Of course every business services firm that calls on small- to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) says they are a trusted advisor to their clients, but reality doesn’t always support that claim. I read a great article this week about how most firms that call on SMBs instead tend to provide “Random Acts of Consulting.” 

The author of the article, Edi Osborne, who is an executive mentoring consultant, describes such acts as “those one-off, design-on-the-fly projects offered up in response to random client needs.” But, as she notes, this reactionary approach is far from an effective way to provide real value to an SMB client. And it isn’t going to set you apart from your competition, who is doing the exact same thing.

Moving up the value chain

A more effective way to become the trusted advisor you want to be to your clients, Osborne explains, is by, “moving up the value chain from delivering hindsight, to providing technology-enabled, real-time oversight, so [you] can deliver value added insight, as well as, mission-critical foresight.”

Hindsight is backward-looking and not much help to your SMB client when it comes to adding worth to their relationship with you. Oversight, such as reviewing a client’s financials to look for problems that could be addressed proactively, can be of use and begins to approach “the realm of trusted business advisor,” Osborne says. But it is insight and foresight that really offer you and opportunity to shine with your SMB clients and set yourself above the competition. And these are also the areas where Vertical IQ can help.

Providing key insights

Insight involves helping your clients take a more in-depth look at the way their business operates. For example, if you are a CPA, banker, or financial planner, you can help the SMB owner understand the implications of the numbers on their financial statement. By helping them better comprehend and strategically respond to their financials, you increase your value. They see that you have a shared goal: their success.

Providing your SMB client with comparison financials also can offer them invaluable insights. Of course, to accurately compare a client’s financials with their peers, you’ll want to take into account factors like cash intensity, inventory intensity, labor intensity, profitability, and capital intensity. But this type of information can show them how they stack up to others within their sector—if they are average, falling behind, or excelling as compared to their peers.

Vertical IQ provides comprehensive financial comparisons in the Financial Insights chapter of each of our 450+ Industry Profiles. You can apply filters to align with small, medium, and large businesses. There also is a Financial Summary section found at the top of each industry’s Just the Numbers chapter.

In addition to the regular financial ratios such as operating profit margin, current ratio, and total debt/equity, you may also want to share more specific statistics with your SMB client such as rent or advertising as percentage of overall revenue. 

Looking ahead with foresight

A crystal ball would be at the top of most SMB owner’s wish list, but until that is developed, foresight will help them get the job done. 

SMB owners need to have the best information in order to make the best decisions for their company’s future. But the reality is that many business owners simply don’t have the time to gather that crucial data. That’s where you come in.

A trusted advisor can help their SMB client determine the top strategic indicators for the business and then align the company’s activities accordingly. Or as Osborne describes it, “identifying the 20 percent of activities that are driving 80 percent of outcomes.” This approach gives greater predictability to SMBs.

Providing your SMB client with information on industry-specific trends, risks, and forecasts, as well as local economic data, is one way to help them have better foresight. This will show them what they might expect in the future and thus better anticipate and proactively prepare. And it also will show an SMB owner that you are a key advisor to their business.

On every Vertical IQ Industry Profile, you will find a chapter dedicated to Industry Trends, Industry Risks, and the Industry Forecast. Print and share these chapters with your SMB client as a valuable touchpoint and discuss with them the implications of the information. This will provide them with an understanding of how others in their industry are operating, both now and into the future. The topics covered in these chapters make for great conversation-starters with a prospect, as well.

Vertical IQ also has a section dedicated to Local Economies, which is updated on a quarterly basis. There you will find information on your area’s business growth rate, jobs and unemployment data, startup activity, residential real estate information, all of which can be indicators that can impact the future of a business.

More consultative client interactions 

Random Acts of Consulting may be nice, but in order to gain trusted advisor status with your SMB clients, you need a more methodical, reliable approach. Move up the value chain by creating processes that conscientiously incorporate industry intelligence and economic data into your client conversations and touchpoints. Not only will you differentiate yourself from the competition, you will be able to provide the insight and foresight that your SMB client needs in order to thrive. 

>> Start sharing valuable insights and foresights with your SMB clients and prospects. Visit https://verticaliq.com/ to get started for free today!