How to Help Your Team Build Their Advisory Skillset

With a fresh mindset and a few tactical enhancements, your firm can offer valuable advisory services to your clients.

Two women sitting and pointing at a laptop screen

software solutions make it easier for your clients to automate things like accounts receivable processes and expense management, fewer of them may choose to outsource that kind of compliance work to accounting professionals.

But that doesn’t mean your clients don’t need you. In some ways, they need you more. All the accounting tools in the world won’t give them the expertise and experience to interpret financial reports, spot patterns, and provide forecasts that inform big-picture business decisions.

That’s where their accounting advisor comes in—aka you and your team!

Becoming an expert advisor is more about developing those soft skills that can build relationships with clients than it is about gaining credentials and certifications. (Though the FreshBooks Collaborative Accounting™ certification can help!)

Here are some considerations as you bring your team up to speed.

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    3 Skills Every Accounting Advisor Needs

    As you grow into providing advisory services, it’s important to ensure your team is as comfortable building rapport with clients on an advisory level as they are with compliance work. That involves 3 critical skills


    If your clients are running a robust business, the number of issues likely to arise is endless. From tax to labor to cash flow challenges, these problems are often beyond their ability to manage on their own.

    When your team members come to the table with clients willing to listen, understand the nuances of the issue, and help them devise a reasonable solution, they provide an invaluable advisory service. As accounting professionals, you have insights and financial knowledge that can shed new light onto business problems—from the basic to the more complex—which can help your clients resolve a current issue and but prevent future ones from happening.

    Help your team brush up on their problem-solving skills by tackling theoretical business challenges together. This will highlight the importance of carefully listening to concerns while inspiring one another to develop solutions for future clients. Luckily, sample advisory conversations are provided in the FreshBooks certification, allowing you to practice before putting your skills to the test.

    2. Communication

    There’s a good chance that great communication skills are one reason you hired your current team members. After all, these strong skills are especially critical when offering advisory services. Being friendly, open, and adept at receiving and sharing information is important for any type of customer-facing role.

    Your clients are experts in their fields but not always in accounting. Encourage your team to bridge that knowledge gap with clear explanations. Ditch the jargon and adopt language they’ll grasp. This way, clients actually understand the valuable insights you’re sharing.

    As the owner of a firm, you can help your team members build their communication skills by modeling what you’d like to see and giving them feedback on their interactions with clients. It’s also helpful to provide written guidance on the kind of communication style you’d like to see. Create a one-pager style guide on features that are important to you, like making eye contact, smiling, and using plain language in communications.

    FreshBooks Accounting Partner Program ad


    When you provide advisory services, meeting regularly with your clients is a good practice. This will help you understand their day-to-day realities, spot a financial problem in the making, and understand their vision for their business.

    These review meetings are also good opportunities for you and your team members to present insights and advice in a clear and engaging way. Whether they’re putting together a slide deck or verbally providing guidance, your team members need professional presentation skills.

    Help your team hone their presentation skills by giving a branded template for their formal presentations. You may also have some tips or guidance on what to include in review meetings with their clients. Finally, ask team members to share their most effective presentation strategies in team meetings so they can learn from one another.

    Expand Your Team’s Professional Ethos

    Moving into advisory services may require a mindset shift for you and your team. Compliance services are all about accuracy and timeliness. On the other hand, giving sound financial management advice requires a more collaborative approach.

    You can build on the mission of your firm by adding a few new values, including:


    Guide your team to ask open-ended questions and use open-ended statements to help their clients articulate their thoughts, concerns, pain points, and wins.

    How would you…?
    Tell me more…

    Provide Space

    Remind your team to give clients time to reflect and respond to questions during conversations. They should listen carefully to ensure they understand what’s being said and verify that their interpretation is accurate

    Let me play that back to you…
    So what I’m hearing is…

    Share Responsibility

    As advisors, your team should avoid simply telling clients what to do. Instead, encourage them to raise awareness with their clients of how they can increase efficiency and educate clients on the benefits of an approach. The advisor can then make suggestions and recommendations based on their experience and insights.

    Did you know that FreshBooks can…?
    What do you think about doing…?

    Advisory Services Are a Natural Add-on for Existing Services

    It may be helpful to reassure your team members that offering advisory services doesn’t mean you’re completely uprooting how they serve their customers. Being an advisor is a natural extension of bookkeeping and compliance work. And it encompasses a wide array of services that you may already offer.

    With existing customers, your team already has the financial reports and data available. Adding advisory services is simply a matter of transforming that data into helpful information for your clients.

    This “new” service may also change how you and your team assess prospective customers. Rather than avoid business owners with complex needs or requiring additional assistance beyond bookkeeping, your firm may seek them out. A Collaborative Accounting model allows you to attract and build trust with clients who want to remain fully engaged with their financial data—giving you the bandwidth to provide ongoing advisory insights that will move the needle for them.

    Ebook ad: The Collaborative Accountant

    Consider Shifting to a Value-Based Pricing Model

    Transitioning to offering advisory services can be liberating in several ways. Not only are your team members less burdened by administrative bookkeeping and compliance tasks, but your firm can build a reputation rooted in financial expertise, especially when moving away from hourly billing and switching to a value-based fee mechanism.

    Rather than commodifying your time in hours, the focus is on your team’s deep knowledge and experience. You can offer flat-rate packages that include an array of advisory services to serve business owners holistically. Not only will you have the potential to help your clients make smart, sustainable choices, but you can also charge fees that match the value of your advice.

    Your firm can even take the opportunity to differentiate itself by building a depth of experience and advisory knowledge in an area aligned with your ideal clients. You may see your book of business improve.

    Advisory Services Are the Future of Accounting

    To ensure your firm thrives in an evolving industry, it’s important to be adaptable to your clients’ needs. Many business owners are looking for accounting professionals who will listen to their concerns and goals and give them tailored advice to help them grow.
    With your financial expertise and experience, you and your team are in the perfect position to become strategic partners, and set the stage for long-term success.

    Heather Hudson

    Written by Heather Hudson, Freelance Contributor

    Posted on July 4, 2024