For many accountants, making the transition from compliance expert to trusted advisor is fraught with uncertainty. How do you determine which clients need your services? And how do you market and sell your services – and at what price? Here we answer these questions with six ways to effectively build your advisory client base.
1. Conduct a needs review with your clients
To unearth how you can help your clients, it’s important to actively ask them about their business. Many firms make the mistake of assuming some clients need advice, and some don’t, without first discussing their business with them. Initiating a needs review with each of your clients – that is, having an open-ended conversation where you ask about their business concerns – is the most effective way to discover how you can help, and pitch your services accordingly.
2. Seek referrals from clients and associates
Assuming their accountant is too busy and not looking for work is one of the main reasons clients don’t refer. It’s therefore critical to actively ask your clients for referrals – something many firms fail to do. In addition, building a strong referral network by cultivating relationships with lawyers and other professionals who may refer to accountants can also help unlock advisory work.
3. Build trust by becoming a thought leader
When clients look for an advisor, they want someone they can trust and have faith in to deliver the help they need. And the most effective way to build this trust and faith is to establish yourself as a thought leader – an expert your clients can rely on for advice that’s relevant to their business. Publishing blog posts, sending out newsletters, engaging on social media and speaking at events are just a few ways to get your thinking into the public domain and publicise yourself as a thought leader.
4. Customise your services to each client
No two clients are the same. One may be worried about succession planning, the other about cash flow, another about profit margin. Therefore, unlike compliance work, it’s difficult to take a cookie cutter approach to the advisory services you provide. To deliver valuable and highly relevant advice, you need to accept the fact that every client is different, and tailor your services to their specific needs.
5. Take an experimental approach to pricing
You must be willing to experiment with pricing, which should be determined by the perceived value of your services from the client’s perspective. Early on, you may price your services quite low, or to prove their value, even offer them free for a few months. Once you have delivered services for a few clients and have an idea of the value you’re creating, you will have more confidence to price appropriately.
6. Encourage regular client engagements by charging fixed prices
Many firms struggle with deciding whether to offer time-based or fixed prices. One of the disadvantages of time-based prices is that your client will always be looking at the clock, knowing every call costs them money. With a fixed price however, your clients will be more inclined to call. While some clients may take advantage of the situation, the more they interact with you, the more opportunity you have to add value and pitch your services.