[IMGCAP(1)]Back in 1975 Paul Simon released his biggest-selling song to date: "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." I am told his song became the anthem for many successful divorce attorneys as well.
You would think while there are 50 ways to leave your lover, we should have as many if not more ways to bring in new business to our accounting firms, but thats probably not the case. Getting out of a relationship may be a walk in the park compared to the effort needed to bring in new business given todays economic and competitive environment. Accountants do need to sell and be proactive about it and not wait for the phone to ring with a referral.
But that can be a difficult proposition for some.
So lets say good-bye to the 50 ways to leave your lover, and hello to some of the various ways accountants can bring in new business and revenues:
Current clients: Keep in contact with them like never before and create opportunities for suggesting additional products and services your firm offers. Introduce others within your firm to your clients who could assist them in their business in some fashion. Look to bring that added value to them to separate yourself from your fellow CPA competitors. The better-informed your clients are about your firm, the less you have to sell. Educate your clients.
Current client referrals: Talk to them. Remind them to consider referring you to a family member, friend, business associate or colleague. They have their confidence in you. Above all, thank your clients for the referral when you receive one and keep them updated on the progress within the confidentiality framework. Where there is one referral, there may be more from the same client. Give them the reason to give you additional opportunities.
Referral sources and centers of influence: There is a need to stay in regular contact with individuals and organizations that can potentially refer you to new business opportunities. Its hard work. Keep them informed about the goings-on within your firm that could potentially help their clients. You never know what might trigger a referral opportunity. Dont think there is always a need for a quid pro quo. You receive a referral of a client from a center of influence. You take great care of the referral from the COI and solve their issues and they become a client of your firm. That COI is told by their client how well you did. That COI looks pretty good in the eyes of their client because of you. There is value in that exchange. You didnt let the COI down and make them look bad in the eyes of their client.
Cold calling and networking: There are two four-letter words that, when put together, can strike fear in most people, even brave-hearted accountants: cold call. Every current client you have started out as either a referral or a prospect. The more people you come in contact with, the greater the chance will be that some of them will become a client of yours or will refer you to someone they know. The fewer the people you meet, the less likely you are to convert as many into clients. The best advice is to get out there and be seen and heard.
Walk-in business: The lifeblood for so many businesses is walk-ins, but you only have one chance to make them feel that they made the correct decision by visiting your firm. Dont let the opportunity walk on by after it has walked in. Not many people or businesses will walk into an accounting firm like they do a department store, but make sure you have an internal plan ready in case it does happen and who will handle the opportunity. Dont send them on their way with a brochure and not give them the opportunity to speak with someone.
Website: Many times the first step that a potential prospect will take to see what your firm is all about is to check out your website. How welcoming they feel and informed while visiting your website will typically determine if they take the next step and contact you.
Social media: An avenue that has a place in marketing and business development is social networking through sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. As it evolves, we will get to see how and where new opportunities come from and go.
Marketing campaigns: Mailers, billboards, advertising, public relations, telemarketing, events, educational programs and other strategic efforts will help position your firm in select target markets. It would be great if you could just launch these efforts and watch a ton of new business roll in, but that probably wont happen. You may get some initial new business opportunities, but they will require follow-up to build a consistent flow of new business opportunities from these campaigns.
Acquisition or start-up: Acquiring a competitors firm or starting up a new venture that will dovetail into your firm can increase new business opportunities. Such an example would be adding a merger and acquisition group to serve your market. Your current clients may one day need a succession option or avenue to expand their business. It also serves as a logical lead-in when calling on centers of influence. Those bankers, attorneys, insurance professionals and business consultants may not have a client in need of accounting services that your firm can offer, but they could have a client looking to sell their business or buy one.
When building business for your firm, one thing is for sure: There is no sweeter music to the ears as when a prospect informs you that they are coming over to your firm and not telling you 50 reasons why they are not.
Nicholas D. Keseric Jr. is the director of practice growth with Mulcahy, Pauritsch, Salvador & Co, a Chicago-area middle-market CPA firm, and a partner with MPS Capital Advisors-Mergers & Acquisitions.
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