Accounting firms that depend on compliance services, such as tax preparation and auditing, to drive business may see their client base dwindle sooner than later, warns Angie Grissom, President, and Scott Moore, Executive Vice President, The Rainmaker Companies. This is a fact supported by a recent Wolters Kluwer white paper that reports that a third of clients are looking to switch accounting firms.
For a quarter of a century, The Rainmaker Companies have helped hundreds of accounting firms keep their clients and grow their business, even in the midst of unprecedented competition, by helping them quickly advance themselves from mere vendors, who handle tax preparation and audits, to trusted business advisors.
Fortunately, accounting firms start out with an advantage, notes Angie. “Statistics show that accountants are viewed as the most trusted advisor, even above law firms,” she explains.
But while accountants may be viewed as trustworthy, accounting firms must actively seek to build the kind of relationships that will ensure they will always outpace the competition. Angie and Scott outline four strategies to achieve this:
- Understand how your prospects acquire accounting services.
Leadership should understand the steps companies go through to buy their services, notes Scott.“They should know why clients have a need for their services, the options they consider in the buying process, and then what prompts them to move forward and close the deal,” he explains. “From there, you can build a framework that will help your staff sell services based on the questions they should be asking at each stage of the sales process.”
- Communicate thoughtfully.
“Don’t be blind to how you’re perceived, because we’re in a trust business,” advises Angie. “To be known as someone who can be trusted, you must understand how you communicate and how others prefer to communicate.”She explains that while most accountants tend to be conscientious, task-oriented and introverted, client CEOs are often direct, fast-paced and decisive. So it can be easy for them to perceive accountants as passive, and therefore, not fully trust them.“It comes down to you being aware of how you’re perceived and matching more closely the preferred communication style of the client you’re working with,” she says.
- Do your homework.Understand the issues your client may be facing, learn their industry, then ask relevant questions about their most pressing issues, advises Angie. For instance, if their industry is known for high capital investment in facilities, find out whether that’s true for your client. If so, ask if you can explore potential tax savings.
She also advises:
- Learning about their business. Find out what motivated them to get into their line of work so you understand what’s most important to them.
- Discovering how cash flow has affected their business. Have they been able to accomplish their objectives? Can they invest in new technology and talent? If your firm is able to help with any cash-flow issues, how would that positively impact their business?
“Don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions,” insists Scott. “Be prepared. You can bring in a big slide deck that talks about the great things you can do, or you can ask smart questions that help you get to know their space, and show that you’ve done your homework and know where their business is heading.
“The latter puts the focus squarely where it should be: on the client. And it demonstrates your interest in where they’re going.”
- Take advantage of technology.“Just like accounting has processes and formulas for accomplishing goals, meeting growth goals is similar in that it also has a framework, and a process and many moving parts and pieces,” notes Scott. “Without technology, it’s very difficult to keep everyone, especially in larger firms, on the same page – whether that’s moving and tracking opportunities through a pipeline or understanding relationships. If we’re doing a good job with those relationships, there will be thousands of them which will ideally will involve multiple people.”
“Anything you can find on LinkedIn, the media, or other online sources will absolutely strengthen client relationships,” adds Angie. “It will give insight into your target client base. Technology can help you gather this insight in ways that we couldn’t imagine five years ago. So harnessing this technology to advance opportunity is absolutely critical.”
The best type of technology to easily and effortlessly move opportunities forward is CRM automation. It provides a complete, accurate, up-to-the-second view of your prospects and clients, because it works with your CRM to continuously enrich client information from internal and external sources with no data entry.
Furthermore, this information is delivered directly to your team wherever they are – on their laptop, mobile device, or tablet. It’s packaged in the format they prefer, such as Word or Excel, so they can effortlessly see client issues and opportunities, including:
- Internal communication
- Relationships within the organization
- Activities within the organization.
- The strength of those relationships, and much more
By instantly transforming data into actionable insights, CRM automation easily provide the details you need to engage clients more effectively by proactively addressing their needs. See how it works.
If you want to accelerate your accounting firm’s growth, don’t miss the AICPA 2017 Engage Conference. On June 12, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., there will be two excellent seminars:
- Building the Vital Skills of Growth Leaders, a workshop by Scott and Angie. They will discuss, in detail, how to guide a team of accountants through the process of winning, retaining and growing profitable clients.
- Marketing Automation Bootcamp, a workshop by Danny Estrada, E Squared, and Kyle Chandler, Hileman Group. They will discuss how to use digital marketing and marketing automation to advance your business development.