Acting as an advisor is the highest-value role you can play. But, sometimes, it can be difficult to consistently find new ways to go above and beyond. Here’s how great practitioners get creative to solve that problem.
The power of asking questions
Great advisors are a lot like investigative reporters. They want to get to the bottom of their client’s story. They seek to fully understand their clients' problems. Only then can they identify ways to create real value.
They ask probing questions like: What’s your vision for the next 5 years? Where do you want your business to be in 2 years? What are your targets for this year? What metrics are most important to you? What's worrying you right now?
And they make sure to follow-up with questions that tease out the details of the situation. They ask, why is the problem important? What other issues does it create? They look into every corner of their client’s business. How effective is their marketing? How is the sales team working? What’s going in the warehouse or with back office staff? What product challenges do they face? How do they feel about customer service?
The answers reveal great opportunities to solve problems and add real value.
Look for obstacles to remove
Time is a scarce resource for all SMB owners. If you can find efficiencies in their business, you’ll add tangible value. So look for ways to remove obstacles your clients face. How can you reduce the time they spend on admin? How can you automate processes to remove your client from the mix?
Step back and review their workflow. Look at the processes they use to handle payroll, scheduling, invoicing, and document management. Look for manual elements in the system. Places where they needn’t be involved. Where paper slows things down.
Look to replace their manual processes with automated ones. Show them how cloud-based apps can save time. Reduce the need for their involvement.
Expenses versus experts
For many SMBs, cost-containment is vital. Often they try do things themselves, instead of delegating to an expert. Sometimes, that attitude has a hidden cost. You can find new ways to add value by showing them how strategic spending can increase revenue.
Ask questions to try to understand what activities could be better handled by a vendor. For instance, could you provide services that would dramatically affect their bottom-line? Or help them growCould they enhance their workforce by getting help with hiring? Would an investment in training pay-off by making staff more effective? Would they get more value if they had help when it came to business planning?
Help them build business cases for each instance. Show how the value created by hiring an expert would be greater than the investment cost. Help them avoid being penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to hiring experts.
Identifying new ways to create value can increase the depth of your client relationships. Start by acting as a true advisor. Question and listen. Understand their business issues at the deepest possible level. Then seek to give them more time in their week. And show them the business case for spending wisely to bring in the expertise that will help them grow. All great ways to identify value-add opportunities.