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With so much in the world in disarray and businesses feeling like they are in limbo or worse, it may seem like the wrong time to focus much attention on business development at your firm. However, business development is just as important now as ever, if not even more. Needs are there for our prospects — they just may not look the same as they once did, even a month ago.

We know that the business development lifecycle for CPA firms takes months or years to build, so there is no reason to assume there’s not an opportunity because of the current crisis. You want to be careful in how you approach your prospects in your manner of messaging and communication, but that doesn’t mean the opportunities are not there.

First, in circumstances like these, empathy goes a long way when communicating with prospects. The landscape perspective you provide as a CPA advisor is valuable in that it offers a 30,000-foot view of a complicated situation. Find a way to communicate what you’re seeing with your clients to your potential prospects in a way that they can relate to. Sharing that perspective and knowledge, ideally with some solutions, can endear you to a prospect as a helpful and useful resource during troubling times.

Additionally, recognize that many of your services are important but not urgent. There’s no doubt that compliance deadlines create a sense of urgency, but when a business owner has several other issues on their minds, including navigating cost-cutting, furloughs or layoffs, emergency economic relief, and just trying to survive, some of the compliance tasks go by the wayside. That’s where advisory comes in.

So, you’re keeping the crisis in perspective and adopting an empathetic approach. How can you ensure your firm keeps a foot on the gas pedal during these uncertain times? How are you adapting your approach, and what can you provide that a prospect will need now and in the future? Here are some tips:

1. Recognize that everyone has a need right now. It may not be tax or accounting — perhaps it is assistance with SBA disaster relief or Paycheck Protection Program loans. Even just reaching out during this time to ask, “How is it going,” can go a long way with your prospects that you’ve been nurturing for some time. Pivot the conversation away from “Are you ready to make a move?” and instead ask how you can be of service. After all, we pride ourselves on being more than just accountants — we’re advisors.

2. Without being opportunistic, realize that your prospects may be in a frustrated place and not receiving the help they need from their current accountant. They could be disenchanted depending on how well their current advisor is handling working from home. Poor technology infrastructure or excess distractions can leave these clients feeling like they’re treading water on their own while their current CPA gets up to speed. If they’re not feeling the love, they may be looking to make a change. Feel them out with empathy, and offer your services with restraint and discretion. Nothing is easy for anyone right now, so know that they won’t take switching accountants lightly.

3. Invest in product development. There’s no doubt that when we emerge from this crisis, businesses are going to have an advisory and strategy need — maybe that’s a stronger contingency or business interruption plans. How can you, as advisors, fill that need with your knowledge and tools? Once prospects are out of survival mode, they can think about how to plan for better outcomes in future situations like these. How can you blend audit, tax, estate planning and business defense into an advisory service that makes you invaluable to the prospect? Rally mission control and invest some thought into how you can improve your services to better meet the needs of your current and future clients so you’re ready when the time comes.

What I’ve been hearing, without question, is that our clients need us more than ever. So why shouldn’t our prospects whom we’ve been nurturing over the months before this crisis be the same? While affordability may be in question, the need itself remains, which translates into business development. At times like these, everyone needs a strong advisor in their corner. This is a time for you to show up and be that advisor.

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Client strategies Client acquisition Coronavirus Accounting firm services Growth strategies