Last year, Spotlight Reporting surveyed 600+ accountants from firms around the world, asking for their insights on current and upcoming trends in the accounting industry. The resulting Global Advisory Trends Report is well worth reading, but one of the biggest insights we uncovered was that almost 40% of accountants surveyed would like 50%-70% of future revenue to come from advisory services.
Currently, only 12.5% of respondents are currently making that level of advisory revenue.
This movement towards greater advisory revenue is something I’m seeing on the ground as well: advisory services are on the rise, and offering more services to more clients is definitely something practices are looking at this year.
With that in mind, here are a few steps you can actively take to sell/upsell advisory services to your base.
1. Organise your client base
First, conduct a portfolio review and categorise your clients in a way that makes sense for your firm. Some questions you can ask yourself include:
- What industry do your clients belong to?
- How big is their business?
- What are their goals?
- What services do you already offer them?
- What services could you offer them?
By grouping businesses together and tracking services offered, you’ll start to identify service gaps where you could be adding more value. Don’t assume that if a particular client isn’t asking for a service, they don’t want it—they might not be aware of what you can really do for them. It’s up to you to be proactive!
Be an extension of the client's company—you want to live and breathe it.
At the end of the day, the best strategy here is to focus on what your clients need, and offer them the services that will help them reach their goals.
2. Package your services
The best and most practical way to organise your services is to build monthly packages, rather than offering one-off sessions—a bit like a subscription model.
Designing tiered packages according to client size and need is definitely advantageous. They’ll be a good baseline that will allow you to tweak and scale services efficiently and effectively. But while this approach works well—you’re charging for value, increasing the potential ROI per client, and the client understands exactly what they get each month—it’s still really important to be flexible.
Client needs can change as their businesses grow or contract, or when economic conditions throw a spanner in the works. If a client approaches you for a one-off service, it’s far better to build it into the monthly subscription, instead of hitting the client with a lump-sum fee.
Don’t assume that if a particular client isn’t asking for a service, they don’t want it—they might not be aware of what you can really do for them.
Furthermore, the tiers you design may also not be the perfect fit for every client on your books. If this is the case, the best approach is to discuss options with the client, get a real understanding of what they’re after, and then build a monthly service structure that works for them and for you. They’ll really appreciate you going above and beyond.
3. Sell the package
Once you know what you want to offer clients, the next step is to sell those services. Selling can feel more natural for some than others, but it’s all just a matter of keeping things simple and asking the right questions.
- What is the current situation of the business, and where is the client looking to go?
- What are their current roadblocks?
- And what future problems could they face?
Once you get that understanding, you’ll be able to demonstrate the value and pay-off of having an expert like you supporting them in achieving what they want. Be an extension of the client's company—you want to live and breathe it. This will build exponential rapport with your client but also enable you to offer your advisory skills in the best way possible.
Finally, when it comes to advisory, you need to emphasise the outcome. A monthly management report isn’t just a report; it’s actionable insights you’ve put together that can help a company reach their goals. The hardcopy enables the client to stay on top of what is happening in the business, but it’s the monthly meeting with you that really makes all the difference.