[IMGCAP(1)]I recently read an excellent survey report commissioned by CFO magazine, The Senior Finance Team and Corporate Purchase Decisions.

While relatively comprehensive in its scope, the most important topic, in my opinion, revolved around the factors that influence decisions among the senior finance team when considering professional providers. I thought the report was particularly interesting to my readers because it sheds new light on the importance of creating a solid value proposition when selling in a competitive environment to a larger organization (does this sound familiar)?

The No. 1 criteria ranked most often as “extremely important” was “attention to your company’s specific needs.” This may come as a surprise to you – because perhaps you thought it was industry experience, or price, or a personal referral to you as a provider. However, these items ranked lower and in some cases significantly lower.

So, what does that mean to you? It means that you need to do a better job of asking good questions during the discovery process so you better understand the prospects’ specific needs. That means going beyond questions that center around the “audit” or acute services requested to understanding what the company most needs from its professional services provider. It means finding out what they didn’t like about their previous provider (as well as what they liked).

It also means that we need to understand the strategic direction of the organization or their short, medium and long-term goals. Because the role and responsibility of the corporate finance department continues to rapidly evolve, the needs from this suite will continue to evolve as well.  

Once you’ve found out the answer to these questions, and others that help you uncover key needs, you need to formulate your response to these into a compelling and valuable value proposition for the prospect. For example, if they stated “their previous provider didn’t provide enough ideas proactively to address their evolving concerns” why not offer, as part of your engagement, a quarterly strategic discussion between them and top members of the firm’s leadership team? If they stated they were concerned with the evolution of IFRS and how it would change their reporting and finance department, why not build in a discussion with your resident IFRS expert on how other clients have addressed similar challenges?

Then, we need to effectively communicate these value propositions in our proposal and presentation. Does it sound like these components are more important than the fees, industry expertise, bios of our partners, or engagement approach? Yes. Then, they need to come before these items when you are communicating why you are the best provider. Don’t hide your value propositions in the back of the pitch; lead with them!

So, if you find that you are not doing a great job of winning new business in competitive situations, ask yourself how well you craft value propositions that demonstrate you understand and can solve your prospects’ specific needs. This approach may just make the difference between winning and losing your next new client.  

Art Kuesel, director of practice growth and marketing consulting services for Koltin Consulting Group, helps CPA firms across the country hone and maximize their growth plans, build effective marketing and sales efforts, coach partners and managers to greater success and add revenue to the top line. Koltin Consulting serves CPA, law and financial advisory firms with strategic growth, M&A services, executive recruiting and management consulting services. Art can be reached at 312-662-6010 or akuesel@koltin.com.