Moving From Free to Paid Advisory Servicesby
Although compliance services help keep a steady cash flow in the business, they aren’t usually considered high-dollar value services. Post-pandemic, it’s time accountants lean in to advisory-type opportunities to grow our client relationships and our bottom line.
During the pandemic, many accountants went above and beyond ensuring their clients received the best possible service to get them through unprecedented circumstances. We spent hours pouring over legislation to advise our clients on how to hopefully survive a national health crisis, often without requiring payment or out of the scope of our normal compliance work.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our clients want and need to hear from us more regularly. My clients felt anchored knowing they had a partner helping them navigate this past year with honesty and grace, and I’m sure your clients felt the same way.
If you reflect on your current business relationships and find that you are having tons of conversations with clients that are informal and possibly going unbilled, it’s a great time to strategize on how to start shifting from free services to ones you get paid for.
Making the Shift
Before you can start charging the right fees for those conversations, you need to first identify ways you are currently giving these valuable services away for free. Ask yourself:
- Are you answering not so quick questions by phone, email, or social media?
- Are you giving your clients access to you 24/7?
- Do clients just drop by your office or call and start talking?
Whatever it is, the first step is to put a barrier in place that doesn’t allow them to do this anymore.
Consider setting up “quick question” calendar appointments that have a fee attached. This way you will no longer feel like you have given your entire day away and you are being paid for a service you would have otherwise spent unbilled hours on.
This also helps clients value the time they are spending with you by attaching a cost to it. Not that they didn’t appreciate you before, but I promise you that because they now have skin in the game, they may be keener to take your advice. Having these barriers in place will allow you to focus on building the client relationship and start developing more meaningful and lucrative advisory opportunities.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can ensure that not only will your clients appreciate your advice and recommend you to all their friends, but that you also get paid handsomely for it.
1. Explain What You Do
When working with clients, it’s important to help them understand exactly what you do. You don’t necessarily have to bore them with the day-to-day functions, but help them see and understand how the service you provide makes their lives easier.
Help them understand how you save them time and or money and how the advisory services you are now providing help them achieve their goals while staying out of trouble. And don’t just explain it, quantify it. Put it into dollars and cents for your client to understand why what you are doing for them is necessary.
Just recently I met with one of my monthly bookkeeping clients, whom I also prepare taxes for, and pitched the idea of converting to an S-Corporation. The idea of this conversion was very confusing to the client until I broke down how the conversion would save him over $7,000 in self-employment taxes, leaving him with more cash to put into his retirement accounts. While the conversion process may have been a no-brainer to me, it wasn’t until I communicated how much money he would actually save that the client got on board with the plan.
2. Understand Their Need
Going back to my last example of the S-Corporation conversion, I knew the idea of saving cash to fund a retirement plan was of the utmost importance to this client. At the start of our relationship, I had a simple conversation with him and asked: “what scares you most about being a business owner?”
Understanding this helps me advise my clients in ways that meet their basic needs and helps eliminate their fears. This allows me to craft plans for them that put them at ease and allows them to be free enough to want to take calculated risks. Moreover, it solidifies our relationship because it emphasizes to the client I’m listening to what’s important to them and I’m on their team to help them succeed.
3. Be a Fortune Teller
Now that you have honed in on the client needs, it’s time to be proactive and anticipate their future needs. As trusted accounting professionals, we understand the different stages of business and what one could expect at each level.
Using this information, we can turn into fortune tellers and provide pro-active advice for our clients before they even need it. This is your opportunity to continue to build the relationship for the long haul.
At some point they may want to hire a full-time employee so prepare them by having the client either put money in a savings account or apply for a line of credit when the time is right.
We know clients will want to eventually retire and take care of their families, so introduce them to financial planners and/or insurance agents before they bring it up. This shows our clients they are working with us for a reason.
These are just a few simple ideas on how to you can start moving from free to paid advisory services. You will, however, need to understand how to communicate your value in order to provide these services to your clients at a premium.
Don’t be afraid to meet with them at least annually to explain exactly how the advice you have given them over the past year has saved them money or even time. Show them with scorecards, charts and graphs.
Help them realize the power of your network and emphasize how your introductions to other professionals and/or software have made their business more efficient, saved them time and most of all helped prepare them for the future. Finally, don’t be afraid to send that invoice once you have showcased the value of your advisory services, because you deserve to get paid!
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Making Accounting a Little Less Taxing ® for small business owners is Nayo Carter-Gray’s goal as owner and founder of 1st Step Accounting LLC. A self-proclaimed techie Nayo decided a virtual accounting practice was the best way to experience her love of travel and still help small business owners all across the US reduce the stress of...