What's the secret sauce for growing your CPA firm?
Is it that you provide a "great value" or superior services? That's what most of you tell me when I ask what differentiates your firm from the countless competitors out there. But is that how to sell accounting services in the 21st century?
Will they think that your value proposition is fresh and exciting? ... your textbook, cookie-cutter response of being a (fill-in-the-blank)? And, most importantly, is it true? IS your CPA firm really all that different from the rest?
As the Managing Partner, this falls squarely on you, and my assumption is that even if you are, nobody is "getting" it.
The best paths to closing new clients aren't through the accounting departments, the people who actually understand and appreciate the value of your services, but rather, the business owners - And most business owners have an aversion to the fine details of your job.
It's like trying to mix oil and water, so you need a binding agent to bring the two of you together. In addition, you need somebody who can dedicate real time and energy into developing a pipeline of opportunities for the firm. Whether it be a partner, manager, associate, salesperson, marketing agent, or a combination of the many, I suggest you apply dedicated resources to making it rain if you want it to pour.
Here's how a designated Rainmaker (aka your Business Development specialist) will improve your bottom line:
1. Hire somebody a little different:
One doesn't have to be a CPA to pitch tax and/or audit services, but they MUST have a certain je n'est c'est quoi about them to be a successful salesperson.
I know this from personal experience (coming from staffing prior to my successful gig in corporate tax advisory services). Your most successful rainmakers may not have a background in tax. And that's okay!
Knowing the lingo and being able to diagnose deficiencies and solutions to your prospects' tax and audit problems are the more important skills related to tax and audit in this particular role, which can be taught (Learn more about our sales enablement services).
So, the person fulfilling this role should posess an in-depth knowledge of accounting and have the ability to adopt what's specific to your practice. This may require training, but it will be easier to train a salesperson on how to pitch accounting services than it will be to teach an accountant (with deadlines to meet) on how to sell them.
The purpose of a salesperson is to sell, regardless of the industry, product, or service offering. Today, I can diagnose some pretty hefty tax incentives, but I am nowhere close to being able to file a tax return.
I'll leave that to my CPAs!
2. Deploy Marketing That Actually Helps Them
Very few people possess the ability to do both sales and marketing effectively. So, this is not something I would put on their plate. However, having a full-time Rainmaker on staff will benefit you quite a bit more if you're feeding them good leads. Good leads come from good marketing.
I suggest looking into inbound marketing, the methodology dedicated to attracting visitors to your website, converting them into leads through content offers and forms, and nurturing them into being sales qualified through emails, lead scoring, sales alerts, and CRM integration.
You can also see exactly what your competitors are up to with this free competitive analysis.
3. Let them Hunt at Your Events
Holding speaking events is a great way to solidify your firm's position as an authority in the field of tax. I've attended many, and the most successful ones plant their Rainmaker(s) in the audience.
Keep in mind, I would NOT recommend this being your only or heaviest investment for making it rain. These events are expensive and consuming, so if you're going to do it, make sure you have buy-in from a large enough audience and a gameplan for converting invited non-customers into customers, and customers into evangelists.
Something I learned a long time ago when hosting CPE events for my CPAs - error on the side of getting a space that is TOO small vs too large. Standing room only or turning people away for fear of violating the firecode shows prospects and customers that you're in demand. Empty seats, regardless of how many people show up or how big the room is, tells people quite the opposite.
4. Trade Shows:
Trade shows aren't nearly as effective as they once were because attendance is down, and the world is turning to digital for their answers. But they're not dead if you know how to hunt. If somebody, like your Rainmaker, has the guts to untether themselves from their booth, they will probably find very little resistance or competition in making new contacts.
There are tons of booths with little to no traffic that have business owners sitting there, twiddling their thumbs... waiting for something interesting to happen.
New, qualified business opportunities often crash and burn during that important assessment call. Accountants and auditors are wired to think in logic, and typically communicate in a straight-forward, logical manner.
When assessing a new opportunity, it may seem obvious to you and them when somebody can benefit from your services, but there's still a need to sell, so you'll want somebody involved who understands the flow of the sales process to manage the call and keep you and the client on track.
Hell, you'll want a sales process, which many of you are lacking. If you're interested in learning more about why my group can do for helping you develop and maintain yours, click HERE.
6. Boots on the Ground:
You're in the middle of a big tax project two days prior to 4/15, and you have customer service issues arise with another important client. It's a 911 emergency, and they require having somebody from your firm in their office to correct the issues. If your rainmaker helped bring in or service that account, you have somebody to come to your rescue even in the 11th hour of busy season.
7. Solicit Honest, Objective Feedback:
Knowing the emotional landscape is important, both for sales and customer retention. Without it, marketers, especially those using outbound (vs inbound) broadcasting methodologies, have the unfair task of having to create powerful marketing campaigns that draw in people they know very little about.
The best Rainmakers are good at reading between the lines and understanding the emotional triggers behind the words that are spoken. Their craft is to anticipate needs before they arise and pivot when things go sideways. They don't stop at surface-level answers, so when a client leaves or a prospect rejects them, you can task them to drill down and uncover the real issue at hand.
But don't stop there. You're a practical person. You need objectivity in your decision-making process. No matter what the salesperson tells you is the reason a deal didn't close or a client slipped away, it's simply not enough information to make decisions that impact your sales or marketing.
To accomplish TRULY honest, objective feedback, you need to measure the ENTIRE sales cycle. Unfortunately, your rainmakers are keeping all of their most valuable sales intelligence on Excel spreadsheets (if you're "lucky"). But if you implement a MODERN CRM, and lean into tools that automate data entry, and that support the sales cycle, you'll learn more AND watch them succeed more.
People don't just want to partner with firms that provide synergistic value. They want firms they can relate to, and nobody is better at partner relations than your Rainmaker. They can help you put together meetings, network with other firms at trade shows or AICPA events, and maintain relations while you focus on growing your practice.
If you're serious about growing your firm, hire somebody who's serious about making it rain.
I've known a lot of Managing Partners that have done well in this regard, but I've also seen many who would rather focus on audits, filings, and staff management, and because they had nobody else assigned to this role, their book of business suffered tremendously.
This role requires a very specific set of attributes, and one of those is to be able to develop a viable outreach strategy. It's important to have a clear-cut plan in place with clear-cut objectives, just as it is when preparing for an audit, study, or tax filing.
Interested in growing your firm, but not sure where to start? Schedule a free consultation today!