6 Insights on Being an Agile Advisor
If you or your firm are engaged in advisory services, staying relevant to clients by being adaptable and agile should be the key focus for high performing advisors.
Here are some tips we’ve learned from some successful senior practitioners:
1. Stop wasting time on coffee meetings during the sales process
It’s tempting to talk to anyone who’s interested in your services, but focusing on ‘quality rather than quantity’ can prevent days of wasted time each month. Russell Cummings, business advisor from Shifft Consulting recommends:
- pre-qualifying leads with a 20-minute call to understand their barriers
- discover if they’re the type of client you want to work with and if you can provide the value they are seeking
- following up successful calls with an email covering your background, evidence of capability and setting up a one-hour meeting (only if required) to gain verbal agreement
- discussing price, value, deliverables and time commitments at the meeting to avoid writing ‘cold’ proposals
- only at this point send a document or email confirming the next steps to doing business together
2. Build capacity for success
There are many ways you can build capacity for greater leverage, from simply arming yourself with the right tools, to engaging a virtual or executive assistant. Whilst a virtual or executive assistant is a great idea, most don’t understand the economics – if you cannot generate at least twice your executive assistant’s cost in additional fees, then you can’t justify one.
If having an executive assistant is right for you, make sure they do value-added tasks, not just secretarial work – researching prospects and clients, running your contact program, writing blog articles and social posts, creating presentations and client onboarding will all work towards creation of additional revenue.
At a more fundamental level, build yourself a high-performance toolkit for client meetings. Consider what you need in a toolkit if you’re out on the road; tablet, pens for flipcharts, adapters for presentations, printed templates and so on. If you’re running most of your meetings internally, ensure the meeting rooms help you facilitate – use walls that also act as a whiteboard or an interactive screen to capture notes.
Can you log client actions and strategies throughout the meeting in your software? An agile advisor leaves workshops with very little work to do or responses to write. Do you use meeting software such as Zoom with clients?
What other software would be in your high-performance toolkit to allow you to work seamlessly from anywhere in the world to solve any issue? Embrace online coaching to create greater leverage.
3. Facilitate rather than consult
It’s rare to get through a client meeting without straying from the agenda to discuss a ‘hot’ issue. A great facilitator has the confidence to tackle these left-field issues ‘head-on’ by drawing on structured tools and techniques. What’s the key to be a great facilitator in a one-on-one meeting or group workshop?
Preparation and planning: Ensure you invest time to prepare well regardless of whether in a larger workshop or one-on-one meeting, interview key stakeholders prior if applicable, note timings on workshop materials and review historic client notes.
- Orientation: focus on client outcomes in the time available, it’s not about you.
- Framing: set a clear purpose at the outset, outline the agenda, make sure pre-reading is done, set expectations of roles in the meeting.
- Structure: ensure your message gets through with the EAS (Expose, Activity, Summary) technique. You could also use ‘Now, Where, How’ to structure your workshops.
- Delivery: adapt to the time allocated and use a mix of mediums (whiteboard, flip chart, PowerPoint presentation, group work) to keep energy levels high.
- Interaction: gather regular feedback and ask open-ended questions throughout the workshops, 70 percent of the time spent should be attendees doing the talking or in exercises.
- Summary and next steps: create a good outline of key points, be clear on the next steps and who does what. Keep the momentum going by booking the next meeting and setting expectations about topics to be covered.
4. Focus your model on achieving profitable growth
Keep your business advisory model focused on services leading to profitable growth, your model should be simple enough for clients to clearly understand the value you can deliver through your service offerings. Too often advisors over-complicate their models, attracting the wrong target market or slowing down sales cycles.
Once you have a clear model you can build your capability and capacity to deliver these offerings flawlessly. Having the capability to facilitate using a broad range of problem solving and strategy tools will save you time in preparation and ensure you can solve any client problem efficiently.
5. Put yourself in the right mindset for success
Probably the most important of all the tips to be a more agile advisor is to be self-aware about the capabilities you need for success, ensuring you’re continually staying ahead of the game in the understanding that best practice is about continuous improvement.
6. 80 percent online, 20 percent face-to-face
Client issues don’t appear conveniently and predictably ‘every second Tuesday of the month at 1pm until 3pm’ when you have a client review meeting. These issues can be random, often occurring a few times a week and then nothing for a month or two. Agile advisors need the ability to be just-in-time for clients, allowing them the flexibility to access the support, training and insights required to address their issues 24/7 in this fast-paced world.
Evolving your client contact cadence by embracing online coaching is key. High performers manage the expectations of clients so that 80 percent of contact is online via Zoom or other web-based meetings, coaching posts, viewing tools and completing online courses and only 20 percent face-to-face for re-setting of plans and work-shopping matters.
Inevitably there’ll be objections from some not wanting to move from the traditional face-to-face only model but point out that it’s going to be more expensive and ‘banking up’ issues and hoping to fix them in a 2-hour quarterly catch up is not feasible. Plant the seed of fixing issues between meetings, keeping up momentum and using face-to-face as an opportunity to reset plans.
Change your prospects’ and existing clients’ mindsets to an online and face-to-face approach and all will benefit. Now ask yourself these three questions:
- Where are your gaps?
- What do you need to invest time in building new capabilities?
- How will you embrace these insights in your firm to drive higher performance, increase capacity and become more agile in your delivery to clients?
James Mason has been managing director of Mindshop since 2000, where he oversees the advisory training, coaching, resources development, and growth needs of business leaders and advisors.