By James Mason - Mindshop
The current volatility in world markets is creating an anxious feeling for many businesses and therefore for the consultants / advisory firms providing services to them.
“How do I adjust my business model to cope?”, “What should be my priority?”, “How can I maintain my profit levels?” are just some of the questions flying around in the minds of most owner / managers. Advisors therefore need to be adapting their businesses, the language they use, their delivery method and sales approach rapidly to cope with this changing landscape and ensure they continue to grow.
To assist advisors re-shape we have identified six strategies that we see are critical to enable you to grow your advisory business in these volatile markets:
- Facilitate don't Consult
- Niche / Clear Business Model
- Adjust your Sales Process
- Own your Online Space
- Build a Virtual Network
- Get Well Leveraged
1. Facilitate don't Consult
Rarely is a client’s issue black and white. If you have a prescriptive approach to strategy development and implementation in the current market you will be restricted in your ability to adapt to deal with burning issues, blockages, politics and much more. Moving to a more facilitated approach with clients means you don’t attempt to come in with all the answers and are therefore able to adjust your approach based on the specific needs of a client.
2. Niche / Clear Business Model
It’s still very crowded in the advisory market so you need to stand out. What is your ‘niche’? Being a great ‘business coach’ will not set you apart whereas offering outsourced CFO services for medium sized family owned businesses in the south east of Melbourne is much more defined. The Business Model that is used to deliver on this ‘niche’ also needs to be straight forward, easy to understand and communicate the outcomes achieved for the target market clients. It needs to be easy for clients and other advisors to understand where you fit and how you operate in order to use you and refer business to you.
3. Adjust your sales process
Risk is a big barrier at present for clients in engaging advisors / consultants. They have either had their fingers burnt before in engaging ‘coaches’ or don’t have the time, money or energy to waste 6-12 months going through a change process that doesn’t produce results. Therefore your sales process needs to adjust to cope with this. Why not sell ‘phases’ in your engagement that are reviewed every 3 months? This allows clients a 'get out of jail' card if things are not working rather than being locked into a long term contract. Why not do demonstrate your capability by fixing their most burning issue as part of a small engagement up front? This allows both parties to get a feel for how you each operate. The other aspect you need to adjust is don’t sell ‘products’ sell ‘outcomes’ to clients. As one Mindshop Advisor said: "They don’t want to buy a 'Business Plan' they want to 'Boost profit by 5% and have better life balance'". The business plan is just how you deliver that outcome. Sounds like a simple change to your sales language but it does make a big difference.
4. Own your Online Space
Ignore social media at present at your own peril. Think of the last time you bought a significant product or service and 9 times out of 10 you would have gone through some sort of research online before making the decision to buy. The same is now happening in business advisory. Clients are searching for information on advisors prior to doing business with them or searching for information on certain industry specialists online. You need to ensure you ‘own your online space’ by doing things such as contributing to industry blogs, having a YouTube channel and making sure your website is up to date with clear information on your offering. This ensures prospective clients gain the impression of you that you would like them to rather than leaving it in the hands of others.
5. Build a Virtual Network
It’s impossible to be all things to all people and clients are now seeking specialists for specific tasks in their business. As businesses look to re-shape and be more nimble they are using consultants / advisors more so they can bring all the benefits to a specific area but are flexible enough to be moved on at a moment’s notice if business conditions or priorities change. To be referred into these very specific opportunities it's important (as per the early point) to have a clear ‘niche’ but also to have a wide virtual network of other specialists than know how you operate and can refer you to clients. As an example if you are a ‘Sales Specialist’ your virtual network could have other advisors in specialist areas such as HR, Corporate strategy, International tax, Leadership or Family Business that can be drawn on when required for your clients and vice versa. Trust is the currency many businesses are trading with at present so being able to refer business within a trusted network can accelerate referrals and help retain your relationship with clients.
6. Get Well Leveraged
In the current market businesses have to be nimble but so do advisors. They need to ensure they focus their time / energy on their areas of strength and outsource other aspects to trusted providers that can provide them the leverage they are seeking. This could mean outsourcing basic administration tasks offshore, outsourcing the content / technology development to companies like Mindshop, outsourcing implementation tasks within engagements to other advisors and much more. This leverage allows the ability for advisors firms to grow rapidly and not be limited by their size in going after certain types of larger engagements.
Re-shaping business models in the current market is not an option for advisors it is a necessity - you need to be ensuring that your model is adapting to the changing needs of your clients. Those that are succeeding in doing this at present are reaping the benefits of longer term engagements with clients at a much greater depth.