requests:
‘That’s a great question. In order for me to give you the best possible answer, I’m going to go away and do a bit of investigation for you. It’s going to take me two or three hours and I’ll come back to you with a proper response. Now, obviously I’ll need to charge for that. It’s going to be £X amount. Would you like me to go ahead?’
This really sets that expectation that you are providing something of value and if they want it, there is a charge.
Your offer is too vague
It’s not enough to have one sentence on your website that says, ‘we can help you grow your business.’ To make a business owner excited about what you can do for them, you have to be more specific. Where can you make a difference – better cashflow, paying less tax, increasing profitability? And what’s the ultimate benefit of working with you? Less time at work and more time to spend with the family? Enough cash in the bank so they can afford fabulous holidays? Think about it from their point of view.
Try using something like this instead. ‘Our five step process will increase your sales, your profitability and your cashflow in three half day sessions. We’ll help you get more of what you want from life.’
Now the business owner can understand the benefits of working with you and exactly how you will impact their business. That’s a far more enticing proposition. Of course, you have to back that up with a genuine five (or three or seven) step process and that leads me on to mistake number three …
You can’t show them how your advisory services work
If it’s difficult to understand what you do, your clients won’t buy.
On the other hand, if you have a methodology in place, it simplifies the advisory process, both for you and for the client. Your clients can see what the process is and understand where they are within it. You don’t have to devise a plan for each client individually. And it’s easier than you might realise to come up with one.
Think about the clients that you’ve successfully helped in the past. Where did you start? What did you say? What did you do? Look for the commonalities between them, the things you always do or say.
Once you’ve identified these, that’s your methodology and you can start to build it into a sequence. It could be five, three, seven or any number of steps, but this is the basis for a system for advisory work.
It’s also important to look for the commonalities between the clients you’ve helped. What were the problems they were facing? What mistakes did they make? Which of them benefitted most from your advice? It could be that your methodology is only successful with a certain type of client or in certain circumstances. When you identify your ideal client, you can be confident in selling your advisory services to them, knowing that they work.
This blog just scratches the surface of how to build up your advisory services. You do need to put some work in before you see results, but it’s well worth the effort.
There’s a lot more detail on what to do in my book, Putting Excellence Into Practice. You can download a free copy from here.