Did you know more than one in three (36%) business clients will consider switching CPAs in the next year? This finding was recently uncovered in the 2010 CCH Accounting Firm Client Survey, which pinpoints what’s most important to keeping accounting-firm clients and why they leave.
Great news if you’re looking for more new business in 2011. The study also showed of that while one-third (36%) is considering a switch, other firms are prospecting more than half (55%) of them.
So how do you capitalize on these opportunities?
Nine Surefire Tips for Success
To help you win more clients in 2011, I teamed up with some of the profession’s top business development advisors to share the top nine essentials for success:
- Redefine Your Role. “Winning business is really quite simple,” said Rick Solomon, president and CEO of RAN ONE Americas. “We’ve observed a migration of clients towards firms that are responsive to client needs, helping them produce better results. Solomon noted that that the firms at risk are the ones that continue to do the same thing every year and hope things will eventually change. “Our world has changed. There’s great opportunity for those firms who chose to redefine their roles and become results producing advisors that business owners want. The best part is that as you help clients win, you win.”
- Understand the Prospect’s Mind. “You can't afford to rest on last year's assumptions in this unpredictable, rapidly changing world,” according to Rick Telberg, president and CEO of Bay Street Group. “The biggest sales mistakes we see accountants making is: 'The Don't Ask; Don't Know' syndrome. Far too few CPAs make the effort to ask the right questions that reveal prospect's real needs and desires (view related story). It's not really about taxes or accounting to a client in 2011, it’s about:
- Sleeping well
- Creating a legacy
- Building a business
- Satisfying a stakeholder
- Living a lifestyle”
- Understanding the Buyer’s Pain.“It’s essential to have a clear understanding of the buyer’s current situation and why they want to change,” pointed out Lisa Benson, shareholder at The Growth Partnership. “Remember the old saying about making a change when the pain of staying the same, is greater than the pain of change? First, understand the buyer’s pain. Then help them understand how you can provide a different experience.” She suggests planning your questions in advance and then listening carefully to your clients’ pain points and then follow them up with more questions:
- Tell me about …
- How does that compare to …?
- How has that affected …?
- Of the issues we discussed, what would you change first?
- Help me understand why that is the most important issue for you?
- Demonstrate Results. Success in 2011 revolves around the identification of situations in which you have helped a client achieve better results, higher profits and other important milestones, reveals Allan S. Boress, CPA and author, The I-Hate-Selling Book. “These claims must be backed with short case studies, client quotes and letters of reference attesting to accomplishments.”
- Focus on Target Account Selling. “It’s critical to define your ideal target client by service line and then identify the top organizations you want on your client roster (10 to 30 depending on the niche),” advised Jennifer Wilson, partner and co-founder of ConvergenceCoaching. Wilson suggests allocating one owner for each account to research the organization and building relationships with decision-makers. “Participate in the events and networking groups they do so you are top-of-mind when they have a need for your services. There should be regular review and accountability for working your accounts.”
- Utilize a Pipeline. “Having one and managing a pipeline will enable you to keep the timing and rhythm in your sales cycles,” recommended Gale Crosley, CPA and owner of Crosley+Company. “Prospects will evaporate before your very eyes if you are haphazard and inconsistent in pursuing opportunities. Your pipeline builds discipline.”
- Plan for Sales Meetings. “Sales success involves advanced planning,” said Tamera Loerzel, partner at ConvergenceCoaching. “Don’t wait to discuss your sales approach until your drive to the meeting. Determine who should go in advance, identify who from the prospect’s organization will be in the meeting, conduct research using LinkedIn, Facebook, company websites and don’t forget to poll your firm’s leadership group.”
- Good PR Is Essential. “Good PR makes you appear much more of an expert, not only the week an article is published, but forever,” noted Wendy Nemitz, founder and principal of Ingenuity Marketing Group. Nemitz warned that with the weak economy and tightening budgets, people are becoming even more diligent and will Google your firm before doing any business with you. “If you are selling to a manufacturing firm, the article you wrote on manufacturing tax credits last year that was published in the local business journal will come right up on an Internet search,” she pointed out. “You will look smarter than your competitor.”
- Win More With Persistence. “Persistence is essential to sales success in 2011,” quipped Jean Marie Caragher, owner of Capstone Marketing. “Many CPAs lose new business opportunities because they abandon the sales process too soon. An Association of Professional Salesmen statistic tells us that 80 percent of sales are made between the fifth and twelfth contact. Think of the new business CPAs would close if they tracked their efforts and maintained contact with prospects after their competition has given up!”
2011 holds great promise for practitioners looking to win new business. Now that you know the secrets to sales success in the New Year, put them to work in your firm. Start today!
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Tracy Crevar Warren, founder of The Crevar Group, helps professional services firms win more new business and build more profitable practices. A sought-after consultant, facilitator, author and speaker, she advises clients on practice growth through marketing, sales and client service. With a proven track record and positive high-energy style, she inspires and empowers local, regional, national and international groups to do more of the work they love. She has just finished working on her first book, Bull's-Eye! The Ultimate How-to Marketing & Sales Guide for CPAs produced by the AICPA and AAM. You can reach her at 336-889-GROW (4769) or www.thecrevargroup.com. If you are looking for more practical tips to help build your practice, visit her new blog.