The tight economy means more accounting professionals pursuing fewer quality engagements. Consolidators, larger practices, telemarketers, rainmakers and others establish new footholds during tough times. These competitors squeeze firms of all sizes, forcing them to sell more effectively to survive. Without a booming economy as a propellant, accountants should base their growth on how well they can sell their services in a more competitive marketplace.If you want to be among the top 10 percent of business development specialists, you don't have to be 100 percent better in prospecting, client presentations or closing. If you become only 20 percent better in each step of a professional sales method, your opportunities to win engagements will protect your future. Small improvements can make the big difference between a winner and second place.

But building success, like building a house, requires a blueprint. Developing a blueprint for a career that includes selling has never been more vital to accountants.

"When selling becomes a procedure, it ceases to be a problem. If it's not a procedure, it will always be a problem," a great salesman once said. An inability to sell engagements due to lack of a selling blueprint will end some accounting careers during the current crisis.

Building a successful sales career in accounting requires five ingredients that are available to anyone with a keen desire to succeed:

1. Interest. This is the decision you make to develop, practice and apply the information available that will cause you to become as successful as you are capable of becoming. When you are interested, you are excited about your career and you continue to learn. You try to keep up on your industry and on the latest accounting trends and developments in your business world. You will select continuing education courses that improve not only your technical skills, but also your people skills. School is never out for the professional.

Interested people tend to be successful, largely because of their enthusiasm. When you get enthused, prospects do too, making them more likely to buy.

2. Attitude. This communicates your opinion of people, business and life in general. There are only two kinds of people in the world: Those who think they can and those who think they can't. The irony is that they're both right. How you think affects your outcome: A negative thinker's career has a downward spiral. Positive thoughts, meanwhile, produce positive results.

3. Energy. This is not just physical, but rather something that grows from interest and a positive attitude. When you are excited about your day's activities, you have the energy to carry you through.

Plan on developing your capacity by getting a little better every day. If you could do your job a little better today than yesterday and a little better tomorrow and the next day, imagine the impact this will have on your career in one short year. Where do you get all that extra energy? Your own enthusiasm and positive attitude can give you the energy to carry you through.

4. Method. This means a step-by-step procedure that covers all the points in the selling process and leaves nothing to chance. Method is a game plan for selling your accounting services to your prospects. Think about the role that methodology plays in an accounting engagement. If the proper method is followed step by step from the beginning, it will usually ensure success. The same is true in selling engagements. Combine method with interest, attitude and the energy that it creates, and you will be on top of the pyramid of success.

Method is the essential ingredient missing from most accountants' selling efforts, but without it your sales skills are like a million-dollar computer with no software.

5. Success. This is the self-satisfaction in accomplishing something that is important to you. Of course, success is relative and means different things to different people. Only when you make clear what success means to you can you pursue it effectively.

Yes, accountants can sell in a recession. Combine a re-alignment of selling skills with a review of winning sales methods and the rewards will be there. Good luck and good selling.

Ron Holm teaches the Track Selling System sales training workshops for accounting professionals and accounting software resellers. Roy Chitwood, CSP, CSE, an author and consultant on sales and motivation, is the president of Max Sacks International.

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