4 Tips to Go Beyond Accounting Services and Become a Value-Adding Trusted Advisor

Aug 29th 2016
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Dmitry Shiromosov_istock_cloudsteps

Accounting professionals are now in a position they have wanted to be in for a long time. With a lot of the manual processes that were previously actioned using desktop software now gone, being online creates a lot of efficiencies where accounting professionals can start to move away from the day-to-day numbers to the advisory services they and their clients have been seeking.

When I was practicing, I was part of an alliance group for large CPA firms where they brought in consultants who would work with managing partners on developing strategies in order to get these firms future-ready. This included the implementation of marketing programs and systems, and the development of value-added services within the firm.

During an alliance group presentation, a marketing consultant was educating the managing partners on potential marketing programs they could take back to their firms. Many of the partners in attendance were resisting the advice. An IT consultant in attendance raised his hand and said to the group, “I just don’t understand this industry. I have the same problem with my accountant; I want to pay him money, but he doesn’t return my calls.”

This frustration, while understandable, can be a thing of the past. Automated processes within cloud accounting software have given us back the time to return these calls.

We now have the time to actually analyze the work and help clients maintain a cashflow-positive business by being a more proactive presence in their business. We can give clients the help they need with business decisions on a real-time basis.

As an adopter of cloud accounting software and processes, you’re already asking how you can go beyond accounting services. Here are a few key steps to how you can become a value-adding trusted advisor to your clients.

1. Take advantage of automation. Having extra time in your day means having time to dedicate elsewhere. Think about how you will use this time to better serve your clients. By preparing answers to your clients’ most frequently asked questions, whether that be in the form of a video or a prewritten answer, you’ll be able to respond to their emails faster.

If you’ve only got some of your clients on your cloud accounting software, use the extra time to determine which of your existing clients would be a good fit for the automation this technology offers; or spend this extra time finding new prospects that would be a good fit. Maybe you’ll decide you can use your extra time working on a better quality of life – your choice! The possibilities are endless.

2. Move all of your software to the cloud. Most of you are probably using the cloud in some way, shape, or form in your firm; whether that be email, document sharing, or even your accounting software, which likely enables you to collaborate with your clients.

Think about moving all the tools you use in your practice to its virtual counterpart. Ditch the sticky notes and use Trello to create a virtual to-do list. Use Google Hangouts or Skype to eliminate the need to make unnecessary client visits, while still showing your clients you value your one-on-one time with them. You can now meet with clients virtually, anywhere, anytime.

3. Reassess billing structure. At this point, tools within cloud accounting software have automation built into the ecosystem. These tools can validate data entry, automate client requests, and let you know when it is time to review work, which can ultimately speed up engagements.

With the length of time it takes to complete these tasks reduced, it may no longer be profitable to bill based on time charges. The value you provide your client is not based on the time you spend, especially on nonvalue-added tasks.

Your value is based on the information you provide them – the quicker the better. Becoming more efficient does not reduce the expertise you bring to your client. By moving to value pricing, you’re giving the client a more preferential method of billing as they have an amount they can budget for each month. It’s a win-win. As you re-engineer the efficiency of your business, you will not only benefit the client with this new billing model, but yourself as well.

4. Remove “I don’t know” from your vernacular. Clients do not think of accountants as computers and do not expect you to have all the answers at the exact moment they ask. However, they do want you to be able to find the answer they need in an expedient fashion so they can make critical business decisions.

Don’t be afraid to tell a client you need time to find the answer to their question. Don’t be afraid to take on a new client for fear of not knowing the answer to the questions they might ask. Instead, be the strategic partner that they need in their business.

Make it known that, whatever their question may be, you will either find the answer or the resource they are looking for so they can get where they need to go. Becoming a trusted advisor will not happen overnight, but by preparing yourself now, you can put yourself in the best position possible when the transition does happen.

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