Spring is a time of optimism, so it's a great time for accounting firms to look for fresh opportunities to grow the business. Here are five ways accounting firms can "fertilize" their existing efforts in order to jumpstart their business and grow deeper, stronger roots with clients.

1. Train your team: Do firm members truly understand the specific value provided by each of your service offerings? How do you assess their ability to communicate this to clients (scenarios, role-playing, observation, etc.)? What tools do you have in place (cross-functional teams, opportunity maps, etc.) to facilitate cross-serving/selling efforts? Learning and development efforts around pairing client needs with opportunities to offer solutions must be a priority.

2. Incentivize staff: Why not provide an incentive to reward staff who identify opportunities to expand your reach within your client base? Doing so will reinforce the importance of continuing to make sure that client needs are met and expectations are exceeded. Remember, incentives can take many forms:

  • Monetary.
  • Recognition.
  • Inclusion and expansion: Bring the staff member into the engagement. Broaden their exposure to non-compliance-based offerings and provide an opportunity to interact with a manager or partner with specific expertise and experience. This will help to build new skill sets while reinforcing the importance of evolving alongside your clients.
  • Individualized: One size fits one. Allowing firm members to establish incentives around what motivates them should correlate to greater buy-in and a sense of ownership in the initiative.
  • Alignment with career goals.

3. Explore channels: How do you reach your clients? Excluding the obligatory planning meetings, exit conferences, engagement letters, etc., what recurring means of connecting with your client base are in place? How do you measure their effectiveness?

Remember, "One size fits all" is not the best approach. To improve your ability to offer targeted communications, consider grouping your clients together by commonalities, such as needs, services provided, industry, stage in the business life cycle and size.

4. Ask questions: Your ability to ask purposeful questions, to actively listen to your client's responses, and to adjust your actions accordingly is the new competitive advantage.

The moment that you stop asking questions, you stop learning. The moment that you stop learning, you start losing.

5. Build context: For your staff, help them understand how their efforts align with where your firm is looking to go and how you're looking to grow.

For your clients, help them see how your resources, expertise and additional offerings directly provide value (as the client measures it) and facilitate their ability to achieve their goals, capitalize on their opportunities, protect their assets, etc.

By training your team, incentivizing staff, exploring new ways to reach clients, asking purposeful questions and building context, your firm will uncover midyear opportunities to serve your clients more fully and more fruitfully for the rest of the year.

Lauren Prosser is director of Sageworks Inc.'s ProfitCents Professional Services, a team of specialized consultants providing partner coaching, small-group coaching and firm strategy construction services to accounting professionals.

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