Archive for the ‘Sales’ Category

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Focus On Your Fans

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” – Zip Ziglar

You had a successful first quarter. Busy season was busy for both tax and audit and you and your team interacted with some wonderful, loyal clients, also known as your fans. They keep coming back year after year because they like you, they trust you and are pleased with the services you provide.

In a recent partner meeting or retreat, you have probably explored ways to land new clients. Lots of good ideas were expressed, new ways to attract exactly the right type of client.

Of course, you should do things to build your brand but don’t forget about the loyal following you already have.

Develop ways to engage devoted clients (your fans) to help you spread the word. A referral from a current client is golden. However, what happens most often with accountants is the fact that they simply don’t ask current clients for their help.

As Seth Godin tells us, “Ideas spread from person to person. Horizontally.” Read his helpful post here.

  • I'm as loyal as anyone and will do anything for people I respect. But if you don't give that back to me in return, you're dead to me.
  • Eric Weddle

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Exceptional Service

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” – Kevin Stirtz

Want to attract new clients? Then make your current clients say, “Wow!” Providing exceptional service is your best marketing activity.

This is from Tom Peters:

There’s a big Bain study I quote: 8% of customers think the service they RECEIVE is “exceptional.” 80% of companies think the service they GIVE is “exceptional.” I call it “the 8-80 chasm.”

If you want your clients to say, “Wow!” you have to do something unique, out of the ordinary. Enlist the help of all your people. What do they think you could do to achieve Wow?

Read more about your clients saying WOW.

  • Assumptions are the termites of relationships.
  • Henry Winkler

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Make Friends

“If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” – Anna Quindlen

It is a common activity in the CPA profession. Firm leaders advise and encourage their managers and younger team members to get out there and network.

Attend every Chamber function. Take part in those non-profit fundraiser events. Don’t stand in a corner and eat or drink. Talk to people and exchange business cards. Add their name to your contact list.

It does rather seem like a merry-go-round. You go round and round and never get anywhere. That’s because gathering contacts is not making friends. Suzy Welch suggests a different approach. Rather than make contacts, make friends.

Meet people, sure. Find a few you actually like and build a friendship over time. People love to do business with friends. Hundreds of contacts rarely turn into friends who will recommend you and refer others to you.

  • A friend may be waiting behind a stranger's face.
  • Maya Angelou

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

More About Client Acceptance

“You get to choose your customers, not the other way around.” – Seth Godin

Yesterday I wrote about providing too much information and spending too much time with a potential client before you know they are a suitable fit for your firm.

This is a tough issue inside many CPA firms.

Firms are competing heavily for new clients. You need them. So, you add new clients without subjecting them to a rigorous client acceptance process.

Has your firm grown by accepting every client that comes along and keeping them even when they are a collection headache?  Is there pressure on your partners to bring in new business so that they can claim their share of the profits during the year-end compensation dance?  If these type of actions are in your past, think hard about your future.

Ask your team members about the quality of your client base.  They will tell you immediately which ones they would nominate for out-placement.

Even though you really know you should serve clients that fit your mission, clients you like and admire and get rid of those that are poor business people, most of you will continue to work with clients that you really don’t like very much, who treat your people disrespectfully and then don’t pay you.

Seth Godin had a good post on his blog about Choosing Your Customers. Seth says, “Yes, you get to choose them, not the other way around. You choose them with your pricing, your content, your promotion, your outreach and your product line.”

  • The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.
  • Michael Porter

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Flashback Friday – Incentives For New Business

There is a lot of discussion in CPA circles about paying an incentive to team members for assisting in bringing in new business to the firm.

Here’s a flashback post on this topic – Incentive For New Business – Keep It Simple.

Have a great Friday!

  • In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.
  • Mark Twain

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Enable Your Firm To Grow

Katie“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee

I enjoyed attending the CPAFMA Ohio Chapter meeting last week in Columbus. Katie Tolin of CPA Growth Guides enlightened the attendees about the importance of product development, something missing from most CPA firms.

Here are some bullet points from Tolin’s remarks. I hope you find them very thought-provoking!

  • For a CPA firm to grow, they need 3 things: marketing, business development, and product management.
  • In most firms, product management is missing – you need all three.
  • Accounting is a mature profession and compliance work has hit its peak.
  • We are in a sea of sameness. Starbucks elevated the cup of coffee. How have we changed the tax return? About the only thing is e-filing, now everyone does it.
  • Technology is speeding things up and that kills billing by the hour.
  • We have mature products and a mature industry, how do we innovate? It can’t only be about new products (services), we need to innovate things we already do.
  • You must always challenge the status quo. Make it part of your culture.
  • Employees need to be empowered to please clients. You need two things, happy clients and happy employees.
  • Katie Tolin

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Incentive For New Business – Keep It Simple

“If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.” – Steven Johnson

Many firms, in recent years, have adopted an incentive plan for bringing new business to the firm. It is usually a percentage of fees billed to the new client for the first year of service. Some firms pay a percentage for the first two or three years of service.

The most common ones that I am aware of are 10% of first-year fees or 5% of fees for the first one, two and/or three years.

Some firms require that a certain amount of fees must be billed and even that certain realization levels are accomplished. They also pay the incentive on a delayed schedule – after services are rendered and fees are billed (and collected, in some cases).

Why not be more generous? How motivational is it to make the effort to bring in new business when the reward comes way down the road with lots of stipulations.

At my firm, we paid 10% of first-year fees at the time the initial engagement letter was signed, based on the amount quoted in the engagement letter. We did not pay for individual income tax clients unless they were quoted a fee over $2,000.

The incentive was intended for business clients. If we quoted a range of fees, like many firms do, such as $3,000 – $4,000, we paid the team member 10% of the higher amount. If first-year fees ended up being more than the amount quoted in the engagement letter, we paid the make-up amount after the year-end. This policy did not apply to partners. All that was required is that the team member made the introduction and involved a partner.

Whatever your firm offers, keep it simple and provide more timely gratification to the team member.

Just FYI, we did not pay-out this incentive very often. It didn’t seem to motivate staff and admin very much.

  • You've got to change incentives for good behavior as opposed to just disincentivizing bad behavior.
  • Gavin Newsom

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Make A Commitment

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” – Jeff Bezos

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, here is an example of a Mutual Commitment Statement that I often share. Simply customize it to fit your firm.

Our Mutual Commitment Statement

I, Sally Partner, and the entire team at (name of firm) want your experience with us to be the best it can be.  We offer the following commitments to you:

  • You will be respected and never taken for granted.
  • We will act with integrity, honesty and openness in everything we do for you and with you.
  • We will absolutely respect the confidentiality of our working relationship with you.
  • We will return phone calls and answer email within 24 hours.
  • We will meet the deadlines we set. In the case of circumstances beyond our control, we will notify you and discuss with you immediately.
  • Our services will rarely, if ever, be the least expensive. They will, though, always be of exceptional quality and designed to help you obtain significant value.
  • You have the right to know our fee structure in advance of any engagement.
  • You are the sole judge of our performance. If anything we do falls short of your expectations, we – without question – will respect your right to simply pay for whatever you feel the service was worth.

To facilitate our efforts in providing the highest level of service, we ask the following of you.

  • You will be open, frank and honest with us at all times. You will let us know immediately of any concerns you have about our work together.
  • You will give us all the information we need to complete our assignments.
  • 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. If you cannot pay, you will call and talk to us immediately.
  • You will give consideration to referring us to at least one other business that might benefit from our services.

 

  • If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your customers and your business will take care of itself.
  • JW Marriott

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Sending Follow-Up Emails

“Have something to say. Say it. Stop talking.” – George Lorimer

You probably do it all the time. I often do it, too. Send an quick, easy email to communicate with someone about a project or because you haven’t heard back from someone about some thing, in a while. Your subject line simply says “Just Checking In” or “Touching base” or “Checking on Status,” or something similar.

CPAs send these kind of emails to prospective clients. You have made your pitch and they are in the decision-making mode. You haven’t heard anything for over a week, so you need to touch base or check-in.

The reason people like to send these short emails is because they are very quick – it takes less than 30 seconds. Often, you still don’t hear back. It’s probably because your “quick” communication does not provide any value.

In a post on Hubspot, Leslie Ye gives us 23 Email Subjects That Are Better Than “Just Checking In.” She also gives you some situations where you DO need to check-in or touch base!

I picked seven for you. Be sure to read her brief article to see all the others.

  1. Share an article relevant to their industry
  2. Reference a blog post or Facebook post they they published
  3. Send them a blog post your firm published
  4. Recommend a business event they might want to attend
  5. Call attention to something their competitors did
  6. Invite them to an upcoming webinar or seminar
  7. Reference a common challenge some of your other clients are facing and see if they are experiencing it

If you are going to send an email to enhance communication, make it something worthwhile.

  • There is all the difference in the world between having something to say and having to say something.
  • John Dewey

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Start Networking Now

“If you’re trying to be successful, networking is the difference between mediocre and big.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Sure, accounting firms are getting a lot of new business via social media. Many new clients now come directly from your website. I love to see CPAs using Twitter and Instagram. There are some great blogs out there authored by CPAs.

Here comes the but. But, personal networking is still an extremely important part of career-building for CPAs working in public accounting. If you are just beginning our CPA career – begin networking now. If you have many years of experience and really haven’t been expected to bring in business up to now – begin networking now. If you are a partner who rarely brings in business – begin networking now.

I am a fan of Jeffrey Gitomer and all his writings about sales and other things. He says, “Networking is life skills and social skills combined with sales skills. It is business leisure conducted before and after work – as proposed to business frantic, which is conducted from 9 to 5 (the exception being lunch)

Here’s Gitomer’s principles of networking:

  • to get known by those who count
  • to get more prospects
  • to make more contacts
  • to make more sales
  • to build relationships
  • to make a career advancement (or just get a job)
  • to build your reputation (and be seen and known as consistent)What do you need to be a successful networker?
  • A GREAT 30-second commercial that engages and asks questions that qualify the prospect, and gets to the next step in the sales cycle if there’s an interest.
  • Your willingness to dedicate the time it takes to do it and be excellent at it.
  • A plan of where and when.To maximize your networking effectiveness, you must follow one simple rule:
    Go where your customers and prospects go, or are likely to be.

Gitomer’s recent post gives you the 21.5 BEST places to network. Be sure to read it and begin networking!

  • Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
  • Mother Teresa