Jeffrey Gitomer focuses on sales. If you are a CPA, you are a salesperson! So, learn to be a great one! I hope you follow Gitomer and absorb just some of what he promotes!
I became acquainted with his stuff when, many years ago, I read his book, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. I bought copies for my firm’s entire administrative team. Maybe you should, too.
I have read almost every one of his books since then. Sure, he’s “sales” but what he says certainly applies to CPA professionals and their teams.
I think this video is a great message for YOU.
How do you know when to give up on a prospective client? Do they fail to respond to your proposal?
Keep in mind that you are building a relationship, not just making a sale. Take JUST TWO MINUTES to listen to Gitomer. He’s talking about demonstrating value and about not being defensive when following-up – – be offensive.
Why do they want to buy? Are you just hoping?
You should already know when they want to buy, how much they want to pay and that you’re “their person!”
A lot of CPA firms have now become more specialized. They have determined that if they are specialized and are actually experts in a certain niche, they will become well-known and more successful.
I believe that the majority of CPA firms continue to be generalists. I have even heard CPA partners joke about the fact that if, for example, an auto dealership inquires about their services and asks “Do you specialize in dealerships?” they can say, “Yes, we do.” because they have ONE dealership on the client list.
There are still a significant number of accounting firms that try to be all things to all people. Consider this from a post by Seth Godin:
“The chances that everyone is going to applaud you, never mind even become aware you exist, are virtually nil. Most brands and organizations and individuals that fail fall into the chasm of trying to be all things in order to please everyone, and end up reaching no one.”
There are some very valuable professionals, not CPAs, working in all successful CPA firms. Sometimes we take them for granted. Sometimes we don’t acknowledge the influential and important role they fill. Sometimes we don’t invest in their success.
Last week, at Winning Is Everything, Melinda Guillemette shared with CPA firm marketers – Beyond Your Marketing Role, Leadership as a Differentiator.
I really like her comments on What Do Leaders Do? – – it applies to HR directors, firm administrators, tech leaders as well as marketers – professionals often doing amazing things behind the scenes in accounting firms.
What Do Leaders Do?
Leaders motivate and inspire, both by words and personal conduct
They take risks
They see and communicate the long view, both opportunities and risks
Leaders are truthful and optimistic
They sometimes sacrifice personal interest for a greater good
Leaders help others stretch their boundaries
They make others want to follow
They SERVE. This is good news for marketers-as-leaders because – – You are in your firms to help the organization as a whole meet its goals. You are in your firms to help individuals achieve their goals
Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
According to a recent article on Fast Company, 70% of today’s workforce is actively looking for another job or is open to hearing about a new job opportunity.
Another study tells us that a recent college graduate will hold between 15 to 20 jobs in their career. That means they are going to change jobs every three to four years. They will always be looking.
This certainly does not paint a rosy picture for CPA firm leaders. Growing firms hire extensively from the college campus and invest significant dollars in the first three years of their career in training and development. For them to leave at the end of three years is an expensive scenario. At three years, they are just at the point where they can be really productive.
Here are some trends:
Job boards are no longer the primary source used by job seekers. Job seekers, along with employers, are looking via social networking sites. Even the recruiters (the ones your firm has relied on) are finding their candidates via LinkedIn. According to a recent survey, 79% of recruiters said they found candidates via LinkedIn. 26% through Facebook and 14% via Twitter. Firm leaders are telling me that the recruiters are presenting to them the same people that they can find on LinkedIn themselves.
Here’s an important trend to follow for CPA firms. Employers will target marketing to job seekers. Accounting firms must invest in building an employer brand, just like they invest in building a brand to attract new tax and accounting clients. CPA firms can develop action steps for retention by surveying their people and talking to their people to determine what they need to do to become the CPA firm employer of choice in their market. What kind of impression does your website make on a potential new hire? It seems that the investment in, and focus on, building a unique career page on accounting firm websites no longer has the attention it had several years ago.
In-person networking is back. Since the social media space is so crowded, it’s now unique to network in person. Young people intent on building their careers and finding career opportunities are focused on building a base of “people they know.”
Do they know you and your firm? Are your people “out there” networking to identify future new hires as well as potential new clients?
In the world of public accounting it is all about the number of people you know. Using social media is key but so is face-to-face networking.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
On one page he uses a quote from Andre Agassi on how it feels to lose:
“But I don’t feel that Wimbledon changed me. I feel, in fact, as if I’ve been let in on a dirty little secret: winning changes nothing. Now that I’ve won a slam, I know something that very few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.”
All of us avoid bad feelings. It’s harder to get a No than it is to get a Yes. That’s why so many CPAs avoid marketing, sales, practice development. What if they say No? What if they don’t like me? What if I say something wrong during that speech? What if someone gives me a Thumbs Down on Facebook? What if they disagree with my tweet about that tax issue?
As Godin states, “No wonder we don’t want to speak up or stand up or do anything much that matters. We’ve persuaded ourselves that good feelings aren’t even close to outweighing bad ones.
My advice? Get over it! The more you do the better you get. The more you risk (and it doesn’t have to be much), the more gratifying the rewards.
I used to be afraid, embarrassed, hesitant.. whatever, when it came to asking what I thought would be a dumb question. Wow, I have sure learned a lot over the years and one of the most important lessons is always ask if you don’t understand, if you don’t know, or if you want to know more. I subscribe to Tom Peter’s quote: I shall lead the league in asking dumb questions.
Don't be afraid to ask dumb questions. They're more easily handled than dumb mistakes.
One reason I think it is important to use pictures of your accounting firm team members on your website is the simple fact that it gives them exposure, makes them noteworthy to their friends and makes their family proud.
The argument I usually get from practitioners is… “If Suzy leaves then we have to change the website!” – – You should be continually updating and changing your website anyway – it is a living thing, not a history book.
In case you haven’t noticed, it is world filled with pictures now – yes, selfies and more! People like to see pictures of the real people working at your firm. Make sure your entire team is on your website. Your clients really do like to see the people they work with and prospects want reassurance you and your team are real.
Here’s an example of a best-place-to-work firm with pictures of real people – Santos Postal in Rockville, Maryland.
Also, just my opinion, if you have a LinkedIn account and don’t have your picture there – people think you must be weird!
As I have worked with accountants over many years, I have truly come to realize that meeting and talking to people can be difficult, awkward and yes, even scary. All that is foreign to me because I love people and I love to talk (those of you who know me are smiling… maybe laughing… right now).
So, you may be an introvert but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin to enjoy meeting and talking with people. The huge chamber networking events are sometimes scary for experienced networkers, so don’t feel like you have to begin there. Make the networking you do fit your style.
I attended Accountants’ Bootcamp many years ago. We learned many great things there…. but one thing I liked was a way to help accountants feel comfortable with a form of networking.
Have your partners (maybe the ones who aren’t so comfortable in big groups) invite a banker, an attorney, an insurance person, a client and maybe two potential clients and form a breakfast group to simply discuss business issues relevant to your community. Set the ground rules – – this is not a meeting to “sell” to each other, it is more like a self-help group. Referral sources and business owners are likely to participate because YOU are the CPA and YOU know a lot that can help them!
Host it every month or every other month, in your office, serve a continental breakfast (or late after noon snack) and talk in round-table format for an hour or so. Ask each other questions about business issues and get to know each other personally. The members of the group will quickly begin looking forward to the meetings and begin to rely on each other’s opinions.
Don’t limit it to just partners. Have your up-and-comers host their own networking groups. Many CPAs across the country are doing exactly this or something very similar. It works!
Also, read this article on the HBR Blog network titled: Networking for Introverts. It’s all about doing this where you are comfortable not stressed-out.
Talk to someone about themselves and they will listen for hours.
I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment about the many misconceptions CPAs have about networking, such as it should be tackled only when billable work isn’t pressing and never during busy season. A networking plan should consider each of the following groups:
Follow the link, above, to read more about each of these groups.
Know – Referral sources need to know (understand) your expertise and what differentiates you. Use LinkedIn!
Like – You need your referral sources to like you because you are counting on them for introductions. Clients must like you and staff/co-workers must like you. Make yourself likable by simply being helpful.
Trust – Earn their trust (keep your word, it’s as simple as that).
Refer – If you receive a referral, you owe a referral. If you refer, you should expect one in return – it’s how the game is played.
I have observed, over many years, the one thing that holds women back on the path to partner is their lack of involvement in practice growth.
Practice growth is what we call it these days. We used to refer to it as marketing, sales and lead generation.
What male CPA partners have always called it is “the ability to build a book” meaning accumulating “your own” clients. Behind closed doors it is discussed. “She can’t build a book of business.”
Here are some steps that I recommend to female CPAs and to all young beginners in public accounting:
Get known in your local market area – network, attend, join and be visible at business events, civic gatherings and charitable functions. Don’t think of it as “I have to attend that boring reception.” Think of it in simple, more enjoyable terms, “Can’t wait to attend the Chamber breakfast, I’ll get to meet so many successful people.”
When you meet someone at an event, follow-up by connecting on LinkedIn and set a date to meet for lunch. Talk business, talk personal interests, simply get to know them.
Seek them out at the next event you attend, just to chat and connect.
On a recent blog post I gave you the short answer to becoming successful in public accounting – it depends on the number of people you know.
If it is still scary for you to attend a business networking event, start by getting involved in your state CPA society or association. Practice your “talking to strangers” skills by networking with other accountants. Don’t miss the opportunity to build your personal brand. The women in accounting in these pictures were attendees at the Ohio CPA Society Women’s Initiative Networking Breakfast held in Dayton, Ohio recently. Special recognition to Battelle Rippe Kingston – they had six women in attendance.