This past week seven co-workers from Albany, NY hit the Mega Millions jackpot, and claimed the $319M payout. These “lucky seven” are the latest to win big despite improbable odds. Try 175-plus million to one. As we watch stories like this unfold, especially when our nation struggles to rebound, it’s no wonder that many look to Lady Luck as a strategy for success.
It’s also no secret that the stakes to win big in the fragile business environment are higher than ever. Just consider the latest odds revealed in the 2010 CCH Accounting Firm Client Survey. One in three business clients will consider a new CPA firm this year, and over half of them have already been contacted by another firm. It’s becoming clear that retaining clients is no longer a game of chance. As a result, many practitioners and their firms are rethinking their sales strategies by working smarter to claim substantial payouts that can result from earning more targeted business.
Cash in on Five Winning Strategies
With the busy season finish line clearly in sight, now is the time to build a winning hand that you can count on by taking greater control of your business-development initiatives. As you get started, here are five strategies to help you and your firm win all the new business you want.
- Stack the Deck in Your Favor With a Game Plan. To win the new business jackpot in this highly competitive marketplace, it is essential to create and follow a sound game plan. Think about it this way. You have a plan for the audits you conduct and the tax returns you prepare, so why shouldn’t you have one for your sales endeavors? Here are the essentials:
- Clear, measurable goals
- Well-defined targeted audience
- Carefully planned strategies and tactics to reach your audience
- Consistent on-going initiatives
- Clearly defined expectations and roles for each professional
- Specific timelines
- Regular systems for accountability and tracking
- Prepare to Win. Today’s clients are more demanding than ever. That means crafting your sales strategy on the way to the meeting is no longer an option. Chances are high that they will have done their homework on you and your firm well in advance of your initial meeting, and they’ll expect you to do the same and more. Bottom line? They want to see big things from you, and that is going to take thoughtful preparation. Here is a sample checklist to get started:
- If your firm doesn’t hold a pre-call planning session prior to each sales call, it’s time to start.
- Research the company and its decision makers.
- Learn what’s happening with the organization and the industry.
- Find out whether there have been any recent changes in top management.
- Determine similar clients you serve and their key issues.
- Identify potential opportunities to score points with the prospect, i.e., new services for problem resolution, new processes for operational improvement.
- Identify who in your firm is best suited for the call.
- Determine what role each member of your team should play on the call (i.e. leader, moderator, industry or subject expert, scribe).
- Develop an agenda for the call based on the talking points you want to cover.
- Debrief each call upon your return:
- Do you want to pursue the prospect?
- Can you win the business? If so, what will be required?
- Is the investment of time worth the payoff?
- Are there other decision-makers you will need to impress?
- What are your competitive advantages? Short comings?
- What are the next steps?
- Build a Winning Hand by Understanding Their Changing Needs. If you want to win and keep a client these days, it’s essential to understand their changing needs. According to the CCH study, the top reason clients consider leaving their CPA is when the firm does not check with them regularly on their changing needs. Today’s busy client is looking for an advisor who not only understands their business environment, but can provide new ideas and guidance to meet their evolving needs. It’s about providing insight into where the business is heading and how to help them along the way.
Asking questions is the single most effective way to understand your prospect’s changing needs. Keep in mind that no two businesses are alike. Just because you understand one doesn’t mean you know what is on the minds of those you are presently courting or serving. Posing questions regularly is also the best way to demonstrate how much you care about their evolving needs. Consider adding these questions to your regular lineup:
- What’s new with you and your organization since our last meeting?
- What impact do these developments have on your goals?
- Will these developments change your present course? If so, how?
- In what ways has the economic crisis impacted your organization’s objectives?
- What are the top priorities that you are working toward? What are the timeframes for each?
- As the economy starts to rebound are there goals you identified prior to the economic downturn that you are considering once again? If so, can you help me understand them?
- Double Down With Essential Value Questions. Next it is critical to understand what your prospects value in the way of deliverables from their trusted advisors. If you are unable to learn what is truly important to them, how can you possibly deliver them? Consider these questions as you meet with potential clients:
- What deliverables are essential for your advisor to provide regularly?
- Help me understand the type of guidance you want from an advisor like me.
- What do you value most in your current relationship with your advisory firm?
- Are there areas in which you are not receiving the value that you are looking for from your current advisors? If so, please explain.
- Show Them the Money. Who can forget the infamous phone conversation from the movie Jerry McGuire in which Cuba Gooding Jr. wanted Tom Cruise to show him the money? Although it was a scene from a Hollywood script, nothing could be more true to winning and keeping a client these days. Not only do business leaders want to achieve greater profitability and bottom-line results, they want to see other benefits for operational improvement. Whether its quicker turnarounds or better efficiency to name a couple, it is essential that you help them understand how you can deliver the goods. One of the most effective ways to do this is through the use of success stories and examples. Help them understand the types of results you can bring by using simple terms they can understand. Don’t fret, no client names are required. Once they learn how you can help them achieve greater results, you will be well on your way to landing their business.
Isn’t it time to build a winning hand that you can count on? With some purposeful action in the business-development area now, you will be well on your way to hitting the new business jackpot!
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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.