Most accounting professionals are capable of developing business if they understand the process. Business development skills, like most skills we learn in life, need to be built one step at a time. Here are a few ideas that may help put client development in perspective as well as help you improve your business development skills.
A good place to start developing business with existing clients is through cross-selling your firm’s other services. Professionals who are good at cross-selling attribute their success to these best practices:
- They make their firm’s range of services well known to existing contacts and clients
- They work at developing contacts in other areas of the business because they know that at some point an important problem or issue will arise where their firm can be of assistance.
- They maintain close personal relations with their contacts to reinforce a sense of understanding and trust.
- They keep in touch with their contacts even when they are not doing any work for that client.
Once you’ve gained cross-selling experience, the next step is to start honing these skills on new contacts that you’ve developed through your networking efforts. Too often business development activities with new contacts fail simply because they are done in “fits and starts” — one call on a prospect, one get-together with another, and one lunch with yet another prospect. To be successful with new contacts requires both continuity and persistence. You must invest in relationships and continually reinforce your presence and capabilities to ensure that you immediately “come to mind” when people need help with an issue or problem.
If you are not willing to be patient and meet with a prospective client numerous times, your networking and marketing efforts will be wasted. Because of the number of exposures required to move to the selling phase of a relationship, it is much more effective to concentrate your business development efforts on a few carefully selected prospects rather than spread yourself over too wide an audience.
It is also important to understand that a prospect is usually “buying” what a firm has done for other clients. However, even if you have done all the right marketing things to convince a prospect of your firm’s expertise, many professional service contracts are still made on the basis of relationships. Therefore, when the assignment you’ve been chasing is given to some one else, it’s often because of the closer relationship this individual has with the prospect.
Business development efforts must be customised to the prospective client. That means that you need to know a lot about the person or company you are targeting, and then develop an approach that is geared to meet the prospect’s specific needs. Most prospective clients want to work with a professional who shows a genuine interest in them and is knowledgeable about their field.
Developing new business is important for all accounting professionals. Not only will success in business development lead to increased income for you and your partners; it can also make your accounting practice more rewarding and a lot more fun. Bringing in new clients gives you the opportunity to deal with new challenges and also to work with people with whom you have developed a close and friendly relationship.