What are you doing to grow your practice? How can you help your clients become more profitable? Use the following tips to redefine the services you provide clients, and look for additional opportunities to develop new revenue sources:
Conduct a self-assessment. Ask yourself what you are passionate about. Think about something you would secretly do for free and how to start getting paid for it. What’s stopping you from doing more of it? Are you not reaching the right audience? Are you not telling the people you know all the things you can do? Your clients may be seeking help from someone else for services that you could be providing.
Brand yourself. Define your role and how you relate to your clients. Are you a tax preparer? A problem-solver? Or a nagging parental figure constantly reminding clients to do their bank reconciliation?
Write an elevator speech and memorize it. What can you tell people in 15 to 30 seconds that lets them know your specific talents and would make them interested in finding out more? What sets you apart from your competitors? Make it unique, not boring. Create a few sentences that, when spoken, leave the listener asking for more. One technology consultant testing her pitch said, “I’m a geek. I break software. I test it to see where it doesn’t work and then find what works for your company.”
Address your clients’ pain points. Think about ways to woo existing clients by first listening to the problem, and then repeating it back to them and telling them how you can solve it. Provide them with best practices you’ve observed in their industry. Articulate value and show tangible results using benefit statements such as, “After we work together, you will be able to use your financial statements to make better management decisions,” or “You can feel confident that I’ll be able to help you increase your profits by 10% or more.”
Create a simplified one-page strategic plan. Concentrate on defining core values, setting short-term, mid-term and long-term goals and metrics. Set specific targets: If you want more business, does that mean a specific number of new clients or a specific dollar amount of increased revenue? Make these targets objective. Then write an action plan, implement it, and review and revise as necessary.
Help clients rethink their business. Once you’ve designed your own strategic plan, use it to offer business planning services to clients. Ask them what two or three metrics they use to manage their business. If they can’t answer you, offer to help them create those metrics. Ask them how many months’ operating expenses they have in reserve. Are they content with their current pricing strategy? How do they determine whether they have the correct staffing levels? Do they know the optimum revenue each employee should be generating? Do they have an exit strategy? Are they looking at creating an ESOP for their employees? Use terms that will sound interesting to your clients, not just to you. Talk about “financial management” instead of “accounting.”
Ask for referrals, and highlight testimonials. The majority of your business comes through referrals, but are you actively pursuing referrals? Make it a goal to call a certain number of clients each month and ask whether they know someone who might benefit from your services. If they thank you in an e-mail or even verbally, ask them if you can use it as a client testimonial on your Web site.
Charge by packages, not by the hour. The only way to make more money as an hourly consultant is to raise prices or work more hours. With package (or fee-based) pricing, as you get more efficient, you make more money (see “Pricing on Purpose: How to Implement Value Pricing in Your Firm,” JofA, June 09, page 62).
—By Alexandra DeFelice (firstname.lastname@example.org), a JofA senior editor, based on a presentation by Leslie Shiner, MBA, (email@example.com) financial and management consultant and owner of San Francisco-based The ShinerGroup.