Gusto for Partners

How to Close a People Advisory Deal

Jaclyn Anku Partner Education, Gusto  

Once you commit to offering People Advisory as a service line, you’ll have an intuitive sense of its potential. But your clients might need some persuading. 

How do you explain the value of People Advisory to clients without extending your sales cycle? 

The first step is critical: identifying the right clients. Focus on businesses that will benefit the most. Next, ask questions to understand clients’ challenges, so you can offer People Advisory as a solution. Lastly, anticipate their objections and be ready to respond.

Let’s break down each step.

People Advisory? Tell Me More.

People Advisory is a consultative service in which accountants pair their financial expertise with people operations to guide clients on building a great place to work. 

By putting people at the heart of your advice, you can help your clients and their teams with advice on payroll, benefits, and people operations that they need now.

Identify Good-Fit People Advisory Clients

What makes a client ready for People Advisory? Look out for these characteristics.

Characteristics of a Good Fit

Look for clients who have complex workforce needs. For example, a mix of employee types (full-time, part-time, contractors), remote employees, or employees across different states. Clients intending to grow their workforce are also good candidates, as are those planning a permanent shift to remote working.

Characteristics of a Poor Fit

Poor-fit clients have few employees, their employees have worked there for a long time and aren’t likely to leave, they aren’t expecting to grow, and aren’t comfortable changing or modernizing their approach to technology.

Ask Discovery Questions

By asking just a few well-chosen, open-ended questions you can understand a client’s business goals and people-related needs, so you can explain how People Advisory will help.

Most small business owners don’t have support with employee matters. So really understanding the challenges they face can help you explain concretely what problems People Advisory will solve for them.

Even just thinking about your questions can make clients aware of the pain they’re feeling, or can anticipate feeling. And suddenly, they’ll see the value of the People Advisory Services you’re offering.

Here are some example discovery questions: 

  • What are the goals for your business for the next 12-24 months?
  • How do your business goals impact your talent needs? What is your strategy for hiring or reducing attrition?
  • When you have a people-related question, who do you ask for help? How is that going?
  • What kind of support does your team need to be productive and engaged?

The answers to these questions can give you specific, tailored-made examples of how People Advisory can improve their business. For example, if a client says they have high turnover that’s impacting morale and the bottom line, you can describe how your People Advisory services will help them to design their staffing and compensation plans and improve employee retention to stretch every dollar of their personnel budget.

Overcome Objections

Overcoming objections can feel daunting, but if you’ve developed your proof points and value proposition you can rely on this powerful language to help communicate the value of your services.

Use this four-stage process to keep the conversation on track. 

  1. Clarify the client’s objection to make sure you understood it correctly and draw out the root cause of their concern
  1. Acknowledge how the client feels to build rapport and show empathy.
  1. Respond by reframing the concern and giving perspective on another way for them to consider your service.
  1. Confirm that your response answered their question or put their mind at ease.

People Advisors in Practice: How One Expert Closes People Advisory Deals without Complicating the Sales Process

When Sean Alberti, New Business Acquisition Manager at Reconciled, was tasked with selling the firm’s new People Advisory Services, his biggest concern was about prolonging the initial conversation with prospective clients.

Reconciled was keen to reposition itself from a firm that supported clients with their bookkeeping and payroll compliance to one that could advise clients about their most valuable resource—their people—and help with growing their business. “We call small businesses who we think are a good fit for our services. Getting this call right is paramount”.

So how does Sean pitch the firm’s People Advisory offering without lengthening that initial call? By adding three short-but-sweet discovery questions that dig deeper into clients’ people-related needs.

  1. How many employees do you currently have? 
  1. Where do you see your people count in the next 12-24 months? If the client has plans to grow, ask…
  2. Do you have anyone advising you on that growth? A simple “Yes” or “No”. Almost all clients answer “No” because small businesses tend not to have HR advisors. This means when Reconciled follows up with prospective clients, they can say, “You said you have growth plans but no advisor; we have a People Advisory Package to present to you.”

Within a couple of weeks of incorporating these questions, Sean had closed Reconciled’s first People Advisory deal, increasing payroll revenue three-fold.

The Time Is Now

In a time of heightened awareness around physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing, small business employers need the help of a People Advisor to create a modern workplace that attracts and retains high performing talent. Through reimagining your payroll practice you have the opportunity to meet the needs of clients head-on while also realizing important opportunities for your own team and firm.

Gusto’s People Advisory Accelerator Program provides the training and tools needed for firm leaders to develop People Advisory packages, and to staff, price, and sell them so that you can drive recurring revenue at your firm. In addition to teaching best practices, the program provides 25+ turnkey tools and templates so that you can implement what you’re learning, immediately. You’ll even earn 4 CPE credits in the process. 

You and your team can build your foundation on people operations best practices through becoming People Advisor Certified and earn 5 CPE credits. Learning the fundamentals of payroll, benefits, and people operations provides the knowledge and confidence to deliver a consistently high-value service.

By launching your People Advisory practice you’ll join a community of 2,000+ Certified People Advisors who are a part of the positive change the accounting profession and economy needs now.

Jaclyn Anku
Jaclyn Anku Jaclyn is the Partner Education Manager at Gusto. She started her career as a small business consultant and is passionate about teaching small business owners financial literacy and arming them with great advice. Before joining Gusto, she led business education for accountants and bookkeepers at Xero. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Oakland, CA.
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