I don't think I would be going too far out on a limb to say that the vast majority of accountants did not become accountants so they could get into marketing or sales.

But given the competition, the economy, succession opportunities within firms and the need for firms to continually grow revenues, today's accountants need to put on the sales hat and get out there. That hat may not be the best-fitting hat for all, but it is necessary to go out and sell in order to survive.

While each day the workloads become greater, there is also a greater need to position yourself and your firm in the eyes of the markets you serve. Go to any accounting firm's Web site and you see the same thing: We are reliable, on time, caring, quality professionals who serve the community and are dedicated to our clients.

So what do you do differently from your very qualified brothers and sisters in accounting? Sometimes that question is answered differently by individuals within the same firm. Going back to the generalization file, if all accounting firms are similar in providing services (based on comparable sizes) why should a prospect select you?

The size of the pie is the same. Not many new businesses are being created. Ask your friendly commercial bankers about their clients expanding their businesses and they will probably say that there is not much movement on that front.

So what do you do to gain new business from the old pile that's been on the same shelf for some time, while at the same time keeping up with your current workload?

When activities are created, opportunities can't be too far behind, so you can be the recipient of new business opportunities if you try weekly to:

  • Add one new prospect. That's 52 new prospects a year. Try a goal of converting 10 percent of those each year while developing the others over time and adding one new prospect each week. Did you just create a pipeline?
  • Connect with a client you haven't connected with lately. Make sure they are satisfied. Be a resource to them not only with accounting services, but also with assistance they may need to run their business. Become the resource that can say to them, "I know someone who could help you." Maybe even ask for a referral.
  • Get LinkedIn up or clean it up. Be current in your social media.
  • Get back in touch. Under the category of "The Grass Wasn't Greener on the Other Side," contact a former client and see if they are satisfied with their change to the new firm and, if not, might there be an opportunity for you?
  • Ask again. Now that you have traveled to where you thought you'd never travel in calling a former client, try calling a prospect who said, "No," to you previously. You never know what has changed since they said, "No," as that "No" could become a "Yes."
  • Call a client just to say, "Thank you." Nothing else. No surprise attack of a sales pitch here. Maybe another time.
  • Take it one event at a time. Make one networking event each week during the day or evening. This is where you go fishing, so bring your business cards.
  • Partner up. Ask a colleague in your firm what you can do together to make an impact in the market. Co-author an article for publication on the firm's Web site. Give a presentation together to a business organization, nonprofit or prospect. There's strength in numbers.
  • Take a field trip. Go to an office building and see who is in there. You need suspects before they become prospects.

Contact a referral source. And while getting a referral from them is always a goal, see how they are doing. Talk about their challenges. Pick their brains as to how they are developing opportunities for themselves. Offer to be a sounding board to their clients when they have questions. You may have to give before you get.

Nothing new here other than that these are all small steps that collectively when taken can make a difference. Not one giant time-consuming step, but small manageable steps. Even if you only get to several of these each week, you are creating your opportunities -- opportunities that can make you very comfortable when wearing your sales hat.

Nicholas Keseric, president of The Marketing Seeds Co., provides marketing and business development initiatives and services for banks, accounting, law and investment management firms. Reach him at (708) 508-8503 or nick@themarketingseeds.com.

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