- As a CA it’s important to set aside regular time for business development.
- Research your client’s market and share ideas with them.
- Ensure that meetings are enjoyable but also contain valuable and useful information for clients.
There’s no doubt some people are natural-born salespeople. Most CA firms tend to have one or two who, along with being skilled accountants, can build relationships and win work.
However, when it comes to articulating why they are naturally good salespeople so they can pass on their skills to others, they struggle. This is because client development and winning new business are things that have become second nature to them. It is almost impossible for them to identify what it is they do that can be taught to another.
Over the years I’ve worked with and consulted to many accounting firms of various sizes and I’ve watched several of these natural-born salespeople in action. I want to share some of the secrets of their success from my observations, so that you too can unlock your client development potential.
1. Set aside non-moveable time for business development (BD)
I knew a successful relationship builder in a global accountancy firm who had a recurring “Tuesday, 10-10.30am, BD focus” appointment in their diary. The appointment never moved and so the momentum was never lost.
2. Research your clients’ market
Ever wondered why the partners, directors and senior associates that are good at business development often dedicate time to reading the morning paper, or spend the early part of their day on business, news or social media websites? It’s simple: they do it to get a better understanding of their clients’ world. They know if they can talk to their clients about the things that are important to them, then they will build a good relationship with them.
3. Share things of interest to your client
When I started out as a B2B salesperson, a good few years ago now, my first sales mentor used to photocopy stories of interest and post them to his clients with a short handwritten memo. It was something I copied very quickly. It was amazing how quickly this built trust and meant that clients looked forward to your calls, rather than dreaded them. Of course, now it is much easier to share stories electronically, but the key is to still make them relevant and helpful to your client.
4. Be kind and respect everyone you meet
One thing that the top business development people within an accountancy profession understand intimately, is the need to be courteous and polite to everyone they meet, regardless of their status within an organisation. They take an interest in people and ask them questions.
5. Strive to make your client successful
I remember chatting to a successful accountant who had a knack for winning new clients, and she said to me: “I’ve never understood why you’d want to work for anyone who isn’t successful, be that organisationally or individually. I mean if they aren’t, and you can’t help them become successful, then what’s the point?” This in-built desire to help their clients was what made this individual so successful.
6. Provide valuable and fun interactions
Listen to a client’s comments at the end of the meeting. If you have been successful in developing deep client relationships, comments are usually along the lines of: “Hey, that was fun, I actually learned some useful things today.” So, yes, having fun in a meeting is important, but the most important part is to have provided value to the person you have met, in the time you have spent with them.
7. Follow up promptly – and I mean promptly
A few years ago, I had a meeting with the managing director of a major New Zealand firm. On leaving the meeting, just as I was exiting the car park, my phone buzzed and the follow-up note had arrived in my inbox (don’t worry I was driving so I didn’t read it!). The speed of the follow-up blew me away and was impressive. If an managing director can find time to do this, then so can you.
If you want to become more effective with your clients, and create effective client development or sales habits, practise – and practise some more, until that practice becomes a routine.
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