So you’re good at tax. You enjoy studying tax. You understand the rules and you can give advice that clients understand and appreciate. Well done.

This is all important of course but none of it is enough – especially if you want to be successful as an independent tax adviser.

To be a success you need to conquer the 4 Ps of tax advice. These are four essential skills you will need to master:

Promoting – You will need to be good at promoting:

  • your tax advisory service itself, ie: what you will be doing;
  • why clients should engage with you (rather than anyone else); and
  • how they will benefit from your service and advice.

Whilst you may have done all this to a degree if you previously worked in a larger firm, you probably also benefitted from colleagues and the firm as a whole doing much of the promotional work.

One of the benefits of being a member of the Tax Advice Network is that you can benefit from the promotional work that we do, our reputation and longevity (and thus our high ranking Google juice).

If you have previously focused on tax return compliance services, do bear in mind that these often sell themselves. Many people seek out an accountant because they need help to satisfy their legal obligations to file accounts and tax returns.  You will need to adopt a different approach if you want to successfully promote non-compliance tax advisory services.

Pitching – This becomes relevant once a prospect expresses an interest in your services. Now you will need to have a compelling, streamlined and speedy ability to win them as a client. This means finding out what they think they need, what they really need and satisfying them that you are the right person for the job. Thus you also need to be able to promptly summarise what you will be doing for them and the terms on which you will work. You are likely to lose out to others if your process is too slow or confusing. Think ‘Amazon vs retail shops’.

Pricing – Whether you are quoting for one-off advice or recurring tax advisory services you will need to be able to quickly set commercial fees that adequately reward you for your service and advice. This means developing the skill to be more confident and precise when quoting fees for tax services that perhaps you used to be in the past when you might have been able to get away with quoting wide fee ranges and/or hourly rates.

Providing – Clearly you should not offer tax advice on any subject unless you have sufficient relevant knowledge and are adequately equipped and experienced to do so. [NB: You can always find any additional support you might need through the Tax Advice Network.] You will discover that there’s a world of difference between a practice built on the provision of recurring compliance services and one that is focused on ad-hoc or niche tax advisory services.  The sooner you start adapting the more stable will be your foundations as you move forwards.

The reality

If you are like most accountancy, law and tax advisory firms, your website includes reference to tax advisory topics that rarely crop up in practice. You have included them in a list of ‘available’ services, but it’s rare for anyone to request them. And you rarely talk about them when you’re out networking.

In effect, you’re not promoting  your tax advisory services for those topic areas. So, inevitably, no one is asking you to provide them.  Including them in a list on your website is rarely sufficient to effectively promote such services.  Fortunately you do get to identify specific areas of expertise in your profile on the Tax Advice Network website. So you can assured that the leads you get are by reference to the expertise you have identified.

On the odd occasion someone does approach you via your website and wants advice on one of those rarer topics you may not yet be adequately prepared to explain and to ‘pitch‘ your advisory services and skills so that prospective clients are sufficiently engaged.

Even if you manage that, are you able to price them quickly enough that prospects will sign up – and do you make the on-boarding process simple and quick?

Having sufficient experience, insights and technical knowledge to provide the service should be a ‘given’. It’s typically your starting point. But it’s rarely enough.

The better you plan for the 4 Ps of tax advice, the more likely you will make a success of your tax advisory services for clients.

Mark Lee – June 2020