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Business Development for CPAs

     -     Jul 15th, 2009   -     Accounting Marketing   -     0 Comments

Whatever stage you are in your career it is appropriate to periodically step back and ask yourself the question, “Where am I going in my career and more specifically:

  • Do I want to grow my practice to the next level?
  • Do I want to get promoted?
  • Do I want to become the “go to” person in my field?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it is imperative that you become increasingly proficient at the competency we call business and client development. In a recent survey of CPAs, 91% said that college prepared them not well, very poorly or not at all to market themselves once they joined an accounting firm. So what’s an ambitious CPA to do?

Develop Your Business Development Skills

First of all you must become comfortable with the idea of “selling” yourself and your services. One of the key findings in our research is that successful CPAs are not afraid at all of the idea of selling, i.e. looking for opportunities with prospective clients to exchange value – to provide their expertise to solve a client’s problems in exchange for billable hours/revenue.

Unfortunately too many CPAs subscribe to a belief that I call the “Field of Dreams” myth. Remember that movie with Kevin Costner? He played an Iowa farmer who believed that if he built the baseball stadium of his dreams in his corn field that people would show up to watch baseball. “Build it and they will come” was the main theme of that movie. For many CPAs that myth translates into a belief that sounds like this “Do good work and they (in this case – clients) will come.” This belief affects what choices they make about what they do and how they spend their time:

  • “I’ve got to get this done so I’ll just cancel that
    lunch I’ve got scheduled” or
  • “I’ve got to finish this work – I’ll be here late enough as it is – I’m not going to that networking meeting tonight.” or
  • I know I should probably try to speak at that conference – but I don’t have time to go and I really don’t want to fly out there for that long”

The Calling Card

One of the things we’ve learned in the research we’ve been conducting with CPAs who are successful in business development, is that these really successful CPAs have what I call a “Calling Card.”

What should be on your calling card? I want you to break out that question into two-parts as you think about your work. First, what do you love doing in the field of public accounting? And then, the second question is: What aspects of your work are you great at performing? Both of these questions will lead you to your calling card. Successful CPAs use their calling card to describe what they do with great enthusiasm.

The next thing that really successful CPAs have is a group of people who we call loyalists. These are clients and colleagues who know them and love them. Not only do your loyalists want to work with you because they respect your expertise and perspectives, they also talk about you and your services proudly – “I’ve used Shelly over at ABC accounting firm for that work and they refer others to you frequently. Successful CPAs cultivate a garden of these loyalists who think of them as their Trusted Advisor.
Do you know who your loyalists are? Are you just working with clients or are you consciously cultivating them as your loyalists? Are you spending the quality time you need with your clients to build a Trusted Advisor relationship? These loyalists are your first source of continued and new business.

And finally, successful CPAs build their visibility and credibility with their target markets by serving on charitable/professional association committees, speaking at conferences, writing articles, etc. They use whatever marketing/networking strategies that are suited to their personal and professional strengths and interests.

If you are a CPA who bristles at the work “sell” but who wants to see progress in your career, substitute the word with alternatives, such as business development or client development. No matter what you call it, you are going to have to push yourself out of your chair and get out on the street…with enthusiasm!

This is a guest blog post from Lynda McDermott, President of EquiPro International, Ltd., an international consulting and coaching firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals achieve world class results. She is a great resource and a fountain of knowledge in the area of sales training.


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