How to identify your ideal client advisory services prospects

How to identify your ideal client advisory services prospects

You’ve identified the business needs among your current clients that could be met by client advisory services, and you’ve assessed the strengths and aptitudes of your team. You’ve done the first step in addressing the “people” part of the people, processes, and technology approach to developing a client advisory services (CAS) practice.

Still working on this part? Read more how to assess your clients and your team to help you identify your firm’s CAS menu.

Now you’re ready to take the next step in offering advisory services, but how should you engage your first CAS clients?

Every client is different. You probably have clients who have a firm grasp on financial statements and cash flow management. They may already know how to leverage their balance sheet to meet the needs of their business and market. Other business owners run their organizations based solely on gut instinct—and couldn’t tell the difference between a P&L statement and a tablet of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Yet both clients need an advisor to provide objective, expert advice about their finances and operations. That’s where you come in.

Focus on a few clients

While you could feasibly offer advisory services to every client, a more realistic approach is to choose a subset of clients who are most likely to benefit from advisory based on an analysis of your client list. A method to do this was explained in the previous article in this series.

It doesn’t hurt to have a general idea which advisory services you want to provide, allowing you to match those services with the type of client best suited for them. You can also rate your client list based on how much you and your team enjoy working with each client. Whatever method you choose, work your way down to a practical number of clients you want to target with an advisory services offer.

A person and person sitting next to each other.

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Have coffee meetings with ideal CAS prospects

The next step in the process is to start having conversations with this short list of clients. Don’t worry! You are not pitching any services at this point, and since they are already clients who trust you, there’s little chance they’ll turn you down to meet.

Remember, you’re still in the exploratory and information-gathering stage. This doesn’t necessarily have to feel like boardroom meetings.

Grab some coffee or sit down together for a meal. If your client isn’t nearby, schedule an online meeting. Either in person or remote, Initiating these conversations shows you care about your clients’ personal and professional success. Engaging them with thoughtful questions will help you grow these relationships, an important aspect of successful advisory.

Questions to guide exploratory conversations with CAS prospects

Here is a list of questions that can serve as conversation starters, but don’t feel like you need to stick to this script! Come in with an open mind, be curious, and be ready to ask follow-up questions that encourage more dialogue. The goal here is to get your clients to open up, and share thoughts and concerns relating to their business.

While you might know the answers to some of these questions because they are clients, you’ll want to get their input. In addition, you might want to float these questions to your client before meeting with them to give them time to think about their answers and get together any materials they may need to provide the most accurate information.

  1. What keeps you up at night? In other words, what worries you? How have supply chain issues affected your business? Do you have trouble getting products or materials on hand?
  2. What area of your business needs the most help? How could guidance from an outside expert bring value in that area?
  3. What part of the business takes up most of your time? Which processes could be more efficient?
  4. What are your goals for the business over the next year or two? What is the overall value of your business? What are your growth plans? Have you considered an acquisition? If you had additional capital, how would you use it?
  5. What does the next chapter look like for you, personally? Are you planning to retire or sell the business? Is there a succession plan in place?
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Take a few minutes afterward to summarize the conversation in writing. Keep everything! The responses from your clients will give you an overarching sense of their needs. Compare the feedback against your team’s strengths, and you’ll be well on your way to developing a scope of advisory services that makes sense for your firm.

Narrow your prospects list and assess clients for fit

Depending on the size of your firm, you may want to continue narrowing your list of potential advisory clients. You should end up with a group of favored clients that will benefit from your advisory services. Congratulations on identifying your ideal candidates!

Now that you’ve shortened your list, you’ll want to know even more about each individual client. This information will help you create a profile for new clients who are not already with your firm. At this stage, you’re looking for both professional and personal demographics:

  1. Specific industry: Move from “construction” to more granular descriptors such as “residential renovations” or “commercial roofing.”
  2. Business stage: Is this a startup in its first year vs. a startup of 1-5 years? Is growth by acquisition vs. growth by sales? Is the intent for succession to go to existing staff member(s) vs. succession by sale?
  3. Owner profile: Get to know the owners. When we start talking about marketing your advisory services, knowing that you have several female sole proprietors who are married, have an average of two kids each, love to play pickleball, and are in their late 40s will give you insights into how to connect with them. That interaction will look completely different than the business with a 50-something male owner who is single, loves basketball, and listens to John Coltrane.
  4. Other information: This could include age range, gender identity, and family status. Whatever else that helps you connect on a personal level is helpful.

Don’t forget to add these categories and data points to your master client spreadsheet. As you get to know your clients’ interests and business goals, you are going to find it much easier to have natural, engaging conversations. You will start to “speak their language” so they can hear you when you share how your new advisory services can help their businesses grow.

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