How to become a 'business advisor': Part one

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In the first of a two part series, Finola McManus explains how value added business advisory services can keep clients happy and add to your own bank balance.

The words 'business advice' seem to frighten many accountants who are trained to be technically competent yet feel uncomfortable with the concept of 'selling' business advice. Whether you’re a sole practitioner or a partner in a larger firm, every accountant and advisor faces the challenge of keeping clients happy while providing advice to help their often struggling businesses. Clients welcome all the support they can get, but of course getting paid for that advice can prove difficult if you don't go about it in the right way. As well as this, every practitioner has to keep their eye on the clock and somehow find the t...

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24th Nov 2009 12:28

Getting Paid For Business Advice

My thoughts on what ends up as a very useful article.

 

I always feel that ‘value added’ is something of an oxymoron in that it implies you are telling the client how valuable you will be for them. As value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder this is clearly nonsensical.

 

“Every practitioner has to keep their eye on the clock” might have implied that the practitioner will be charging for their time, one of the worst ways of pricing your services. However, as you are meaning it in the sense of managing your time rather than charging for it, if the work is highly profitable you will undoubtedly find time to do it! And why even consider giving the advice if it wasn’t highly profitable to do so?

 

You go on to talk about a “menu of services” and using gap analysis to stimulate “chasing those leads.” Trying to a/. sell a list and b/. force your services down the clients’ throats is likely to be a less than optimal strategy. No one will buy anything unless they need it, and even that is not enough. They will actually only buy it if they want it.

 

In order to know if they want it, they have to understand that it is a remedy for a pain they suffer and understand the full value of living without the pain. They can then compare this value against your proposed fee and judge whether to accept the RoI it offers. And to understand the full value of the solution often requires a conversation that neither side should ever dream is anything other than free.

 

And then you get it all spot on. Almost invariably Clients don’t know exactly what they need to remove their ‘pains’, even if they understand what underlying ‘disease’ is causing them, and at this point your value is more in your knowledge of the questions than in your knowledge of the answers. Your questioning skill will make things clearer in their heads, so they can understand and explain things to themselves, and thus to you. This is the way you get first to value, then to fee, via RoI, checking simply that it is profitable for you to do so.

 

I look forward to the next article.

 

David

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