Archive for the ‘Sales’ Category

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Bringing In New Business

“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.
  • Robert McKee

Monday, September 26th, 2016

What Kind of Impression Do Your Emails Make?

“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.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Is Your Firm Special?

I enjoyed a recent article via Accounting Today – Kick Start Growth With a Defined Niche by Amy Vetter. It opens with this:

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.
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

A Strong Niche Focus Can Make You Famous

Back in 2012, I blogged about a tax guy.

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!

Screenshot 2016-07-22 06.55.42

  • I would have changed my last name if being famous were my goal.
  • Zach Galifianakis

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Expanding Your Services To Current Clients

“If you want to be the best salesperson, first you must be the best person.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

We have heard it said over and over again at CPA management conferences – for years! “Don’t forget to ask your clients WHAT ELSE they need from you and your firm.”

The trouble is, they don’t usually know what they need. I find it is much like focusing on improving your own firm. Another well-known saying applies. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Often, your client doesn’t know what they don’t know.

It is your business to know your client and their business so well that you are able to enlighten them as to what they should do, what they shouldn’t do and how they can make their business more profitable. As a CPA, you are known as the most trusted advisor. Are you living up to that role?

That is where specialization comes into play. Not every CPA in your firm can know everything about every service line. If you are on the auto dealer team at your firm you better know everything about operating a dealership. You are routinely reading dealership management magazines and newsletters and you attend the same conferences that dealership owners attend. Hopefully, someone from your firm is speaking at those industry conferences. The same activities apply to your firm’s non-profit, construction, hospitality, distribution and all other teams.

You should, of course, continue to ask your clients how you can help but you should also be very upfront in telling them about current trends in their industry and what they should be doing to stay competitive and profitable.

  • The key to mastering any kind of sales is switching statements about you - how great you are, and what you do - to statements about them.
  • Jeffrey Gitomer

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Most progressive CPA firms guarantee their work. Do You?

Firms are including a guarantee in the engagement letter or proposal.

Here’s what I put in my own Engagement Agreements:

Service Guarantee and Confidentiality

Rita Keller’s services are unconditionally guaranteed. If the services do not meet your expectation, you may end the arrangement and pay only the value you deem acceptable. Confidentiality is extremely important. While Keller may serve other CPA firms in your market, absolutely no information about your firm will ever be discussed or disclosed. If I discover a best practice during my association with your firm, I may request permission to feature you and/or your firm on my blog.

 
Sometimes these guarantees are structured in the form of a Commitment Statement to the client that includes things like:

  • You will be respected and never taken for granted.
  • We absolutely respect the confidentiality of our working relationship with you.
  • We will return phone calls and answer email within 24 hours.
  • …. and so on.

Some even include asking the client for some commitments as a second part of the statement, such as:

  • You will give us all the information we need to complete the assignment.
  • You will meet mutually agreed upon deadlines. In the case of circumstances beyond your control, you will notify us immediately of the situation.
  • You will pay our fees per our engagement letter.
  • … and so on.

Just something you might consider for your firm. It makes a bold and important statement to your clients.

Here’s a sample of a Client Commitment Statement.

  • The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit.
  • Morgan Freeman

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Bring Value To Your Clients By Offering Additional Services

“Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” – Donald Porter

It is important for CPA firms to continually demonstrate the value they bring to their clients.

“Value-added” has been bantered around the profession for years and still some accountants find it difficult to put into words. One way is to offer your clients additional services. Usually, they don’t realize that a service they are contemplating from an outside consultant is already offered by their CPA firm.

It comes back to that magic word: Communicate!

You not only need to communicate with the clients, you need to communicate with your own staff.

Do all of your team members, even the most recent college recruits, know what to look and listen for while they are at the client’s location? Have experienced partners tell them stories how they landed a lucrative engagement by chatting with a client while they were working at the client’s site.

Have you educated your team about all of the firm’s service offerings? Sometimes the newer employees really don’t know what the firm offers in addition to tax, audit and accounting. At a lunch & learn, set up a panel of 3 or 4 niche leaders to talk about how the services from their niche can benefit clients.

Can all of your team members talk intelligently about your menu of services? Provide them with an Additional Services Checklist so they can at least convey the opportunities (and who to talk to at the firm) to the client.

Design a Cross-sell Brochure to help your team and make it nice enough they can even leave it behind with a client. Here’s one-side of a sample I share – it is in tri-fold format. If you want a sample, let me know. Sometimes a piece of paper still gets your message across!

CrossSell Sample KA

  • Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.
  • Kevin Stirtz

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Landing New Clients & Keeping Them

I have always believed that the best marketing strategy is how you serve your clients. It’s sort of the the “build it and they will come” mentality.

If your firm wins the reputation for over-the-top client service, your current clients will talk about you and potential clients will seek you out.

This week’s quote from Tom Peters says volumes about the CPA profession:

“Obviously there is a role for marketing, strategy formulation, and the like. But, ultimately, it all boils down to perceived, and appreciated, and consistently delivered service and quality to customers.”

Your competitors can find out what services your offer, what niches you pursue and the names of your employees and rainmakers. They cannot easily judge how you serve your clients. Serve your clients better than your competitors and you will win the race

Service begins with the pursuit of the potential client. It is not about selling to them or “pitching” them, it is a longer process of simply building a relationship.

Jeffrey Gitomer says it so well:

“The relationship is the biggest advantage you have in selling. People want to do business with people they can relate to. Finding out what your customer wants will help you discover your competitive advantage, but this is not as powerful as building a relationship. Coming to work early is a great habit, but may not affect your relationship building skills. The worst scenario is to try to learn a competitive advantage from your competitor. Which came first, the competition or the relationship? The relationship comes first and the sale will follow.” –Jeffrey Gitomer, excerpted from The Little Red Book of Sales Answers

To me, maybe the most important quote for CPAs to take to heart is featured below in my quote of the day section – from Harvey Mackay.

  • To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.
  • Harvey Mackay

Monday, December 28th, 2015

What Kind Of Creative New Services Are You Offering?

I recently read a story on Fast Company, These 3 Entrepreneurs Started Companies To Help Their Grandparents.

We often think of young entrepreneurs as being very wrapped up in developing things for millennials. However, the three examples are young people creating solutions for their grandparents. And, they are capitalizing on the huge market that is our aging population.

What is your firm doing to tap into this huge market? Maybe you should solicit ideas from your own young people.

  • And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows.
  • Audrey Hepburn

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Practice Growth Is Not The Same Old Game

gold-backgroundFor years, CPAs have used a handful of methods to grow their practice. Most of them have always been individually focused.

Per Gale Crosley’s recent article, Rocket Powered Growth, in Accounting Today, all of that has changed dramatically. I couldn’t agree more.

Traditional firm growth model has featured:

  • Individual contribution: Partners each have their individual books of business and are measured on retaining and growing these books one client at a time.
  • Tactical: A primary activity was banker breakfasts and lawyer lunches, designed to cultivate referrals one new client at a time.
  • Generalist: Hang out a shingle to all comers, then wait for the phone to ring.
  • Boots on the ground: Face-to-face meetings with prospective buyers one at a time.

The new model for growth is very different:

  • Leader-driven: When leading growth, not just doing it, partners are converted to business unit leaders who own the profitable growth of a service line or industry.
  • Strategic: The objective of leaders is to conquer markets one at a time, not just individual referred clients one at a time.
  • Specialist: The faster way to growth is through focus on particular industries and buyer groups, instead of all comers.
  • Technology-centric: Using the capability of today’s technologies enables us to increase market size and melt away geographic borders to find buyers in far-flung places.

It is not all about the firm’s big rainmaker anymore. It requires leadership and teamwork.

As Crosley states, “In today’s competitive environment, it’s risky at best for one ‘lone ranger’ partner to know what nobody else knows and to sell what nobody else can sell.” Hunters must transform to leaders of the hunt. Be sure to take the time to read Crosley’s article.

Something I have been stressing for years is that EVERYONE in the firm has a role in growing the firm – not just one or two rainmaker partners. See Crosley’s quote below.

  • You can no longer rely on a small number of rainmakers, but instead create growth leaders, and leverage the strength of every member of the firm.
  • Gale Crosley