[IMGCAP(1)]Whether you work within the confines of a large accounting firm with a valuation arm, or are running your own small appraisal business, the recent financial obstacles facing valuation professionals appear fairly consistent across the board.

The skills necessary to continue to compete in the workplace are very much the same as they’ve always been. It really comes down to sharpening these skills to maintain your clientele and find new opportunities to grow your business. For the technical appraiser, adding value to your existing skill sets is a key advantage.

Accounting Firm and Valuation Professional Relationship
The majority of accounting firms either have an internal valuation practices or they engage independent firms to assist them with their appraisal needs and to consult on joint projects involving their clients. Typically these engagements involve audit or tax clients who are in the midst of an acquisition or related transaction that involves updating their books to ensure compliance with current accounting standards.

Valuation teams will review existing appraisals collected from the latest client data or perform new appraisal assignments to assist in purchase price accounting, impairment studies and related work.

With this in mind, it is apparent that these valuation practices will receive a significant level of business from their accounting firm relationships; however, it is critical to the success and growth of these practices that additional business be generated from direct client relationships brought in by the valuation professionals themselves.

The “Doer-Seller” Model
Many appraisal firms find it difficult to create a pure business development team within their organization given the fact that selling appraisal work 100 percent of the time is a unique and rare talent within the industry. Without the technical experience acquired over years of completing appraisals, a lot of talented marketing professionals run into any number of hurdles when trying to sell valuation work.

Clients are looking to speak with the technical team behind the scenes to get comfortable with the eventual work product. By the time the actual appraisers get involved with the potential engagement and client interaction, another firm has been awarded the deal. In addition, the ability to form the right team to discuss the details behind the transaction with the client can be difficult, especially within a large firm that has offices across the country or overseas.

To offset this potential barrier, the professional appraiser can capitalize on their years of experience and client interaction during previous engagements to create new opportunities for residual business and client referrals. The appraiser’s “Doer-Seller” model has many interpretations; however, what works best is when an appraiser is not only an expert technician in his or her discipline, but an individual who creates a strong relationship with their clients over time and becomes the “go-to” professional that clients will contact for new business and potential referral work.

The appraiser must take a proactive stance to make clients feel like they never have to go anywhere else to conduct their appraisal business. Keeping in regular contact with them during times when there is no ongoing engagement is critical to the evolving relationship. This lets them know you are available at the drop of a hat to assist them in the future and that you genuinely care about their business.

In addition, make it common practice at the end of an engagement to ask your client if the quality of the work product met their needs and if they could refer you to any of their contacts, either in-house or outside their corporate structure with whom they work with.

A lot of appraisers come from finance and accounting backgrounds and have never really been interested or perhaps adept in becoming a business developer for any number of reasons. However, when a focused initiative is taken to become a “Doer-Seller,” you will eventually become more marketable in your field and be in line to expand your responsibilities within your organization. Cold calling, which is an outmoded sales tool and a technique most people cringe at the thought of, is unnecessary to grow your client base and business volume; however, choosing to wait for clients to come to you will gain nothing.

Cross-Training, a Multi-Discipline Interaction
Many of us spend our entire careers within a certain discipline. Over time, however, you can create opportunities to become involved in engagements within a variety of other markets where you work with appraisers in other disciplines, or within your area but are involved with different kinds of projects. For instance, you may have started your career with a focus on M&E, in areas such as insurance, financing and portfolio review. However, by expanding your client base and cross-training both within and outside your discipline, you may be able to become involved with engagements covering purchase price allocation, impairment, litigation, forensic and review work.

As a result of these expanded opportunities, you will gain experience interacting with valuation professionals in the real estate, business valuation and accounting disciplines in addition to many other M&E appraisers, ultimately establishing interpersonal and working relationships with these individuals. This can be achieved regardless of where you start out and can create new career opportunities you may never have thought of before.

From this multi-disciplinary experience, you can begin to gain a sense of the valuation processes involved in these other areas. Although you may not be actually performing the day-to-day functions of a real estate or business valuation appraiser, for example, you are exposed to their markets and disciplines, and in many cases have the opportunity to become involved with the review of their work. Even if you are not working on a joint effort with your colleagues, taking the time to simply discuss your current projects can yield profitable synergies.

As a result of some of this inter-disciplinary work, you can develop cross-training materials, where one appraiser can perform site work inspections or analysis of all types of assets and gain a better understanding of the key variables that go into the other discipline’s engagements.

Whether it’s the ability to measure building square footage, pulling model and serial numbers off equipment at a manufacturing facility, or performing discounted cash flow analyses, each experience will expand your knowledge and potentially create new opportunities for your developing career. Ultimately developing a skill set that will expand your technical background and create a hybrid appraiser/business developer role should be your primary goal.

Don’t forget to practice these skills within your accounting firm as well. Strengthening the relationships with the individuals responsible for engaging your valuation team on this core part of your business is just as important.

D. Gregg Dight, ASA, is a vice president at BDO Valuation Advisors. He has been involved in the machinery and equipment valuation industry since 1985.

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