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What it really takes to GROW your Advisory Firm?


What it really takes to GROW your Advisory Firm?


Before you read any further, you must be committed to growing your advisory business regardless of what it costs in time and money. If this was easy, anyone could do it!

The following ideas / strategies are a result of over my 30 years operating successfully in the advisory market globally. You need to think deeply about each of the suggested elements as part of your growth plan and design your own version of the plan to suit your specific market conditions. The elements in this growth plan include:

  1. An ‘influencer’ plan
  2. Targeting the top 20% of your clients or prospects
  3. Contact program
  4. Proof of capability
  5. Events (face-to-face or online)
  6. Sales training
  7. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)

Growth Plan elements

The following elements form an effective sales process to build an advisory business either as a bolt on addition to an accounting firm or as a standalone advisory practice. Having a defined sales process is essential for achieving a consistent approach by each individual and the firm as a whole. Consistency is essential so that we can measure what works and what doesn’t. We can take the necessary corrective action if we clearly understand what needs to change. Changing too many elements at the same time makes the continuous improvement process difficult.

1. Influencers

Who are the people that can influence prospects to engage with you? Influencers can include other professionals such as bankers and lawyers, they can be members of Mindshop or other professional bodies that you are part of, existing clients and suppliers, and, of course, friends and family. Do you have a plan for how to get these influencers to help you? The first question to ask is, what’s in it for them if they do help you? Are you trading benefits or do you expect them to do it out of the goodness of their hearts? Whoever you determine to be on your influencers list you need a one-page plan for how you will work with them. I suggest an overall influencers’ one-page plan, but also why not have a one-page plan for your top two or three influencers as individuals or firms? The elements to this plan can include, understanding how to trade benefits, frequency of meeting, monitoring and measuring activity, specific activities, and a quarterly review of the plan.

2. Key clients – Top 20%

If you are already successful in business then you will have some clients. Who are the top 20% of your clients? Can you sell more to them? Can they influence other people to do business with you? Will they go the extra step and refer work to you? This group will be your biggest opportunity to grow your advisory business. The first step is to have a meeting with them to review the progress of your relationship with them. Using a process such as identifying what their three issues are and how to resolve them using the now, where, and how structure. Work into this conversation your need to grow and to seek their help in this process. Find out what they need and show them the economic benefit of getting you to help them.

3. Contact program

You need to have the discipline to maintain an appropriate level of contact using a combination of meetings, events, webinars, email, gifts, and phone calls. Your prospects need you but for around 95% of the time they have no desire to fix that need. You need to touch them on one of the 5% days where they realise they must do something about their problem or opportunity. The best way to ensure that is to have a regular and consistent contact program. It is a numbers game, my rule of thumb is to have at least 50 contacts per week somewhere in your prospect database.

4. Proof of capability

Even if you make a good impression when face-to-face with a prospect you will still need proof of capability. This can be achieved through your website, PDF documents on key challenges your target market are facing, YouTube videos of you delivering your models, testimonials from clients, and even a simple client list on your website. These proof of capability items need to be constantly under review and constantly improved as your skills, confidence and experience grows. I find that anything older than 12 months no longer represents my competency in providing advisory services.

5. Events

Another proof of capability item is the running of events (be they face-to-face or online). I suggest you start with internal events where you run things such as a lunch and learn sessions for your team members on things such as Mindshop tools / processes to fix key client challenges (or if not in Mindshop other resources) and so build your confidence in the delivery of advisory services. This has the benefit of educating your team and others senior people in the firm on what you do and how you do it. The next step is to start running short webinars and recording them as further proof of your capability. After that comes the face-to-face events where you invite people to attend your presentations on advisory topics such as profit and growth. From there your next step in building competency is to present to larger groups which then increases your leverage, competency, and confidence. The key to running events is to have an annual schedule so everyone gets to know when to expect the next event, and preferably has prior notification of the topic. Why not issue an annual program but with some flexibility to change topics if something more current is required?

6. Sales training

I am sure you would agree that regardless of your competency you can always be improving your sales skills. Your conversion rate is a key success factor in your overall sales process. When did you last receive training in selling skills? Are you aware (if you are in Mindshop) that courses on sales are available on the Mindshop platform to up-skill you quickly? Who are the top three or four salespeople in your organisation? What training have you given them? Who is the best salesperson you have? What are they doing differently to the others to achieve this outcome? How can you achieve a consistent sales approach across the total organisation? There are two ways to achieve this outcome. Sales training, and regular pipeline sales meetings. Both need to be addressed in your plan. The remaining factor is the amount of time invested in the sales and marketing activities. If you are putting time into this only when convenient you will struggle to achieve sales growth. Sales and marketing activities are the lifeblood of any growing organisation and need to be given priority in your time management. Scheduling a percentage of your time to sales is highly recommended. I suggest this needs to be as much as 25% of your time as a minimum. How much time are you investing in sales at the moment? How can you increase this?

7. Measuring your progress – KPI’s

We need key performance measures for both the implementation of the sales process and the outcomes achieved. Some of the process measures include, the number of events run, the number of client meetings, how many contacts made per week per person, and the number of videos posted to your website. The outcome measures can include, the number of proposals, the conversion rate achieved, and actual sales made per market segment. You won’t achieve anything unless you measure it!


There are many other minor elements in an advisory sales process required to achieve growth, for example, capability to deliver (skills / tools / confidence) is a critical factor that needs to be continuously improved with any client facing team members.

Any effective sales process starts with a great example being set by the leaders / owners of the organisation so the first and most crucial improvement needs to come from the top. If you are not at the top in your organisation that should not stop you however, adopt an effective sales process in the area of the business that you do control!  Others will sit up and listen quickly.

Having read this paper, what are the elements you need to focus on for growing your advisory business? Why not prepare a one-page plan with attachments around specific action plans if required (if you are reading this and are part of Mindshop then submit it to your experienced Mindshop support coach for review)

If you collaborate on the plan and start implementing it even before you have it perfect, then you can learn and adapt as you go. Identify what is working, and what is not working quickly. It sounds like common sense but do more of what is working. Do not try harder at the things that do not work, try different ways of trying to resolve that issue.

Through clever thinking, trying a variety of activities, learning / adapting quickly, surrounding yourself with the right support / tools, coupled with the tenacity to never give up,  you will successfully grow your advisory business.

Written by Mindshop founder, Chris Mason – September 2015

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