For a while now, firm leaders and accounting professionals have been hearing the same advice: you need to transform your firm to provide more advisory and consulting services in addition to existing transactional and compliance services. What some people still don't understand is, "What's the difference between advisory and consulting?"
Often, people answer their clients' questions about their finances or perform tax planning and believe they're delivering consulting services. While those services are valuable, they're not consulting.
To effectively transform your firm, it's important to understand the difference between consulting and advisory and train people to become more consultative with clients.
Consulting vs. Advisory Consulting services differ from advisory services in several ways. Here's a look at some of the main distinctions.
Focus. Advisory services help clients prepare for future uncertainties or meet growth goals. Consulting services help clients solve immediate problems.
Timeline. Advisors form long-term relationships with clients to help them proactively plan for change and uncertainty. Consultants work with clients on a short-term or project-based timeline.
Expertise. Advisors need to have deep knowledge of the client's organization to help them plan for different scenarios. While consultants also need an understanding of the organization, it doesn't have to be as deep. Consulting demands knowledge of best practices across the industry or market.
Training your team to be consultative Often, firm partners and managers know how to train staff members on the technical side of the business. But even if they serve a consulting role with clients, they're not sure how to teach their staff to be more consultative.
Here are three steps to help you get started.
Client conversations. One of the most crucial steps to becoming a consultant is to have better client conversations. Meeting with your client once a year around deadlines doesn't cut it — you need to talk throughout the year to build that relationship and show them how the firm can solve their problems. One of the most important skills a consultant can demonstrate during these conversations is listening and asking questions.
Collaborate. Many people are afraid of consulting because they think they need to have all of the answers. But consulting is a team sport. You don't have to know how to solve all your client's problems, but you should know how to find people who can. A good consultant checks their ego at the door and focuses relentlessly on the needs of their client.
Create capacity. Your team members can't think deeply about what their clients really need when they're spending eight to ten hours a day on compliance work, feeling the pressure of deadlines and client demands. Leverage efficient processes, technology, outsourcing and automation to free up your team's capacity to have more in-depth conversations with clients and think about how the firm can meet their needs.
One final note: it will be difficult for your team members to become more consultative if they're expected to meet high billable hour goals. Consultants spend a lot of time building their thought leadership by speaking and writing, growing their knowledge of a particular industry or niche by reading, and building relationships. Consulting is less about being billable every minute and more about the long-term payoff, so it doesn't lend itself to hourly billing.
Are you ready to get the training you need to feel confident delivering consulting services?
The Boomer Certified Consultant Training program is a three-and-a-half-day hands-on workshop that provides accounting firm leaders, new partners, senior managers, C-suite professionals, and administrators with the training and tools needed to become confident consultants. Complete your interest form today to start moving on the path from compliance to consulting.
As a Solutions Advisor for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Megan works to provide the highest level of client service to existing and new clients through building and maintaining relationships. Her primary focus is on Vendor/Sponsor relationships. Megan is passionate about helping clients excel through Boomer Consulting Services.