As part of the Beautiful Business Talks hosted by Xero at this year’s Accounting Business Expo, I was given the opportunity to present on how accountants and bookkeepers can provide advisory services to their clients.
Judging from the lively discussion and requests for slides after the talk, the content resonated with many and gave the audience confidence to take the next step in offering deeper client services. Here are the main takeaways from my presentation:
Advisory is human at heart
Regardless of the many different interpretations of ‘advisory’, the key foundation is the existence of a human connection between advisor and client.
True advisory is about more than simply printing and emailing a monthly report pack. While technology is an invaluable tool and enabler in delivering effective advisory services, it’s not the answer alone. Instead, advisory lives in human communication, the interpretation of data, translating jargon into relatable language (back when I was an accountant, one confused client thought I spoke fluent Klingon!) and genuinely having your client’s best interests at heart.
The common traits of Xero partners with exceptional advisory services
If you want to offer more advisory services, but are unsure of where to start – you’re not alone. The good news is, there are plenty of lessons to be learnt from those who are further along in their journey.
From my conversations and interactions with Xero’s most progressive and top-performing partners, the common denominators in successfully implementing advisory services are:
- Be curious: The only way you’ll be able to understand your client’s problems and circumstances (and whether you’re positioned to help) is by asking questions.
- Don’t do it for free: This often requires a mindset change, with many advisors now using a value-based pricing model that includes both advisory and compliance services.
- Let tech do the heavy lifting: By automating admin tasks, you can create extra time for yourself and minimise any distractions from client-facing work. Scalable and repeatable processes are key here.
- Start with the end goal in mind: The first thing successful advisors do is gain an understanding of their client’s business and personal goals. Without this knowledge, any advice you give risks being provided out of context.
Starting ‘light-touch’ and building from there
Another tip is to leverage the technology you already have at your disposal as a means to generate further conversation with your clients.
This is explored in the Xero accountant and bookkeeper guide ‘Introducing light-touch accounting advisory services’. The aim of the game isn’t to make a list of all possible services and try to offer them to your clients. Rather, it is to build confidence by focusing only on the services that you’re comfortable delivering and will have the largest positive impact for your client base.
Exploring the new advisory opportunities technology has created
Technology doesn’t simply automate reporting and forecasting. In today’s connected environment, there are countless new digital opportunities that can help your clients get ahead.
To better understand this, I encouraged the audience to explore Xero’s Cash flow app advisory playbook. Not only is it packed with actionable insights and tips, but it compares popular apps in the Xero ecosystem that solve cash flow problems. One example is using online payment gateways such as PayPal, Stripe or GoCardless to reduce (or even eliminate) debtor days and improve overall cash flow. With Xero’s Small Business Insights revealing that it took 36.29 days on average for Australian small-business invoices with 30-day terms to be paid in January 2019, this is a huge opportunity for bookkeepers who are so close to the transactional data.
There are certainly elements of providing deeper client services that technology does faster and better than humans. But when it comes to situations like navigating tax legislation, adding context to KPIs per client circumstances and helping businesses become cash flow positive – technology alone is ineffective without the human touch.
If you’re looking for further advice on how to move down the advisory path, check out Xero’s The Pacesetters: Advisory guide to discover how accountants and bookkeepers around the world are using cloud-based accounting to expand their advisory offerings – helping to build stronger relationships with clients and transforming their day-to-day operations in the process.