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Archive for November, 2015

Let’s face it.  As service providers in the accounting profession, not only are we expected to deliver world-class service to our clients, but it is imperative that we bring in new business to propel growth.  We work in a very competitive marketplace, thus we need to spend a lot of time and energy visiting prospects and pitching our services. When I hear that we lost an opportunity due to fees, I can’t help but wonder if we just didn’t sell our value well enough.  There will always be someone offering the same services for lower fees… sometimes much lower fees.

“Selling value” means having the ability to clearly explain how we can solve those problems which plague these prospects at that time. In order to establish the value or worth of our services and solutions, we first need to learn about the problem they are facing and how it affects the performance of their company. This can be expressed in terms of sales, profits, employee turnover, order accuracy, customer retention or satisfaction, time to market, market share, etc. Learn to ask tough, high-value questions that will help you understand the impact of the problem. Most people are uncomfortable asking deep, probing questions because they believe that the prospect will think that they are prying. However, personal experience has taught me that most key decision makers respect professionals who ask tough questions. Once we are in front of a prospect, you can ask questions such as:

  • “What are your long term goals?”
  • “Do you have a succession plan?”
  • “What is keeping you up at night?”
  • “How good are your controls?…..over cash receipts?…..cash disbursements?”
  • “How is that affecting…?”
  • “What impact is that having on customer loyalty, market share, etc.?”
  • “What is that costing you in terms of lost sales, profitability, etc.?”
  • “How important is this compared to other projects you have on your plate right now?”
  • “If we had an appropriate solution, what would that mean to your company or you personally?”

After you have determined the importance and the impact of a particular problem, you can then demonstrate the worth or value of our services to the prospect. What value do Withum professionals have to offer?

  1. We solve problems. Remember the pitch to a potential client is all about them and their pain. If we ask questions similar to those listed above and we successfully uncover why they are even entertaining us for the work, we need to demonstrate how we can provide a solution to their problem. This could include an offer to review past tax returns for free (we would charge to implement suggestions) or send out one of our internal controls people for a day to do a review of key controls (again, we would charge to implement suggestions). This will demonstrate to the potential client that we care about their business and that we are there to partner with them in making their business more successful, of course always being within the bounds of maintaining independence where necessary.
  1. We offer world-class client service. The purpose behind most everything we do at our firm revolves around the betterment of our relationships with our clients. This is the impetus behind providing ‘world-class client service.’ We fully appreciate that our clients need accounting services, but choose to work with our firm.
  1. We have deep industry expertise. We believe that to put our clients in a position of strength, we need to be at the heart of their industry. Focused industry expertise is a core attribute of our talent. Our partners and managers specialize in key lines of business to provide the best possible service, taking the time to intimately understand what drives their market — and their success.
  1. We have many long-term relationships. Our stability has permitted us to develop long-term relationships in the banking, legal and financial services fields.  With strong roots in the business community, we have built relationships which afford our clients with referrals to the finest services available in these areas. As for our clients, we have many who have been with us for nearly four decades.
  1. We offer the Withum Way Culture. Our people are smart, passionate, loyal and dedicated. We respect and care for each other, both personally and professionally. You are not just another client; you are a friend of the firm; a member of the Withum family. And we are there for our clients as a strategic partner in helping them succeed.

Please refer to our Firm brochure if you are looking for more ammunition on our value.  It’s a great tool.

Remember, if you have not fully uncovered your prospect’s problem and determined exactly how our services can help them solve a particular business issue, then our fees will always seem too high unless we happen to be the lowest priced bid. There is a significant difference between cost and worth.  And working with the talented professionals at our firm is worth the extra fees in the short-term, with the prospective client reaping the benefits of our expertise in the long-term.

Thanks and have a great week.

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In today’s MP Message, we will be covering the third topic from Jack & Suzy Welch’s book, The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career, which is: What to Make of Marketing.

In the book, the Welch’s really nail it when covering the WHY in strategic marketing. “In recent years, business-to-business marketing (or B2B) has undergone just as much change as business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing, for much the same reasons. More technology. Savvier global buyers and suppliers. Increased competitiveness. Heightened transparency.” Indeed, our clients and prospects are continually doing their homework and have higher expectations with regards to client service. The book shares two guiding principles which aptly apply to our profession:

  1. Companies need to do everything in their power to keep the B2B relationship very, very personal. Like our own personal relationships, professional relationships have to be built on trust with both sides feeling like they’re a win-win situation. You have to really know them, and they have to really know you. As it pertains to our clients, it’s worth sharing these tips again, which absolutely apply to that hot prospect you are pursuing, as well:
  • Respond to client calls or emails as quickly as possible.  A timely response makes them feel they are top priority to you, and everyone likes to feel that way.
  • Take the time to actually speak with them at least once a month, if not more often.  Pick up the phone and make a call.  Or arrange a time to stop by their offices just to see how things are.
  • Take clients out to breakfast or lunch (I call this a “meeting without an agenda”). Aside from getting to know our clients better, personally use this time to discuss what is keeping them up at night, and see if you can help find a solution. We have a deep well of talent of expertise at our firm, as well as a vast network of resources of those services we do not directly provide (insurance, investments, payroll, etc.).  We can likely help solve any problematic issue they have. Be a problem solver for our clients and elevate yourself to a trusted professional.
  • Make it a point to let our client know you value their business, and are genuinely interested in their business. Check out their website on a regular basis to see what they are up to. Share an article you just read that pertains to their industry. Let them know you truly care.
  • Don’t be afraid to get to know our clients on a personal level. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn how much you have in common.  Ask about their family; ask about their interests.  Consider sending a note on their birthday or a gift when a new grandbaby has arrived. Be a friend in business.
  1. Everything you do in B2B marketing today has to be driven by a careful analysis of industry.  What that means to us is to stay on top of the industry trends and issues that are most relevant to our clients’ businesses. Roughly five years ago, we embraced a niche-focused marketing model, as has most of the profession. It encourages us to be more strategic in our marketing efforts, helping us gain a competitive edge within industry verticals by demonstrating our expertise and putting our strongest people – our Niche Practice and Team Leaders – out to the forefront of their respective industries. We also demonstrate our expertise through our powerful website and content marketing strategy, our enhanced proposals, and our presence within industry associations as exhibitors at tradeshows, presenters at conferences and authors in their publications.

With business-to-business marketing, there’s a building of relationships in order to a) minimize clients going out to bid and b) ensure new business for the future. Buttress this with strategic thinking about capabilities, expertise and our competition… and you have a winning marketing mix.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of the thought leadership coming from The Real Life MBA.

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