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Becoming a Trusted Business Advisor: How to Add Value, Improve Client Loyalty, and Increase Profits



Becoming a Trusted Business Advisor: How to Add Value, Improve Client Loyalty, and Increase Profits

William Reeb, Dominic Cingoranelli

ISBN: 978-0-870-51902-4 November 2016 400 Pages

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Being your clients’ Most Trusted Business Advisor is not about selling and making pitches. It’s really about showing an interest in your clients, asking the kind of questions that will help you learn what is important to them, and then listening. Based on the AICPA’s successful Trusted Business Advisor Program and intended for CPAs who want to take their consulting practice to the next level, this workbook provides approaches to help you do just that.

By the time you finish working through the book’s helpful forms and exercises you will be better able to:

  • have critical conversations with your clients
  • ask the right questions effectively
  • be a better listener
  • easily identify services that will add value to your clients’ organizations
  • avoid administrative pitfalls throughout the process
  • effectively market your services, and
  • profitably grow your practice

Find out how to uncover critical client needs in ten minutes or less, how to help your clients prioritize their wish lists, and how to help them quantify the value of addressing each of the issues that keep them awake at night!

Section 1: The CPA as Most Trusted Business Advisor

Chapter 1: Becoming Your Clients’ Most Trusted Business Advisor 2

Overview 3

Frequently Asked Questions about the MTBA Role 4

Organization of This Text 9

It’s Time 11

Chapter 2: The Changing Profession 12

The World Continues to Change 13

The Profession Is Continuing to Be Reshaped 13

The Commoditization of Traditional Services 15

Unbundling Services 17

Moving to the Future 18

The AICPA’s Position on Advisory and Consulting Services 19

What About Attest Clients? 21

Incorporating the MTBA Framework Into Your Daily Routine 22

Who Should Become an MTBA? 23

The Minimum Transition Requirement for Moving to MTBA Status 38

Chapter 3: Making the Transition to Most Trusted Business Advisor: How and Why 39

The Essence of the Most Trusted Business Advisor Framework 40

Obstacles or Opportunities 40

Our Answers to the Questions and Objections 41

Fees and Pricing Issues 41

Positioning Issues 42

Workload Issues 42

Addressing These Issues 45

Compensation Systems 45

Clients and Fees 45

Stop Giving Away Work 48

Technology 49

Managerial Leadership 49

The General Contractor Model 50

More on the Opportunities of an MTBA 51

Revenue Growth 51

Account Control 54

The MTBA Framework Is a Logical Role for CPAs 55

The Market Has Changed 55

Organizational Opportunities 56

To Answer the Question 57

Chapter 4: The General Contractor Model 59

Using the General Contractor Model 60

The Role of MTBA 60

The General Contractor Role 61

GC Case Study 61

Skills Required for the GC Role 63

Will People Pay Me to Function as a GC? 64

Case Study 65

Important Nuances of the GC Approach 66

Being a GC Means More Than Just Referring Someone 66

Bill for Your Time 67

Build Your Subcontractor Network 67

Benefits of a Strong Subcontractor Network 68

Your True Value as MTBA and GC 68

Your Need to Stay Involved as MTBA and GC 68

Your Role as GC in Dealing With Subcontractors 68

Final Thoughts on the GC Model 69

Section 2: The MTBA Framework

Chapter 5: Developing Your Self Skills 72

Treating the Symptoms 73

What is Your Emotional I.Q.? 74

Taking Down the Barriers 76

Self-Esteem: The Greatest Obstruction to More Effective Communication 77

Communicating With Your Friends 78

Self-Esteem: Awareness Goes a Long Way 80

Failure: A Sign of Real Growth 81

Your Attitude Makes a Big Difference 84

Recapping Some Potentially New Ideas 86

Before You Move On 87

Chapter 6: Refining the Most Important MTBA Tool: Communications 89

Communication Foundation 92

Making a Good First Impression 92

Interpreting Nonverbal Messages 93

Ask Questions 99

Take Notes and Refer to Them Often 99

Ask Only One Question at a Time 101

Ask Open-Ended Questions 101

Probing and Follow-Up Questions 103

Don’t Forget to Use the Global Functions as Your Questioning Checklist 104

Avoid the Impulse to Announce Quick Solutions 109

Your Job Isn’t to Have Answers 111

Listen Actively 113

Clarification and Paraphrasing for Understanding 117

Does Gender Make a Difference? 117

In Conclusion 118

Before You Move On 118

Chapter 7: Advanced Communication Skills: Working as a Facilitative Advisor Instead of as a Technical Expert 130

Show Me the Money!—Quantification 131

The Omnipotent Advisor: A Relationship You Can’t Count on Having as Well as a Risk You Can’t Afford 134

If This Is So Straightforward, Then Why the Opposition? 136

Perspective is the Key 137

Different Approaches Are Necessary for the Advisory (MTBA) and Expert Advice Roles 138

The Hierarchy of Sources 140

Before You Move On 142

Chapter 8: Delivering Value-Added Services 146

Cash, Capacity, and Capability 147

The Balancing Act 151

How Do You Find the Right Balance? 152

A Simple Format 153

What If the Client Doesn’t Want to Do the Leg Work! 154

The End Result 154

Estimating the Project: Pricing Approaches 154

Commissions and Contingent Fees: Where Do They Fit in? 160

Before We Move On 161

Chapter 9: Advanced Advisory Skills and Practices: Conducting Effective Sales Calls With Clients and Prospects 167

Where We’ve Come From 168

Going Even Further 168

The Structured Discovery Call 169

The Structured Sales Call 169

The Structured Consulting or

Advisory Call 169

Uncovering Relevant Information 170

The Structured Discovery Call 173

The Sales Process 180

Feature, Benefit, Result 181

The Structured Sales Call 182

The Closing Phase of the Sales Call 191

Service Delivery 199

The Structured Consulting or Advisory Call 199

The Number One Failing 206

Before We Move On 207

The Discovery Call Role Play 207

Paper Closing Exercise 209

Sales Call (Information Gathering or Branch) Exercise 209

Self-Assessment 210

Section 3: Administrative and Organizational Issues

Chapter 10: Billing and Engagement Considerations 223

Tracking Your Time for Billing

Purposes 224

Time and Charges Approach 224

Project Billing Approach 228

Value Billing Approach 229

Frequency of Billing 231

Survey Information You Might Find

Interesting in This Context 232

Gaining an Edge on Being Paid for Your

Involvement 236

The Value of Advisory Fees Is More

Subjective 237

Sometimes When Senior Management Asks You What the Problem Is, You Have to Tell Them That They Are the Problem 238

Project Deadlines Are Internally Generated 238

Client Commitment Is Imperative 238

Retainers Aren’t a Panacea 239

Asking for a Retainer 240

How Much Retainer Should You Ask for? 242

Summary Regarding Retainers 242

Proposals 243

Typical Proposal Structure 245

Attachments 248

Engagement Letters 248

Section 4: Identifying and Marketing Your Services

Chapter 11: Two Approaches to Providing Advisory and Consulting Services 256

Understand to Whom the Service Is Targeted 258

Building Your Fortress’ Wall of Services 262

Building the Wall Profitably 264

In the Real World 265

Building the Empire 266

Determining the Most Appropriate Services: The Notion of Synergy 268

We’re Doing both and It Seems to Be Working Fine 273

Don’t Get Complacent 275

Stay on Top of Your Marketing Focus 275

A Summary of the Differences 276

It’s Time to Make the Determination 278

Before We Move On 278

Chapter 12: Marketing Your Firm and Your Services 283

Developing a Marketing Strategy 285

Developing Your Marketing Plan 286

Understand Your Market 286

Understand What You Are Selling 287

Determine Your Objectives 288

Fine Tune Your Target Audience 289

Fine Tune Your Message 295

The Role of Exposure 296

Choose Which Exposure Vehicles Are Best for Your Organization 297

Monitor the Results 316

Don’t Let Marketing Get Out of Hand 317

Manage Your Marketing Time 318

Marketing Must Be Planned 319

Everyone Has to Be Accountable to Someone for Marketing to Work 319

Customer Relationship Management 321

Where Your Firm Is in Its Life Cycle Matters Too 322

Before You Move On 323

Section 5: Putting It All Together

Chapter 13: Facilitating Your Clients’ Meetings 344

Our Role in Meeting Facilitation 345

Stay Neutral—Do Not Take Sides 345

Manage the Process 346

Help the Group Stick to Its Guidelines 346

Help Stay on Track and Keep Moving Along 347

Ensure All Are Heard 347

Provide Concepts and Comments When Useful 347

Suggest Procedures 348

The Bottom Line About Our Role 348

Types of Meetings 349

Problem Definition Meetings .349

Decision Analysis Meetings 350

Implementation Planning Meetings 351

Process Facilitation: Facilitating Your Clients’ Meetings 353

Gaining a Shared Understanding of Objectives, Agenda, and Approach 355

Expectations and Concerns 355

Keeping Everyone Focused on the Matters at Hand 356

Processes to Help Your Group Be Productive 356

Dealing With Difficult Behavior 358

Meeting Management 360

Utilizing the Minimum Decision Resource to Make Decisions: Who Should Be Making the Decision? 362

The Bottom Line 365

The Right People, the Right Number, and the Right Climate 365

Effective Group Presentation Techniques 366

Control Your Eyes 367

Be Aware of Your Posture 368

Use Gestures to Give Emphasis and Avoid Appearing Stiff 368

Project Your Voice 368

Clear Your Visual Aids 369

Using PowerPoint or Other Presentation Packages 369

Look, Then Turn and Speak 370

Silence Is Powerful 370

Handling Questions 371

Practice Creates a Path to Comfort 373

Before We Move On 374

Conclusion 377

Appendix A: Sample Timed Agenda 380

Appendix B: Food for Thought for CPAs Regarding Facilitating Client Meetings 382