Avi Dan is President & CEO of Avidan Strategies, a New York based consultancy specialized in advising professional service companies on marketing and business development. Mr. Dan was previously a board member with two leading advertising agencies and managed another.
CPAs have made great strides in the art and science of sales and marketing in recent years but the profession still has a long way to go in adopting robust business development practice. Many firms barely weathered the storm of 2009, but a celebration may be premature. 2010 is likely to be as tough, and perhaps even tougher as clients cut back on expenses. Smart firms are reviewing their marketing plans and planning ways to generate new business in a weak economy.
That is the first step – make sure that you have an effective and comprehensive plan, including cost projections, strategies and person responsible for each. Here is a twelve point checklist for an effective sales plan:
• Cultivating business from current clients is the low hanging fruit. They are already pre-disposed toward you. Just ask them for more business.
• Even resumptions from formerly-lost clients should be considered especially if the loss was not performance relation but for objective reasons, such as a merger.
• Emphasize cross-selling in your firm by getting all senior team members involved in the sales effort and make sure that client/industry knowledge is shared effectively.
• Public speaking on specific topics related to your target prospects. Good old-fashioned word of mouth is still the best new client leads. “Cascade” the speeches into white papers and articles to expand their impact.
• Simply asking clients for referrals of specific types of prospects/assignments among their friends and professional collegues.
• Qualify prospects before investing time with them. Be selective about setting up an appointment on the initial contact and determine valuation of prospect relationship to assess if they are worth pursuing.
• Consider replacing less profitable, time consuming, and unappreciative clients with clients that are a better fit with your objectives as a firm.
• Conduct a “gap analysis” and focus on specific targeted niches: high quality, profitable prospects, and develop a case as to why your experience and expertise is relevant.
• Focus on growth industry with good long-term potential of growth.
• Use relationships with spheres of influence: referrals by attorneys and bankers who reach across companies.
• Use the right people for marketing and prospecting. Not every one is comfortable selling.
• Focus relentlessly on relationship building: aggressive involvement in trade associations and the community; conduct seminars for clients and prospects; cultivate the press including the prospect’s trade press.
To be really successful, you must sell your services. You must generate leads and convert them into paying clients. And the recent Great Recession calls for a significant rethinking of sales and marketing strategies.
While the market for professional services continues to grow, so does the number of firms and individuals competing for that business. In other words, to really succeed means to differentiate yourself from others.