How CPA Firms Can Sell Advisory Services
How CPA Firms Can Sell Advisory Services
For CPA firms, advisory services are something they simply have to get better at. As AI and automation take over more and more “basic” tax filing and accounting work you’re going to need to uncover additional revenue lines.
Advisory services offer a way for you to provide additional value to your clients. And by providing advisory services, you become indispensable to your clients by becoming an active partner in moving their business forward.
Moving to advisory requires that CPA firms take a more formal approach to how they package these services to new and existing clients.
Start by not giving information away for free
A growing number of tax and accounting practitioners are starting to think about how to better position their CPA advisory services as billable products. They are looking for ways to move away from a model of informal conversations coming out of the work they are doing and into a formal offering with specific deliverables.
For a start, defining advisory services for clients can be challenging for a lot of CPA firms. When do you know that a general chat is veering towards an advisory consultation? If you are used to giving away all your knowledge for free at times like these, you will have to unlearn it.
Advisory advice is not some offhanded conversation. It takes years to develop a firm understanding of your field and the client’s business. When you can connect dots, decode patterns, draw on experience, and devise a strategy, this combination of skills is worth something. Often, it’s worth a great deal. You can impact your client’s organization’s goals in a big way. That privilege should come with a cost.
The challenge is how to formalize what was previously informal advice. You want consistent deliverables. Also – accounting has traditionally been “backwards focused” – telling a clear story about what happened in the past. Advisory services challenge you to be more “forward-focused”, giving clear guidance on what you should do in the future.
Four ways to get started with CPA advisory services
- Take time to think about what scope your advisory services could cover. Don’t make it up during engagements
- Seriously consider your clients’ needs beyond tax and accounting services
- Define and also price your advisory services for new clients
- Get into the habit of sending marketing collateral to existing and possible clients alerting them to your advisory services
It’s better to shape your client’s expectations by defining your scope of services and talking about them freely. If you are crystal clear about what topics are in scope and out of scope, it will help you ringfence opportunities to help your client.
Prepare to adjust how you engage with clients
For so many years, you may have spoken about accounting services as if they were the only thing important to your clients. It’s what brought you together, so it’s hardly surprising that it frames your conversations.
However, when you start to make the switch to advisory services, you need to listen differently. Don’t miss opportunities to offer advisory services. It’s okay for tax preparation and accounting matters to be secondary to a solid advisory relationship.
Respond to questions with the right framing
Questions from clients are an opportunity to increase your understanding of what is the need behind their questions. Adopt an advisory mindset and be clear about shifting how you converse with them.
Think about what you are trying to gain from client relationships and engagements. Remember, you have your client’s undivided attention, especially during tax season. This is your chance to glean as much as you can.
But, don’t force it
That said, it’s not always easy. There is often resistance, especially amongst established clients, to pay for what was always free. Practice ways of making your client feel heard in the conversation. Be firm but don’t be forceful.
Remember that not every client will be appropriate for formal advisory services engagements. Some clients are big enough to have a CFO which means they are likely thinking about the things you would pitch during an advisory session. Other clients are still growing and now might not be the time for advisory services. You have to find the sweet spot. The more you think about advisory services and talk about them with clients, the better you will get at spotting who needs you.
Clients must feel that you understand their business and you have a meaningful solution to sell. They will pay for services they value, so advisory needs to be positioned to clearly show how you can improve their business.
Pivoting to advisory services is all about putting time into identifying client needs. This takes a certain type of thinking, and you should be comfortable talking to clients more about their fears and concerns and using that knowledge to craft solutions. Turn it into compelling expertise a client will pay for.
Ready to learn more about how staffing can help your business?