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Business Perspective: Thomson Reuters

Starting an advisory conversation: 3 best practices

| December 2020/January 2021 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated November 30, 2020

You’ve done your research, you’ve got an internal strategy in place to bring advisory services to your firm, but how can you fully introduce advisory services at your firm in a way that won’t turn off clients?

Knowing how to approach a conversation with clients around advisory is critical to the success of your services. Quite simply, if you cannot effectively communicate the value of advisory services to clients, you will lose clients. While this can sound daunting, there are three key elements you’ll want to include in your conversation with clients when talking about advisory.

Define 'advisory' 

Clients will come in with preconceived notions about what they consider advisory services, and each client’s understanding will differ. As the adviser, it is your responsibility to make sure clients are on the same page. Start by explaining advisory services as a whole: An ongoing relationship between clients and an advisor designed to better the financial well-being of the client’s business and offer advice in business-critical decisions. It is common for clients to view “advisory” as synonymous with “consulting,” but it’s important to stress the difference between the two. Consulting refers to business guidance regarding one issue, and billing is often based on how much time is spent on finding the solution. Advisory, on the other hand, is an ongoing relationship in which an adviser offers guidance on a variety of business concerns a client may have and charges a monthly fee for services. Once you’ve established this baseline understanding, elaborate on the specifics of your advisory services and get technical about what they can expect from the relationship you’re offering.

Help them understand the value and benefit

When you first sit down with a prospective advisory client, whether they’re new to the firm or an existing client you’re looking to transition, they’re going to be thinking one thing: “How much is this going to cost?” After all, they’ve come to you hoping to save, not spend more. As an adviser, it’s on you to build the case for advisory services. Explain to them that the knowledge you want to share with them is best put into practice beyond just forms and returns. Your services are designed to be more than task-based deliverables, they’re intended to offer ongoing advice on a wide variety of business challenges. At the end of the day, it is far less about money spent and more about what types of returns a client can expect from the value you add to their business.

Make it visual

As CPAs, it can be easy to overlook the basics in accounting and get caught up in the nitty-gritty of the numbers. While the fine details are undoubtedly important, it’s critical you allow your advisory clients to make sense of the numbers in a way that makes resonates with them. This can be done exceptionally well with the help of visuals. Modeling the path of a client now versus the path you suggest allows clients to connect the dots and see how your guidance can make a real impact on their business. 

The advisory conversation doesn’t have to be difficult. With these steps in mind, you will be able to not only have an effective communication strategy with clients but set yourself up as a next-generation accounting firm, ready to guide clients through all their business needs. For more insights and information on advisory services, visit


Thomson Reuters
Contact: Holly Swirtz, Strategic Partnerships
Phone: 734-417-2718