Ask these five questions to every advisory service client

Last week I was on a call with an business advisor who had just met with one of her clients.

I asked her, “how’d the meeting go?”

“Horribly.” she said.

Uh oh.

In the meeting she had presented a food cost report that her and a colleague had made in Excel (for a restaurant client). The report was pretty cut and dry, breaking down the percent of revenue each food and beverage cost accounted for.

By the end of the meeting she found herself arguing with the client over the format of the report and the minutia that was expense ratios that made up fractions of a percent of their bottom line.

After hearing this, it was clear to me that the client had not asked for this report. The advisor had put it together, assumed its value, and pitched a price. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but it’s like throwing Excel at a wall and hoping it sticks. It wont.

This is the problem: your clients aren’t asking for reports, they’re asking for answers

Many accountants think advisory work is just offering balance sheet ratios or asset ratios because that’s what the reporting tools of yesteryear have lead you to believe.

In reality, adding value as an advisor is about understanding your client’s deepest business challenges and providing them with the data to make better decisions.

The value is in providing specific, relevant insights

Why? Drilling in understanding your client’s current challenges means you’re providing relevant insights.

Relevant Insights = value.

Your clients are paying for value.

Every one of your clients’ businesses is unique and likely experiencing unique challenges. Not to say you won’t apply similar strategies to solve categorical issues, but chances are, no two clients are going through the same issues at the same level at the same time.

To really deliver value and become a trusted advisor to your clients, you need to ask the right questions. You need to identify what unique insight you can generate for their current situation.

What questions should you ask? Open-ended ones.

Here are a few questions we like to lead with when getting to the root of what we should build for an SMB client:

  • What is your single biggest business challenge this fiscal year?

  • What happened that made you think, “I need to do something about [single biggest challenge]”?

  • What would you like to see happen? What does a home run look like in this situation?

  • If you were to achieve that, what would that mean for your business?

  • What would happen if you were to do nothing about this problem?

After getting a better understanding of what your client is struggling with, you will start to form a picture for what you’d like to build. Often this incorporates very specific KPIs to your clients business (something your executive dashboard might not cover).

Maybe it’s:

👩‍💻 Average order price for your eCommerce clients struggling with increasing revenue from a steady customer base, or

🛍️ Revenue per square foot for your retail clients who’s rent expense margin is a bit higher than the average retail space, or

👩‍⚕️ Payer spread for your physicians who are building a great book of business but the $$ isn’t showing up in their bank accounts.

The goal here is to build a board that answers the most important questions for your client at that time. We go as far as to name boards after the issues they solve for, like “How much do I owe?”

Asking the right questions and building those client-specific reports is an advisory gold mine.

Searching for inspiration?

Make sure to check out our site, is a library of insightful blocks and boards created by fellow Malartu customers and a few companies we admire. We highly recommend subscribing to get continuous inspiration, even after you’ve built your first templates.

How Malartu templates work

Templates can be found in the pre-built library and can be either:

  • Smart Metrics (template calculations)

  • Blocks (template elements of a board)

  • Boards (entire template dashboards)

The goal during this initial implementation is to develop a template board that will be useful for all your clients in a certain niche and gets you 75-80% of the way to an advisory offering.

Since templates are fully editable, you can dial the rest of that 25% on a per-client basis to arrive at an insightful data masterpiece for each and every client.

Pro tip: Some clients will want to dive deeper into their operational data than others, which is also where your pricing packages come into play. We recommend trying to fit your executive board into your base package so that you can start there with everyone. As clients ask more questions and demand more analysis, they will naturally move into higher plans.

Ready to supercharge your advisory services?

Advisory Services Open-Ended Survey Template

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