A new study examines how buyers and clients select a professional services firm, including accounting and financial services firms.

“Accounting and financial services firms are going through some major transitions and upheavals,” said the study, from Hinge Research Institute. “From the rapid pace of baby boomer partners’ retirement to massive regulatory reforms and the emergence of online marketing as a major source of new business, change seems to be everywhere.”

The study polled buyers and sellers of accounting and financial services, as well as other types of services, such as technology, legal, management consulting, and architecture, engineering and construction services. A separate study was done on each sector, as well as an overall study. The combined study included results from 822 buyers and 533 sellers, while the accounting and finance services study polled 281 buyers and sellers, roughly 58 percent of which were sellers and 42 percent buyers.

For accounting and finance services, when asked about the best way to reach a buyer, 37 percent of buyers and 33 percent of sellers recommended developing a personal relationship, 21 percent of buyers and 10 percent of sellers recommended education, and 11 percent of buyers and 19 percent of sellers recommended developing a reputation for producing results. Eleven percent of buyers and 17 percent of sellers favored referrals and recommendations. Other tactics, such as personal visits, networking at events, email, social media and online marketing, and advertising and sponsorships were less favored by the respondents.

When buyers were asked how they chose the firms they worked with, 46 percent cited team expertise and skills, while 30 percent cited cost and terms. Thirty percent of buyers also cited an existing personal relationship as the reason, while 22 percent said the firm was a good fit and shared their values. Eighteen percent were attracted because the firm had a respected expert or specialist in the field, while 16 percent chose the firm because of referrals or recommendations. Good reputation was cited by 13 percent of buyers, the size of the firm by 8 percent, good customer service by 7 percent, and flexibility and responsiveness by 7 percent.

Sellers’ perceptions of buyers’ criteria differed markedly on some criteria, particularly in the area of cost and terms. While 55 percent of sellers saw that as a top criterion for buyers, only 30 percent of buyers felt that way. There were similar mismatches with the criterion of an existing personal relationship. While 30 percent of buyers saw that as a top priority, only 16 percent of sellers thought of it a top buyer selection criterion.

For a copy of the report, visit http://www.hingemarketing.com/library/article/how_buyers_buy_accounting_finance_services#.