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Business development through a new advisory mindset

In today’s increasingly complex environment, accounting firms are facing more opportunities and challenges than ever. Clients need more advice, while firms face challenges such as transformational change. PrimeGlobal chief executive Steve Heathcote writes

In this environment, it is not surprising that the recent PrimeGlobal member survey highlighted that member firms are looking for more support and skills to help them make the right choices and develop an advisory mindset.

These are choices and skills that will enable our firms to innovate and stay relevant to clients, so clients can thrive and prosper in this time of change.

PrimeGlobal members worldwide agree that the trusted advisor status has been significantly strengthened during the Covid crisis. Partners are working more directly with clients to help businesses survive, scenario plan, interpret government relief legislation, enhance decision making and help develop business ideas.

Having a deeper understanding of clients’ businesses and needs allows firms to identify opportunities and extend service lines. This is a trend that firms see having a positive long-term impact beyond Covid. However, firms often find it difficult to develop an advisory mindset within their teams. It could well be that professional accountants feel out of their comfort zone – preferring to focus on the doing rather than working with a client to determine what needs to be done.

With Covid, there has been less opportunity for new professionals to meet clients and learn from watching experienced partners operate. Zoom calls are often functional and less personal; it is harder to move the conversation to cover broader business matters.

Consulting and advisory is a mindset, rather than a service line. Disruption created by Covid highlighted a growing need to enhance new business development skills and re-evaluate how business is conducted in the context of reduced face-to-face interactions.

For many firms, remotely attracting new clients or working with existing ones requires a culture shift and major organisational adjustment. Teams need to proactively think about where their client is going, what their challenges and opportunities are, what could help them, and what they have learnt elsewhere. There is a lot of focus on digital, but to deliver value, firms need to invest in people skills. As routine work is automated, staff need enhanced higher-level skills.

Trusted advisor

Gorana Stojanovic, PrimeGlobal’s executive director of strategy and communications, adds: “As the trusted advisor status is enhanced and businesses are increasingly looking for services beyond accounting, audit, tax and compliance, so is the need for advisors to help guide their financial futures and evaluate different types of transactions. This trend has created an opportunity for many of our firms, but also presented firms with a challenge to shift the mindset, build staff capability in core professional skills and innovate.”

PrimeGlobal member firms are working to overcome these challenges. For example:

  • Some of our member firms hold consultancy labs where teams can practise advisory skills using real case studies, with the team benefiting from the guidance of experienced partners;
  • With clients’ permission, teams sometimes review recorded zoom calls which they have had with their clients –identifying lessons learnt to help their staff develop their advisory approach;
  • Many firms are using PrimeGlobal’s webinars and Business Learning E-Library to help staff develop advisory skills. The e-library covers a wide range of courses, such as Powerful Communication, Anticipating and Serving Evolving Needs, Integration and Collaboration.

Many PrimeGlobal firms find that using data more efficiently is key, with data analytics offering invaluable insights to staff with the right skills to interpret data and offer powerful choices to clients. As part of the consulting and advisory offering, many firms are moving to annuity payment models – offering a sounding board to clients on a monthly retainer basis. This also requires staff to have the right skills. Innovation is in high demand, and using digital technology well, through the power of BI, platforms, RPA and standard products is more relevant than ever.

The high-level client advisory mindset is going beyond traditional and business performance services to strategic planning. PrimeGlobal North America executive director Michelle Arnold says: “We understand firms are facing unique challenges and a highly competitive landscape. Firms increasingly face commoditisation, less loyalty, and pressure to deliver faster ROI. Additionally, returning to a ‘new normal’ in a post-Covid world demands fresh thinking and new approaches for success.”

Arnold concludes: “Business development is an extension of client service delivery. If you have a process, it becomes repeatable, builds efficiencies, and success builds around anticipating what is next. If you approach it by helping clients instead of selling to them, you elevate your trusted advisor status and honour your firm mission.”



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