Why is BD an Important Skill for Accountants?



Crucial to the operation of an enterprise, ­Business Development (BD) is not solely to do with the skill of winning business for your firm, but also the ability to market your brand as well as being a proficient networker.

Forbes magazine took an opportunity to comment on the subject, by revealing that ultimately BD is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships. Therefore suggesting that creating long-term value is the best way to succeed in a consistently growing organization.

Successful professionals understand the benefit of long-term value as it converts to greater profit generation. Their strategy is simple, you need the clientele and to obtain the clientele you'll need marketing and networking to create relationships. This may seem like a simple enough equation, however it can be more challenging when it comes to a business such as a public accounting firm. 

What many CPAs at firms of all sizes fail to understand is how to effectively connect the dots between marketing, and successfully winning new clients. As such, many neglect to develop the skills necessary for marketing their services. Part of this problem stems from the fact that accountants are not necessarily hardwired to sell. When dealing with an existing client, and suspecting that the client could benefit from other services provided by the firm, some professionals will still say, "they would have asked if they needed it". Whether it's at a smaller sized firm or one of the Big 4 firms, traditionally, firms rely on the "rainmakers" to score the clients, without whom there would be no business and this "lone ranger" mentality still exists throughout the profession. Everyone who runs a professional service firm (PSF) understands the danger of putting all bets on too few clients, however it's hard not to be complacent when deep pockets and long-term assignments come their way. Small firms in particular tend to throw all hands on deck to manage these engagements, while long term planning and BD to open doors to new clients tend to be forgotten.

Though one may hope, prized rewards usually do not occur over night. It may take months, a year or years to convert a prospect into a client.  It is important to understand that a generic approach to BD will only yield limited results. It will take greater diversity in strategic BD planning in order to create as many opportunities for your firm to gain greater exposure.

According to Jim Turley, Chairman of Ernst & Young Global, “At EY, the client is the center of the universe.” As a major global PSF, the organisation's large base of clientele with their wide spectrum of needs require the delivery of consistent services. As a result EY has adopted a multi-level and account-centric client approach in order to deliver its services.

Here is a list of suggestions CPAs might find useful in order to build an effective marketing strategy:

1.  Have a well-defined image of the ideal client you are seeking. Prospective clients will also have done some research and shortlisted your own firm. Therefore it may be a good idea for your firm's website and the LinkedIn business page to address the clients' top questions.

2. When it comes to networking, strategy goes a long way, as you'd want to invest time in groups where you are likely to meet quality prospects that fit the ideal client profile. An example of this is taking a client or prospective client to lunch or dinner, as you are not just engaging them, but also gaining the chance to access his/her network.

3. Target events in the business community with enough consistency and commit to being present in order to develop a strong reputation and gain traction with prospective clients.

4. Do not underestimate the power of social networking and share the content you create for your website on social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

5. Ensure that your existing clients are aware of all the services that your firm offers.

6. Do not be afraid to ask for referrals.

7. When introducing yourself differentiate yourself from your firm and articulate how the firm adds value for the clients beyond the services you offer.

8. Practitioners in smaller or rural communities especially need to engage with the community. Joining a local association and presenting a seminar on the latest tax issues is a good example of this.

9. When meeting with a prospective client, always be prepared. Research the organization; devise a list of important and relevant questions long before walking through the door.

To truly grow the business and stand out, top firms use these strategies not only to expand their clientele but also to provide quality services. Implementing a BD strategy early on in your career will outline your firm's strengths from the outset, which will effectively assist you in providing the best services to the ideal clientele.  Furthermore, you will be growing your own brand as an accounting individual, win-win!

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Posted on Thursday Mar 3
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