Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Business Development Case Study #1- part 1

You and your partner Lillian have a small accounting practice in a city of 200,000. The nearest large metropolitan area is over a hundred miles away.

You are just settling into a Stairmaster at your local gym when you spot Larry across the room. You met Larry when you both attended a web marketing seminar two weeks ago. He said he is a self employed consultant – but you can’t remember what kind – and you’re pretty sure he said his wife teaches at the local high school.

Your practice has a typical mix of individual returns and some small businesses and while Larry probably isn’t your ticket to the big time, he certainly has every appearance of someone you would like to have as a client. Because Larry will probably be a relatively small client, you can’t put too much time into the effort.

So, what can you do to make it happen?

Hmmm, you set the difficulty level to 8 on your Stairmaster, step on, and begin thinking about how to proceed. Of course, you could just walk over and talk to him. But, what if he becomes annoyed that you’ve interrupted his workout? Alright, maybe you should mail him something? How about a copy of your newsletter? It is pretty generic … would he even read it? Email? No. Everyone gets too much email as it is. Or, better yet, how about calling him? Yeah, but would he remember you? And, what would you say if he didn’t? Man, that could get really awkward.

First of all, let’s keep this as simple as possible. You’re at the very beginning of the process of wooing Larry, so let’s just take it one step at a time.

Before resolving this dilemma, let’s quickly revisit some things we discussed In prior posts. One is that people purchase professional services from people they like or at least feel comfortable with. One way or the other Larry is going to have to have sufficient contact with you to form this positive opinion. Another is that Larry in almost all likelihood believes all CPAs are good at what they do. This means you don’t have to make an “I’m the best” pitch a part of your approach.

Yet another is that you need some means of separating yourself from the competition. Maybe Larry and his wife use TurboTax or a similar do-it-yourself system, but the greater probability is that he already has an accountant. If we presume he is satisfied with the service he’s receiving now, what can you do to make him want to switch to you?

To summarize, 1) you need to get Larry to like – or at least feel comfortable with – you, 2) you don’t have to convince him you are a great accountant (unless he’s involved in some activity requiring esoteric accounting skills) and, 3) you’ll need to differentiate yourself from his present accountant, if any.

The proven way to make a connection with Larry is to do it face to face. Come up with some wording you’re comfortable with, but the best thing is to walk over and reintroduce yourself to Larry. You wait for him to take a break between exercises and approach. Smile, hold eye contact the last few steps, extend your hand with a few feet between you and say, e.g. “Larry. Stu Holder. Good to see you again. We met at the web marketing seminar a couple of weeks ago.” This will be followed by a period of exchanged pleasantries. At this point I recommend you take the initiative and say, e.g. “Larry, I didn’t want to interrupt except just to say hello. I’ll catch up with you when we aren’t in the middle of our routines.” And then you go back to your Stairmaster.

What impression have your actions created from Larry’s perspective? First of all, he feels good that you remembered his name and that you were sufficiently positively impressed by the prior meeting that you decided to walk over and say hello. He didn’t get annoyed because you kept it brief and didn’t waste his time nor even create much a break in his exercise routine. You didn’t ask for anything. You were polite and pleasant. You seem to be a good guy. All in all, I think we have a good beginning to 1) above.

Unless we need to, we aren’t going to address 2) while seeking Larry’s business. In a prior post I explained why you don’t have to sell your accounting skills unless there is a specific requirement to do so. The example I used to illustrate this exception was that the prospect needed someone who understood the ins and outs of European Union Value Added Tax. In instances such as this, you can bet you will be asked about your knowledge and experience.

Which brings us to 3), which will be the subject of next week’s post. We’ll also take a couple of further steps with 1) to ensure Larry forms the needed positive impression of you personally.

1 comment:

mrktg said...

During seminar, give examples by telling stories of other projects you've done. Of course, you don't have to disclose sensitive details about your clients, but real life examples not only help the audience to learn, but it helps them understand the types of products and/or services you offer. These are some of the suggestions for successful marketing seminars.