Changing the conversation

During my calls with practitioners, the discussion often turns to the old chestnut, “My clients just want the basics – accounts and tax work – they have no interest in additional services, and more importantly, they are not prepared to pay the extra costs involved.”.

And the cost is always their primary consideration.

This brings any possibility of offering more beneficial advisory services to a dead stop.

The “old” conversation to secure grudge purchases

The verbal agreement you have probably reached with many clients, who are not open to buying advisory services, is that you will prepare annual accounts and tax returns – full stop. Clients no doubt see this as a “grudge” purchase; something required by government that they have to do.

Unfortunately, this focus on past events, what happened in the last trading or tax year, has little to offer to businesses stretched financially by COVID disruption.

So, how do we change this conversation? How do we explain to clients the value and range of advisory services that you offer and how these services could make a positive contribution to their business and other financial goals?

What would the “new” conversation look like?

How do you meet your clients’ needs if you don’t appreciate what they are?

More importantly, how do you convince clients that your interest is in supporting them rather than ripping them off by providing services they don’t really need?

An appropriate starting point would be a fact-find. Are clients going to object if you give them a call, make it clear that it’s a catch-up call that they won’t be charged for, and simply ask open questions – and make notes…

“How are you?” “Are you managing to survive – Brexit, COVID…”

Once you have a picture of their present circumstances you will be in a much better position to appreciate their problems; and flowing from that, how you may be able to help overcome or minimise the effects of those problems.

To establish value you must establish relevance

If you are going to be effective in increasing the provision of advisory services, you must first convince clients that these additional service are going to help them solve specific problems.

For example, if, after a fact-find, a practitioner identifies an underlying cause of concern (cash-flow, solvency etc.,), and more importantly, a solution to the problem, it would be a rare person that refused to take him up on the offer of support.

Accordingly, if you want to increase advisory work you will have to embark on a process to reveal the need and value of advice required. Simple as that.

What is the first step?

You will need to discuss with your practice colleagues the range of advisory services you would like to promote. For example:

  • Digitising accounting records to meet future MTD demands
  • Improving monthly reports (Xero etc.,) to make them relevant to clients’ needs
  • Quarterly or monthly management accounts preparation and review
  • Tax planning

And so on…

The second step

Identify clients to call. This may involve the preliminary distribution of a request that outlines your willingness to call and catch-up with their current concerns as we start to emerge from lockdown.

And then, make those catch-up calls.

Not every client you approach will be receptive, but they will appreciate that you have called out of concern.

And some will be receptive, and some of those will see the benefit and the value of any advice you offer, and in this way engage with the notion that perhaps you do provide non-grudge services that will be of real value after all.

New clients – start as you mean to go on…

Do you really want to take on clients whose primary request at your first appointment is to save on accountancy costs? Experience has probably indicated that these penny-pinchers usually form the 20% of clients that take up 80% of your time; they want everything for nothing.

Offer regular catch-up calls to see how responsive clients are progressing – unless they buy-into formal, monthly or quarterly reviews – and make the point that from day-one what you offer is advice relevant to their needs and any “compliance” requirements will be accomplished as part of that advice.

Step back from the idea that all you do is prepare historic accounts and tax returns.

How Landmark’s Fee Builder program can help

Fee Builder will provide you with a monthly resource pack and strategy outline to move from compliance to advisory based services. For example, the pack for April 2021 addresses the issues raised directly in this blog post and will provide you with fact sheets and ideas to make those initial first steps.

Take a look>>

If, after reading this post, you have more questions than clarity on what to do next, call me: Bob Edwards 07879 896073, or email and I’ll call you back

Meeting the challenges posed by the need to expand advisory services is perhaps the greatest challenge we face as practitioners. Changing the conversation around this topic is the place to start.

All the very best in your endeavours and stay well.

Bob Edwards – March 2021

Bob Edwards

Bob has been working with practices across the UK offering novel ways to improve cross-sales and increase new client acquisitions. He is also interested in "step changes" in legislation that offer challenges, and therefore opportunities, for practitioners to provide new recurring and one-off support services to clients.

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