“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin
Sally, a new manager in a growing CPA firm has just been told that to become a partner in the firm, she must be able to bring new business and increase revenue for the firm.
Sally is in shock. She had never realized that it was absolutely necessary to bring in business if she wanted to be a partner. After all, it is the life-blood of the firm.
Here are three simple tips to help people like Sally in your firm. It might also be very helpful to people who are already partners!
Build a relationship first. You meet someone at a Chamber event or other business mixer. They appear to have a thriving business. Talk to them about business, in general. Follow-up with an invitation to lunch or breakfast but don’t try to “sell” anything until you have connected, met and established common ground. Yes, this might take a while. Get to know them before you sell them.
Listen. Most prospective clients will be anxious to tell you what they want. Listen to them and then be prepared to tell them what they really need. Good listening skills are a critical part of selling.
Tell stories. Tell them success stories about the firm’s team members (including partners). Tell them how a specific team member has succeeded. Tell them success stories about how your firm has solved business challenges for clients. Tell them how you would like to help them (not how you want to sell them services).
You can also use these three steps to win clients via online activities.
Relationship: Use blogs, articles, news items, tax updates and other helpful information to build a relationship. That means you must have a website that is engaging – not something all about the firm. A site that people will visit often because it is helpful.
Listen: Make it easy for them to submit a question or make contact online. Make searching for how to make contact very easy. Offer a free initial consultation that can be done in person, via phone, via email or online video.
Stories: Use interesting bios about your people and how they have become successful. Tell success stories via tweets, Linkedin, Facebook even Instagram. Develop testimonials from some of your best clients and post them on your website. Testimonials are so powerful. The prospect might think, “Oh, Joe Smith uses this firm. His business seems to be growing like crazy!”
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi
Want a simple way to train and develop your people? Try repetition.
Think about how your new college recruits learn to become skilled accountants and CPAs. In many firms, it goes like this. You train them on basic auditing. You may send them to a 3-day training course sponsored by your firm association, state society or inside your own firm. You may do it online. But it is very focused.
Then they are assigned to engagement after engagement where they do the same thing over and over until they “get it.” Then they receive a more difficult task and they do it over and over until they become proficient, and so on. They become more and more skilled, they ask great questions and learn from others, they make mistakes and correct them and over time their confidence and skill become top notch.
People learn from repetition. It is much more effective than a one or two-day training session.
You expect your managers to bring in new business and they aren’t very good at it. This also applies to some partners, they are not able to do the basic function of a partner – perpetuate the firm. Why not apply repetition to teaching people in your firm how to sell.
You best rainmakers are the teachers. Ask them to always have a shadow (less experienced person) when they meet with a client. When they meet with a prospect. When they meet with a referral source. When they attend a business networking event. When they attend a charitable fund-raising function. When they attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting. You get the idea.
Expose them over and over again to business development situations. Have them try it on their own – over and over again. Repetition solidifies skills.
Don't join an easy crowd. You won't grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are achieve are igh.
“The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.” – Ayn Rand
When pursuing a new prospect, when do you talk about your fee? How straight-forward are you? Do you talk as little about fees as possible and maybe even wait until a client complains (or inquires about an invoice) before you are transparent about how you bill?
I have observed that many CPAs are very reluctant to talk about fees with prospective clients and even sometimes with long-time clients. Many, even in the engagement letter, provide a fee quote in the form of a fairly broad range.
That’s the best thing about a Fixed Price Agreement. The client knows exactly what the fee will be for the specific service that is to be provided. Even an FPA can be a problem if the client requests additional services and the CPA does not then issue a change order informing the client that there will be additional fees due.
I have also observed that many CPAs don’t believe they are “worth it.” They become friends with clients and simply want to be helpful. I urge my clients to be proud of their knowledge and not discount the value that performing a routine task or answering a simple question brings to the client.
You have spent years accumulating specialized knowledge. You are special in that you can answer complex questions with little effort.
Don’t discount your own expertise – you are worth it!
“Quality performance (and quality service) starts with a positive attitude.” – Jeffrey Gitomer
It seems that EVERYONE uses texts to communicate now. However, that doesn’t apply so much to CPAs working in public accounting. Lots of business is conducted using email.
I like Jeffrey Gitomer’s sales advice…. “Email is sales-mail!”
I believe it is also part of building your personal brand. Do you ever misspell words? Do you confuse words such as “your” and “you’re”?
We all make grammar mistakes now and then but if you are trying to impress a prospective client be EXTRA careful.
Here’s some great advice from Gitomer – 1) Every email is an impression of you. 2) The best way to get an unsolicited email opened is to ask a question in the subject line that’s specific to the recipient.
If leaders are to be followed, it starts with clarity of message.
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” —Ernest Hemingway
It doesn’t matter to me what you write for your clients (and prospects). Just do it. Write things that will benefit their business and their personal finances. I know you have a lot of things inside that valuable brain of yours!
Use a blog, a newsletter, a newspaper column, Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram. Just get information out there!
I write this blog for my clients (and others) every business day and have been for nearly eleven years.
I check my spelling and grammar with something call Grammarly. Every week it gives me a report of how I have done.
Here’s the one I received this week:
5,844 words written – You wrote more words than 93% of Grammarly users did.
64 corrections made – You were more accurate than 66% of Grammarly users.
1,222 unique words used – You have a larger vocabulary than 96% of Grammarly users.
“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” – Yogi Berra
Did you ever collect baseball cards? Topps baseball cards have been around since the late 1880s.
Who would think it, a CPA’s picture on a real baseball card?
I have blogged about my friend Robert Raiola many times. Why? Because he is unique among CPAs and exemplifies what being a CPA, famous for something, is all about.
Raiola is director of the sports and entertainment group at New York-based PKF O’Connor Davies. He appears on the 2016 Topps’ Allen & Ginter baseball card set, issued on August 13, which includes Major League Baseball players and other sports figures, such as radio host Mike Francesa and actor Kevin (“Field of Dreams”) Costner.
What makes your firm stand out? Why do clients come to you over the competition?
As a heavily commoditized service, a one size fits all accounting practice can easily get left behind in today’s market. To get ahead of the pack, accounting firms need to find a niche offering that will kick their growth engine into a higher gear.
If you want to be unique and have clients seek you out, become an expert! I know many very successful CPAs who are auto dealership experts, business valuation experts, estate taxation experts, agricultural experts and so on.
Per Vetter’s article, a recent survey of accounting and professional services buyers, 35% of buyers ranked specialized expertise as their top deciding factor in choosing a firm, well ahead of referrals, reputation or customer service. Expertise even came out jut ahead of existing relationships as a deciding factor.
Think about attorneys. When you need labor law assistance, you seek out a labor law attorney.
The greatness of art is not to find what is common but what is unique.
We became acquainted by doing a panel webinar about unique career paths you can take in the accounting profession for what is now AccountingFly. We continue to stay in touch and we both are passionate about tweeting.
His name is Robert Raiola and he is Director of the Sports & Entertainment Group at PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP.
At the time, Robert (@SportsTaxMan) was tweeting on a regular basis about his specialty – sports – and he had a few thousand followers. As of today, Robert has done over 29,800 tweets and has over 51,500 followers – that’s a home run for a CPA.
Just to show you the power of Twitter, it has helped him expand his reputation for being an expert – something every CPA should do – and he has been featured on a national level via Sports Illustrated, ESPN, etc.
David Maister, the guru advisor to professional service firms, always said you have to decide what “you want to be famous for” and then pursue it with passion. How is that working for you?
Below is a recent example of the great exposure being an expert has gotten for Robert. Over the years I have blogged six times about @SportsTaxMan (just type his name in the Search box on the right).
Robert knows what he wants to be famous for and he is achieving it. How about you – think about it this weekend!
I would have changed my last name if being famous were my goal.
There are a lot of new trends in public accounting. You have read about them here on this blog, in my newsletter and in various publications and blogs for CPAs.
Of course, there are also new trends in other disciplines that affect public accounting. Branding for example.
Per HR Bartender, employment branding is disappearing. Employment branding and consumer branding are being merged together to form ONE company brand. That strong brand will be used to attract and retain clients and employees.
Many firms have done a great job of building a firm brand but most do still have sub-categories under that one brand to attract clients and future employees.
Building ONE brand can serve three purposes: Attract new clients, attract employees and make current employees proud to be part of the firm.
Maybe your brand is unclear, split, confusing or even non-existent. Check out this article on HR Bartender and view the video example from Go Daddy. It is a brand that stresses lots of things, including hard work!
Here’s an excerpt:
If I’m a customer, I know exactly how GoDaddy is going to support me and my business. If I’m a candidate, I understand the GoDaddy culture – the everyday hard work that’s expected to keep customers’ business dreams alive. And if I’m an employee, I’m proud to be a part of that success. One brand. One video. For multiple audiences.
You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you're doing. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself.