Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Sep 30, 2004
Columns - Books of Account
You may have clients who are really unqualified to do business with you
But accountants suffer from a worse spell: Neither be seen nor be heard. So, sell is a four-letter taboo word in the dictionary of the accounting regulators. Yet, Troy Waugh, CPA, can help you with 101 Marketing Strategies for Accounting, Law, Consulting, and Professional Services Firms, published by Wiley (www.wiley.com).
The author is the founder of The Rainmaker Academy, and presents techniques for "three levels of selling", viz. relationship development, client's buying process, and professional's selling process. Waugh wants to create professionals who can sell, "rather than sellers who happen to sell law or accounting services."
Most professionals can be rainmakers, meaning very successful executives. That needs both vision and action. "Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare." Thus reads a message in the lobby of a neighbourhood eye-care centre. "Many professionals begin their plans with action steps. This is a huge mistake," points out the book. "Having a firm grip on a solid and important vision will provide the motivation to keep going when circumstances weaken your drive."
Contrary to what many think, not all that happens is for good, unless we're talking about somebody else's good rather than yours.
Thus, "you may have many clients who are really unqualified to do business with you". Such as, "clients who don't pay the bills on time, who require more service than they pay for, and who irritate you and your staff." Too common a problem, but nobody shrugs such annoyances off. "Why not arrange for your unqualified client to meet with another professional who can serve the client's need well?" asks Waugh.
Similarly, when networking at conferences, "you can waste a lot of time chatting with unqualified prospects." Something directly proportional, because "the more unqualified the prospect is, the more he seems to linger around you." Solution is to give not more than two minutes of your time, "using a series of qualifying questions" to determine if you'd like to spend the next minute with him or her.
One of the tips is to `leave enticing voicemails at odd hours' such as 11 p.m. and say: Anil, I have an interesting idea to help you make more profits from your business this year. I just helped another client (don't say, Sunil) with this and he saved Rs 2 crore in taxes. Call me at 100-001100 and lets get together and see if you can benefit too. Before you try it out, "have an interesting idea".
Demonstrate your value, advises Waugh. To achieve this, "ensure that your language is benefit-oriented rather than feature-oriented." Means? Don't harangue about "size of firm, number of partners, services provided, and location of offices". Another tip says, "Demonstrate capabilities with passion". Only then would your clients "believe that you care".
Technique No. 70 is `consistent service builds brand loyalty'. Lay down service laws such as: "Promptness in dealing with client concerns; maintaining client comfort in difficult circumstances; ensuring regular communications during engagements; and no training of junior staff on client's nickel." Don't bet too much on `client satisfaction surveys' because they are passť. Most misused marketing tool, says the author. "Most surveys fail to obtain reliable information. Even worse, many surveys obtain misleading information."
`Selling' is an investment, is the hundredth idea. "Recently I asked a group of about 50 professionals if anyone had spent as much as $100 of their own money during the preceding 12 months on education," narrates Waugh. "Two people raised their hands." So, what's the observation: "Most people spend more on the outside of their heads (hair styles and cuts) than they do on the inside of their heads."
What's the way out? Focus on three areas, viz. speaking and writing, investing in clients, and developing new referral sources. "All professionals are changing from technicians to communicators," points out Waugh. "Don't assume you know what your clients want ask them."
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