How to Develop the Client Advisory Professional

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Boomer Consulting
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More firms are expanding their advisory services and looking for ways to help their staff develop the skills needed to deliver high-value services to clients.

In many firms, only partners provide advisory services to clients. Those partners learned their problem-solving skills over decades of working in the profession, supplemented by occasional “soft skills” workshops.

But to meet the changing demands of clients, we need to be able to develop staff at all levels to be more consultative. People throughout the firm need quality training to move beyond the numbers and become agile enough to address any client challenge. So how can firms transform?

Step 1: Build alignment

The first step toward building your client advisory services team is building alignment with:

  • A shared vision. In a shared vision firm, individuals are rewarded for their performance in support of the firm's strategic goals.
  • A current strategic plan. A strategic plan improves communication around expectations, makes it easier to hold people accountable, improves buy-in to firm goals and energizes teams to push beyond their normal comfort zones.
  • Transformation should be part of your plan and vision so you can begin tracking the metrics that really matter, seeing progress, and measuring success in a defined way.

Step 2: Develop a plan

Your plan for transformation will involve defining, packaging, pricing and selling transactional and compliance services along with advisory services. You will likely find that advisory services are already being performed by some partners in the firm, but they may be providing these services free of charge or billing it as part of compliance fees.

Your plan will need to answer the following questions:

  • Who will lead the CAS initiative?
  • What will your menu of services be?
  • Who else has or can develop the skills to provide advisory services?

Step 3: Train your team

The next step involves identifying existing knowledge and skill set gaps. If you’re already delivering advisory services as one-off projects for certain clients, look at the projects you’ve done in the past: 

  • Who worked on them?
  • What went well?
  • What mistakes can you learn from?

Conduct a resources gap analysis to identify missing skill sets in your team. This can be used to develop a training curriculum and personal training plan for each individual.

There are actually many resources for getting that training to your people, including the P3 Leadership Academy and the AICPA’s Client Accounting Advisory Services Certificate.

Step 4: Engage your clients

Define your target clients and filtering criteria for existing clients who may no longer be appropriate for the firm. Many of your existing clients will be a good fit, so identify them and have conversations about the value you can provide.

Let them know that your technology platform allows you to capture the data needed for analytics for clients and the firm. They will be excited to learn about the gaps you’ve identified and how you can begin working with them to fill those gaps strategically. Getting existing clients on board will help you build the advisory model and achieve quick wins.

Step 5: Repeat the process

With a plan to scale, your firm is progressing toward a longer-term strategic vision. By monitoring metrics, you can gain a greater understanding of which consulting services are growing and which ones are not.

The original article appeared on the Boomer Bulletin blog.

About Sandra Wiley

Sandra Wiley

Sandra Wiley is President, Boomer Consulting Inc.

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