What Do Clients Really Want

Marketing tips for accountants (3 of 3)

Here is the last installment of this 3 post series on marketing tips by Harry Kafka @ HDK Consultants.

How do you get prospects interested in changing over to your accounting services?

Let me dispense of a myth first: You don’t make a difference by using superlatives about your own skills and superiority.

See. EVERYONE does that already, so that’s NOT DIFFERENT.

Quite the contrary… by using the traditional marketing & presentation methods only serve to prove conclusively that you’re THE SAME as their current accountant.

He, too, did just that. He told them how great he is, how good his services are… and now the business owner KNOWS it was all “not true.”

What we have to understand here is that the human thinking evolves around self-made truths.

What’s true for him is true… and that’s the long and short of it.

The problem here is that if you try to reason with someone whose self-made certainty is based on a negative FEELING, they just refuse to accept “your truth” and the more you try, the more they’ll stick to their view… and the harder it becomes to convince him or her otherwise.

So the solution is that you DON’T try to “talk sense” to them at all.

Instead, you let THEM tell you how “useless all accountants are…”

The way this is done involves quite a lot of skill though. It needs to be done so that the prospect realises on his own a few things along the way.

See you next post,

James E

Marketing tips for accountants (2 of 3)

Following on from the last post, here is a continuation of the article by Harry Kafka @ HDK Consultants.

WHY THEY DON’T CHANGE ACCOUNTANTS?

As things stand, the “negative ignorance” out there about accounting ensures that business owners do NOT CHANGE accountants easily.

Let’s compare it to a car and the difference becomes evident. Everyone is eager to change their car, provided the car isn’t brand new and they can afford to change… and often even when they can’t.

Why? Well, because a new, better, bigger, faster, fancier vehicle represents POSITIVE things.

They UNDERSTAND the values that come with a better, newer model of an automobile.

Status, pride of ownership, pleasure of the ride, sense of fulfilment… all positive things.

Now, let me assure you that research shows most business owners are DISSATISFIED with their current accounting services.

And yet, they DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE ACCOUNTANTS.

Not only would it be “free of charge” (as the new service would not cost that much more than the one they’re already paying for) but the BENEFITS of a better service would far outweigh any problems of transition… you’d think, right?

But it’s not so.

It’s not so because they’re negative about accounting and emotions take over.

We all know that where people react emotionally, logic goes out the window.

We make silly decisions if upset… and some say we make equally illogical decisions when in love.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the operating principle with most business owners in this matter is…

“…better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”

Believe it or not, THEIR basic thinking is that “all accountants are the same so why go into the trouble and expense of CHANGING?”

“Once you’ve seen one accounting professional you’ve seen them all,” in other words.

This lengthy explanation actually shows WHY you (like most other accounting professionals) find it so very difficult to acquire new clients.

The problem is that you offer “an identical accounting service” (as seen by business owners) so they don’t see any reason to CHANGE.

You don’t change a dollar to a dollar… that’s the logic here on their part.

To create interest for your services in order to sign on new clients, you need to offer something BETTER.

One more post will round out this mini-series of marketing tips.

Bye for now,

James E

Marketing tips for accountants (1 of 3)

I was doing some research on the web a while back  and came across some excellent material put out by a group called HDK Consultants in the UK. Here is what I found – its is definitely a worthwhile read!

“I was a CFO at a software company, moved back into public practice which I haven’t done since college. Been a year now and have 5 accounting clients. How do I attract business?”

Essentially, there are a few “hidden” barriers to acquiring new accounting clients.

First and foremost, the average accounting / CPA client simply does NOT understand the service he receives.

This is due to his lack of knowledge in accounting procedures and financial planning.

Additionally, the necessity to use accounting services – to keep books, to file annual reports, taxes, collect sales tax and whatnot – is enforced upon him by legislation, and not something he does voluntarily.

I’m not taking a stand for or against taxation or legislation here, merely pointing out that anything we are ORDERED to do under threat of punishment does NOT bring about POSITIVE feelings.

Thus, we have TWO main factors here, both of which make the average business owner negative about all that has to do with accounting.

He doesn’t understand the information he receives from his accountant and he doesn’t like having to pay for it.

Subsequently, he feels negative about his accountant TOO although it’s illogical.

YOU are there to HELP him handle these demands set by the government, YOU didn’t legistlate those laws, right?

Right you are… but here enter the frailties of human thinking where it is based on negative emotions.

“I don’t know and I don’t care” becomes the “defence” against any sensible advise from the accountant.

Tune in next time to read the next installment from the chaps @ HDK!

Bye for now,

James E

Are you a proactive accountant?

Recently I was talking to a bunch of accountants who either ran or were employed by small firms. I get a kick out of meeting accountants and having the opportunity to get to know them and better understand their views on serving clients both big & small.

One of the ice breakers I use when speaking to small groups is to go around the room and ask for people to share three things. 1. Their name, 2. How long they have been in professional practice, and 3. One unusual feature of their practice.

The first two questions usually bring standard answers. However, the third question generates some very interesting and often insightful responses. One chap I asked had the following answer to question 3. “James … We call our client filing areas by first names – Trevor, Brendan, Florence etc… Each name represents a different type of filing area dependent on points in the client work flow.” I asked this chap why the names. He replied, “It’s much easier to say to each other ‘take this file to Trevor’, ‘Brendan has that file’ and so on. Of course they just have to make sure they don’t employ anyone in the future with the sane first names!

The insights of the above response I came away with was that this firm had a sense of fun, friendliness and didn’t take themselves too seriously. That being said – I got the impression that they are very professional in the work they do.

On the other end of the spectrum there was a gentlemen who in response to question 3 said the following, “I never phone a client. They always phone me for my help” With complete respect to the chap who made this statement, I think the sentiment behind it is rather poor and self-serving. One of the big themes of this blog, the book I authored & the speaking I’ve done over the last year is that clients want their accountants to be proactive. Unfortunately the above chap doesn’t fit into what most clients in the market want.

I hope you fall into the proactive group rather than the other bunch.

See you next post,

James E

A question all accounting partners should ask themselves

Had an interesting experience the other day. I was presenting to a group of partners & principals about the importance of understanding the mindset of their clients and prospective clients. The presentation went well with lots of good interaction and wars stories shared.

After the seminar I was chatting with one of the attendees and he shared the following frustration with me.

James – 95% of what you shared today was spot on. It was good, solid and compelling stuff. The problem that I have, as the head of my firm, is that we hear what is said today, agree that we have to change the way we do things, get all excited and then go back to our office and fall into the familiar cycle of doing what we do the same old way and not changing. What do I have to do to break this cycle?

You might be reading this and thinking the same thing.

I put a few questions to this head of firm about the personality make up of his partners & staff and their attitude to trying new things and their willingness to step outside their comfort zone. As I expected he told me that there is a real mix – some have the “right attitude” and some are willing to leave their comfort zone. I would like to think that the some that the managing partner was referring to equated to more than half of his partners and staff.

At this point I usually ask the following question, “What proportion of your partners would respond well to the following challenge?”

The challenge: Come 1 July next year – all of your client relationships will be given to other partners within the firm. You will have a blank sheet to start building a client list from scratch.

In the above situation of the managing partner he answered that 2 of his 8 partners would be up to that challenge – himself and one other. So 25%. Hmmm – is that sufficient? I honestly don’t know.

The ironic thing about it is, from a client perspective they want the accounting profession to be more proactive. The above challenge is not a bad start!

See you next post.

James E

 

Do first impressions count?

A while back I met a chap in a park walking his dog who, after a chat while we were both cleaning up after our dogs, introduced himself as a business growth specialist. Given the environment in which we met neither of us had a business card with us. Since then we have run into each other at least another 3 times. Still no luck – no business card on either side.

Lets call our dog-walking friend Danny as in Danny DeVito. I liked Danny he was friendly, appeared to be enthusiastic and passionate about his discipline and was articulate in the value that he delivered for his clients. He looked (not his dress of course but his manner), sounded and behaved like a real professional.

Just the other day I ran into Danny again and hazzar he had a business card on him. He said he was in a rush, gave me the card and sped off.  As Danny semi-jogged his way with his dog to the other side of the park I look down at the card he gave me. Up to this point I believed Danny was a seasoned professional, well versed in his discipline and ready to add value to his clients. When I looked at his card my heart just sank.  Here is what I saw …

  • The card was printed on some sort of heavy paper (about 120gsm) the type you get printed at those business card vending machines you see at airports.
  • The design/layout was quite up to the standard of what my 13 year old son can do on MS Publisher.
  • Danny didn’t have his own domain. So his email address read “danny@yahoo.com”
  • No website

I could go on but I think you get the idea. Now a lot of you reading this work with big accounting firms, law firms and consultancies – you’re probably ok but there is always room for improvement. Why not ask a friend or contact outside of your market for a frank opinion of your logo, business card & website? You might just get a surprise.

By the way … Danny’s area of special expertise and client service offering? Marketing. Oh brother!

All my best,

James E.

How to get clients (1 of 4)

Do you have trouble getting clients? If so, please read on.

I was speaking at a seminar last week to a bunch of accountants. A young chap approached me during the break and shared some of the concerns he had about his own firm.

“James – how do I get new clients?”, he opened up to me. “I’ve been working with my father in his accounting practice for the last few years and things are going fine with our current client base but I’m finding it really difficult to attract or get new clients. How do I do it?”

This young chap was sincere, enthusiastic and energetic. I could sense that he was frustrated with his efforts to date and I really wanted to help him out. In the little time we had, I wanted to know what his thinking was when he approached potential clients. I asked him how he started off the conversation with these people. “What I usually do James is to tell them about my firm and what we do”

Let’s stop right there. This young guy has fallen into the same trap that the majority of accountants (and other professional advisers for that matter) can’t seem to help falling into.

Does it make sense to tell the person you are meeting with that you are an accountant and you provide the following A, B, C & D services? Is it safe to assume that the person you are meeting with already knows that you’re an accountant? I would think yes. So why oh why do most accountants in meetings with potential clients, in their marketing material and websites spend an inordinate amount of time & effort telling the world who they are and what they do? We’ll unpack this question later in this series of posts.

Let’s go back a step. Why is the person meeting with you in the first place? Is it a referral, a favour to a friend or perhaps the outcome of a successful cold call?

Hmmm – lots of questions. Over the next few posts I’m going to share with you how you can get clients. The strategy & tactics I will outline will help you differentiate your practice from the rest of the market – or at least those who don’t read this blog 🙂

Bye for now,

James E

One great way to win a new client

A while ago I was in a meeting with the CEO of a well-known architectural firm in Sydney. This particular CEO really knows his stuff – he is on the ball, has a good head for the big picture & detail and when he needs the right advice from external professionals he seeks out only the very best he can afford. He is one of those client-types who take people on face value, but at the same time will check and validate an advisers skill set, experience and reputation within his own network which usually consists of friends, colleagues, other business owners and sometimes clients of the adviser he is wanting to bring on.

Most CEOs, CFOs and business owners are not like the CEO I met above either because they’re time poor or have other reasons for not doing what they need to do.  A lot of them take the default position and think we can’t go wrong if we hire a “Big Four firm” when they need external accounting help. However, that might not be the right fit for the need at hand.

All accountants from both the big end of end and the small end need to make it simple and straightforward for their clients and prospective clients to “check them out” How does one do this? Simple. Invite your prospective client and a current client to a conveniently located cafe, introduce them to each other, buy them each a coffee & cake and then leave. If you are a half decent accountant that has done the right thing by their client(s) the words your client shares with your prospect will be far more valuable and authentic than anything you can possibly say! They will take care of the sale for you 🙂

Keep well and see you next post.

James E

Increase your fees by not selling!

Last week I was reading a great article on the Forbes website written by Mike Myatt. It doesn’t speak specifically about professional services but it presents a strong case for not selling when wanting to build your business revenue. Confused? Read on … The full article can be found at http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/05/01/to-increase-revenue-stop-selling/

Creating or expanding business relationships is not about selling – it’s about establishing trust, rapport, and value creation without selling. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to talk to someone who wants to manage my account, develop my business, or engineer my sale. I want to communicate with someone who desires to fulfill my needs or solve my problems. Any organization that still has “sales” titles on their org charts and business cards is living in another time and place, while attempting to do business in a world that’s already passed them by.

Engage me, communicate with me, add value to my business, solve my problems, create opportunity for me, educate me, inform me, but don’t try and sell me – it won’t work. An attempt to sell me insults my intelligence and wastes my time. Think about it; do you like to be sold? News flash – nobody does. Now ask yourself this question, do you like to be helped? Most reasonable people do. The difference between the two positions while subtle, is very meaningful.

The traditional practice of sales as a business discipline has become at best ineffective, and in many cases flat out obsolete. You see, good business practices are not static. Stale methodologies and disciplines simply die a slow and very painful death, and it is my contention the overwhelming majority of sales processes I see in today’s marketplace are The problem with many sales organizations is they still operate with the same principles and techniques they were using in the 60′s, 70’s and 80’s. While the technology supporting sales process have clearly evolved, the traditional sales strategies proffered by sales gurus 20 or 30 years ago have not kept pace with market needs. They are not nearly as effective as they once were, and as I’ve alluded to, in most cases they are obsolete.

Trust me when I tell you that your existing and potential clients have heard it all before. They can see the worn-out, old school closes coming a mile away. They can sniff antiquated selling strategies, and will immediately tune out on presentations not deemed relevant. If your sales force is still FAB-selling, spin-selling, soft-selling or using any number of outdated, one size fits all selling methodologies, your sales are suffering whether you realize it or not. If you want to create revenue, increase customer satisfaction, and drive brand equity, stop selling and start adding value.

Lest you think I’ve lost my mind, I want to be clear that I’m not advocating taking your eye off the revenue creation ball. Rather what I’m recommending will help you generate more revenue, with greater velocity by simply doing the right thing in putting your customer’s needs first.

I hear a lot of noise about the tough economy, and revenue being down for many companies. I hear complaint upon complaint that companies just don’t have money to spend, and that nobody is buying. If you’re experiencing this type of reaction from your customer, it’s not because they don’t have money to spend, it’s because you’re selling and not adding value. It’s because you’re talking and not listening. It’s because you don’t get it…

It’s not about you, your company, your products or your services. It’s about meeting customer needs and adding value. When you start paying more attention to your customer needs than your revenue needs, you’ll find you no longer have a revenue problem to complain about.

Not much to add here folks!

What do you think?

All my best,

James

 

Accountants – sell yourself!

As you will notice from time to time I like to bring you the best of what I’m reading around the place.

Here is an extract from a blog from entrepreneur.com (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/220658) that is an excellent reminder that EVERYONE – tinker tailor soldier baker and accountant is involved in the art and science that is SELLING! So often I meet partners, directors and managers within accounting firms both big and small who see “selling” as beneath them – believe it or not.

As a business owner, you’re in sales whether you think so or not. Every day you have to sell yourself — and your product or service — to grow your business. If you’re not sure you have the personality to succeed in selling, consider these 13 simple rules to create a superstar sales mindset.

1. Stay hungry. Every good salesperson I’ve ever encountered is driven. They have a strong work ethic and a high energy level. They work harder and longer than their peers. When the economy is poor, they are still out there pounding the pavement, making calls.

2. Never compromise your integrity. I’ve always believed that telling the truth is the best policy. In business, especially today, it’s a must. A few years back, the Forum Corporation in Boston studied 341 salespeople from 11 different companies in five different industries. Their purpose was to determine what separated the top producers from the average producers. When the study was finished, the results were startling. It was not skill, knowledge or charisma that divided the pack. The difference came down to one trait: honesty. When customers trust salespeople, they buy from them.

3. Stay positive. Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. Success is 90 percent mental. You can alter your life by altering your mind. In tough economies, it may not be your fault for being down, but it is certainly your fault for not getting up. You have to be a believer to be an achiever.

4. Be authoritative. Sales superstars know their products backward and forward. They also know their competitors’ products and are prepared to point out the differences.

5. Get prepared. I still remember the old Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.” Well, it’s true. It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to produce spectacular results.

6. Mind your reputation. You can’t buy a good reputation — you must earn it. If you don’t have a positive reputation, it will be difficult to be successful in whatever you do.

7. Be genuine. I have never known anyone to buy from someone they don’t like. Likability matters. Are you genuine? Pleasant? Easy to talk with?

8. Put your best foot forward. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Are you neat and well groomed? Underdressed or overdressed?

9. Set goals. Winners set goals; losers make excuses. Goals give you more than a reason to get up in the morning; they are an incentive to keep you going all day. They must be measurable, identifiable, obtainable, specific — and put them in writing.

10. Become a customer-service fanatic. I’ve often said the sale begins when the customer says yes. Good salespeople make sure the job gets done on time— and done right. There’s one thing no business has enough of: customers. Take care of the customers you’ve got, and they’ll take care of you. You must have a fanatical attention to detail.

11. Remember to listen. You can’t learn anything with your mouth open. For too many people, good listening means, “I talk, you listen.” Listening is a two- way process. Yes, you need to be heard, but you also need to hear others’ ideas, questions and objections. If you talk at people instead of with them, they’re not buying in — they’re caving in.

12. Keep it all in perspective. It is impossible to underrate the importance of a sense of humor. When there are inevitable setbacks along the way, learn to laugh about them.

13. Develop a thirst for self-improvement. You don’t go to school once for a lifetime. You are in school all your life. Sales superstars are constantly working to become better. They take courses, read books, listen to audiotapes and inhale everything they can to improve.

Bottom Line: A salesperson tells, a good salesperson explains… and a sales superstar demonstrates.

Nothing more to add here!

See you next post,

James E