We can do WHAT?!? Educating Employees on Service Offerings

In our firm, one of the challenges we hear most often is that our professionals can’t keep track of everything we can do. They are continually being reminded to look for additional opportunities to help their existing clients, but how can you identify areas in which your firm can help if you’re not aware of all of your service offerings? OR, even if you know what services your firm can provide, how do you know who to talk to?

This challenge can be further complicated by factors such as:

  • A wide variety of non-traditional service offerings
  • Multiple office locations
  • Merging with another firm

At P&N, one of the things we are most proud of is our ability to offer such a wide range of services that solve problems and add value for our clients. As the firm has continued to grow and evolve, our service offerings have also expanded, BUT our team members’ awareness of new services did not automatically expand.

Over the last few years, our firm has made a significant investment in non-technical training for our team members through the introduction and continued development of our internal Lifelong Learning Program. This is a soft skills training program with an emphasis on leadership, business development, communication, human resource management and technology.

As part of last year’s curriculum, we launched an interactive course titled “A to Z of P&N” (course description below):

Most people are surprised to learn the wide range of diverse services that P&N offers clients. From Application Development to the 1040 EZ, we can help clients with a range of services from A to Z. This session provides a dictionary’s worth of P&N services along with the resources you need to further your knowledge on everything P&N does to help clients.

The course was structured as an interactive Jeopardy game, and participants walked away with a better understanding of P&N’s services and the tools that can help them assist clients in new ways.

The purpose of this course was not for our team members to memorize the long list of services we offer, but to emphasize that we can help organizations solve many types of challenges and encourage team members to listen and look for ways we can help our clients. We also provided a dictionary of services (with everything we do from A to Z) that our team members could reference going forward.

A-to-Z-Guide - Sample_Page_1

This is just one way our firm has worked to address our team’s knowledge gap. A few other ideas include:

  • Service fairs (similar to a career fair, with representatives from each service area setting up their own “booth”)
  • Incorporating brief overviews and client case studies from various service lines into regular departmental meetings (for example, inviting your forensic accounting team to a regularly scheduled tax department meeting to share an overview of what they do)
  • Internal networking events (such as a “speed-dating”-type format) among different departments

Conclusion

Team members can’t be expected to have intelligent, meaningful discussions with clients to identify new opportunities without the right tools and knowledge of the firm’s services.

If you have taken other approaches to educate your team members on your firm’s service offerings and resources, we would love to hear them!

 

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The Personality Zoo in Business Development

It’s a wild world out there! Organizations can learn a lot from the animal kingdom, especially when it comes to business development and sales.

Just like animals, professionals each have their own strengths and weaknesses. As marketers, we can help our doer-sellers hone their business development strengths and develop strategies to fill in gaps.

Take the quiz (http://www.whatanimalami.com) to see what animal you are and continue reading for summaries of each animal’s BD strengths and how you can help them.

Are you a wildebeest, lion, crocodile, giraffe, cheetah, mongoose, or elephant?

The Enduring Wildebeest

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/wildebeest.php

Like the wildebeest, endurance—in its simplest form—is our ability to apply ourselves for relatively long periods of time. This quality gives us the mental capability to continue moving forward despite the obstacles, hardships, pain, fatigue, or stress in our path.

Wildebeests in the BD Environment:

Wildebeests understand that business development success takes a lot of time and effort. They are not discouraged by a lengthy sales cycle and will not give up on business development activities just because they lose an opportunity.

How to Help Wildebeests:

Your wildebeests are willing to put in the work, but sometimes they need someone to help ensure they are investing their time and effort in the right areas. Work with them on their pursuit strategies and help them map out next steps for each prospect.

You can also help them recognize when it’s time to stop or change direction (for example, if they have been consistently pursuing a specific prospect that just isn’t going to buy from your firm or a type of organization where you haven’t had much success).

The Strategic Lion

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/lion.php

For lions, it’s all or nothing. If their strategy fails, they go hungry. For us, however, it’s all about organizing our thoughts, ideas, experiences, skills, expertise, and expectations to accomplish a desired goal.

Lions in the BD Environment:

Lions excel in identifying the right targets and developing strong strategies to pursue those targets. They understand that hunting as a pack rather than as a lone lion is the most effective way to accomplish a goal (like winning new business).

How to Help Lions:

While lions are extremely driven and tactical, they can sometimes come across as aggressive, intimidating or impersonal—to both prospects AND team members. Help them understand the value in collaboration and communication (you know, the “warm and fuzzies”). Even the most effective tactical strategy is rendered useless if a prospect finds your firm unapproachable.

Considering pairing up your lions with a giraffe or an elephant (continue reading to see the strengths of these animals).

The Enterprising Crocodile

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/crocodile.php

Enterprising means showing initiative, a willingness to undertake new projects, and a strong desire for success and achievement—all qualities that support the role of the entrepreneur. Like the crocodile, enterprising people possess the energy, creativity, and ambition required to see the possibilities in the future that others cannot see.

Crocodiles in the BD Environment:

Many doer-sellers may overlook opportunities right in front of them (“low-hanging fruit”), but not your crocodiles. Crocodiles are adept at identifying opportunities that others miss. They know that timing is of the essence and jump on opportunities quickly.

How to Help Crocodiles:

Crocodiles generally act alone, which means they could be missing out on opportunities to involve other team members with complementary service capabilities and sales skills. Make sure you are dialed into what your crocodiles are working on and offer suggestions for how they can team with others to make their pursuits more effective.

Additionally, crocodiles sometimes fail to evaluate and analyze the potential roadblocks. Work with them to uncover risks and potential objections and develop plans to address these early on.

The Graceful Giraffe

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/giraffe.php

No matter how you see it, grace is a disposition that requires compassion toward others and the desire to extend goodwill. It incorporates the exercise of love and kindness—most importantly, to those who may not deserve it. Grace is as crucial in business as it is in life.

Giraffes in the BD Environment:

Giraffes thrive in building relationships, which is an essential part of business development success. They are genuinely concerned with others’ well-being and their sincerity shines through when interacting with prospects; clients and prospects are innately inclined to like and trust giraffes.

How to Help Giraffes:

Giraffes have a tendency to be people-pleasers and can sometimes be taken advantage of by aggressive prospects (translation: discounted pricing). You can help by guiding their pursuit strategy and pairing them up with a strong closer at the appropriate stage of the sales process.

The Efficient Cheetah

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/cheetah.php

Similar to the cheetah, efficiency is all about finishing the job in the shortest possible time with a minimum of wasted energy and resources. You schedule your day, prioritize every task, and keep those priorities by refining to-do lists frequently and adopting a policy of strict time management. You chunk or break your larger projects down into small, easier-to-manage steps.

Cheetahs in the BD Environment:

In my experience, A LOT of accountants tend to be cheetahs. They are extremely organized, disciplined and process-driven, all characteristics that are valuable in the business development process.

How to Help Cheetahs:

Because cheetahs value speed and efficiency, they may become discouraged when they invest time and energy into business development activities that do not yield immediate, tangible results.

Help your cheetahs prioritize targets and opportunities to focus on only their top prospects, and make sure they understand the resources available to them (so they know exactly where to find information, who to talk to about XYZ, how to appropriately delegate, and so on.)

It’s also important to recognize and reward a cheetah’s efforts, not just their results.

The Risk-Taking Mongoose

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/mongoose.php

Succeeding in troubled times often involves taking a risk. But like the mongoose, you need to evaluate of all the options involved with the chance you’re taking before you make a decision.

Risk-takers frequently review goals and determine the various routes to get to the destination. Often they choose the path with the highest risk in order to gain the maximum reward.

Mongooses in the BD Environment:

Mongooses are not afraid to fail in business development. Challenges that others see as overwhelming, your mongooses see as simply another obstacle that they can overcome.

A mongoose doesn’t see things as they are, but rather as they could be. They can be visionary and often have innovative ideas for ways to help your clients, present potential solutions, and structure or staff engagements.

How to Help Mongooses:

Mongooses can often help drive your firm forward and push your teams out of their comfort zones. However, it’s important to make sure your mongooses understand and consider the big picture, not just short-sighted, high-risk opportunities.

You can also work with them to identify smaller (less “spectacular”) opportunities that they may be overlooking.

The Communicating Elephant

http://www.whatanimalami.com/version2/animalresults/elephant.php

Just as it is for elephants, successful relationships between people—in life and business—depend on good communication. Effective communicators understand that it’s not always best to use a lot of words when relaying an idea. In fact, the more words we use, the more our message can be obscured.

Elephants in the BD Environment:

Elephants are expert communicators and are great at developing meaningful relationships. They are skilled in active listening and take time to comprehend the details in others’ messages.

How to Help Elephants:

Elephants thrive in prospect discovery meetings—that is, the first meeting you get with a prospect and have the opportunity to ask thoughtful questions to understand that they are looking for in a service provider.

Look for opportunities to include your elephants in meetings with clients and prospects, or pair them up with lions or cheetahs:

  • Elephants can help your lions soften their approach and effectively communicate with prospects.
  • They can also help your cheetahs get the right information from prospects in order to appropriately prioritize opportunities and determine next steps.

Summary

Your business development ecosystem needs animals of all types to be well-balanced and have the greatest chance of consistent, long-term success. Understanding the various strengths of your doer-sellers can help us as marketers better support our teams in the sales process.

This quiz is just one example, but there are numerous other personality tests available that can help you determine the strengths and weaknesses of your team members as it relates to business development, including these:

Just for Fun: A Workplace Mad Lib

Happy Friday! Enjoy our [totally workplace-appropriate] mad lib—grab a co-worker and fill in blanks below:

New Healthcare Industry Cybersecurity Report

Each year, over [   A LARGE NUMBER   ]% of healthcare organizations are affected by cyber-[   A HEALTH CONDITION   ].

According to a recent survey by [   A QUOTABLE PERSON   ], [   NOUN, PLURAL   ] also continue to be a/an [   ADJECTIVE   ] IT concern for providers.

If the idea of cyber-[   NOUN, PLURAL   ] makes your stomach [   VERB   ], contact our team. Our [   ADJECTIVE   ] professionals can help you address your healthcare IT compliance and risk challenges for only $[   NUMBER   ].

Mad Libs: Fun for Friday Afternoons, Bad for Marketing Materials

Mad libs like this one are entertaining and harmless, but NOT when it comes to your firm’s marketing materials.

If your doer-sellers can’t easily find the marketing materials they need when they need them, they may start to “fill in the blanks” with their own wording and designs (without Marketing’s knowledge or review).

Consistency (and accuracy!) in your branded materials and content is an important factor in how prospects perceive your firm. If you need a tool that can help you maintain control of sales and marketing collateral while providing your doer-sellers with easy, anytime access to those materials, contact us.

POUNCE provides a central location for all your up-to-date sales materials, sorted by industry, service area, or any other categories appropriate for your firm. Materials are controlled by your marketing team so your content and branding is unified and consistent.

What’s in a Name? How POUNCE Became POUNCE

By Rachael Higginbotham

When we first launched POUNCE, we were often asked the question “where did the name come from?” It’s both a very long story and a very short one.

We had been marinating on the idea of a shopping cart software to manage what we sell (the experience and service of our people) for a long time. And throughout the development of the product, we searched for a name ad nauseam. We wanted something innovative and unique. Descriptive. Catchy. Memorable. We brainstormed, tried the technique of combining words together (Resu-mate? DevelUP? emPWR? BD-Able?), researched, sought feedback, and still never came up with a name that felt right.

Until one night when, sleep-deprived with a six-month old baby who refused to sleep, I had been dozing with the television on. I woke up to the image of a lion pouncing towards the camera, and the idea came to me. “Pounce!” I exclaimed the next morning at work. “We’ll call the software Pounce. When people have an opportunity, they don’t have to wait. They should POUNCE!” And the decision was made.

A lot of times people tend to make problem-solving more complicated than it needs to be. We went through 200 complex iterations of combined words and innovative phrases to come up empty-handed on a name. As marketing departments, we are always looking for the next best thing to augment our already complex growth strategies—marketing automation, CRM, SEO, lead generation tools, etc. And while all of those things can be great, they take time and resources, which many of us are already struggling with.

The beauty of POUNCE—both the product and the name—is its simplicity. It’s simple to understand, simple to use, and simple to implement. It is a marketing tool for non-marketing people, which gives your firm the ability to leverage the resources of your professionals so your team can focus on the more complex aspects of marketing.

When you are focusing on growth, you have to consider how you are going to execute, and many times that does not include adding to the size of your marketing department. But sometimes the best solutions to problems come while you aren’t trying to solve them. Just like the solution to our software naming problem came from an entirely different direction, a piece of the solution to your growth problem may lie in creating different work for your team, instead of more.

If your problem is needing more time to focus on complex strategies, find ways to reduce the administrative aspects of your marketing department.

If your problem is not having accurate experience summaries, put them in a single, accessible, controllable place.

And if your problem finding ways to engage your professionals to take ownership of their business development efforts, give them a tool they can use to market your firm.

 

HeadshotCropped_Rachael_HigginbothamRachael Higginbotham is the Marketing Director for Postlethwaite & Netterville. With over 15 years of marketing and consulting experience—including a decade in the world of accounting marketing—her strengths include marketing strategy, business development coaching and support, ROI development, brand management and strategic corporate projects.

The Cost of Wasted Time in the Business Development Process

For many of us in professional services, our “sales force” only has a relatively small portion of their week dedicated to business development activities, so it’s essential for us to help them use that time wisely.

BD time wasters generally fall into two categories:

  1. Ineffectiveness (not focusing on the right things)
  2. Inefficiency (not using the right amounts and/or types of resources)

How much are these time wasters costing your firm in terms of hours? Opportunities? Revenue?

Times Wasters from INEFFECTIVENESS

Focusing on the Wrong Opportunities

One of the biggest time wasters in professional services firms is spending time pursuing prospects that are never going to buy from you or that otherwise just don’t make sense for your firm.

If your firm has a defined pipeline and/or sales process, you probably have distinguished what a qualified opportunity looks like. For us, the basics of a qualified opportunity include:

  • Do they fit the profile for the type of client we want to work with? (in terms of size, industry, geographic location, values, etc.)
  • What’s their budget? (Do they have the ability to pay for the solution we offer?)
  • Who has authority to buy? (Do we have access to the decision-maker(s)?)
  • Do they have a need for this solution? (Are they in pain? Are they sufficiently motivated to make a change to their existing situation?)

It’s important to have a clear, established framework for assessing and prioritizing opportunities and even more important to continually reinforce that framework with your doer-sellers.

There are a ton of resources out there related to qualifying prospects, but here is just one that includes a comprehensive list of qualifying questions.

Lack of Planning or Strategy for Each Activity

Ok, so maybe your doer-sellers are focused on the right relationships and the right opportunities—GREAT! But are they approaching each lunch meeting, each golf outing, each “check-in” email with specific intent?

Before any interaction, doer-sellers should be able to articulate exactly what it is they hope to gain. As marketers, we know that each email we send, each webpage we publish should have a specific Call To Action (CTA); each business development activity should follow suit.

Are we seeking to understand how they feel about their current service provider? Do we want them to make an introduction for us? Are we attempting to impose a sense of decision-making urgency?

Spending a few moments beforehand to consider our desired outcomes can ensure less time is wasted on directionless activities.

Times Wasters from INEFFICIENCY

Searching for Information and Materials

Do your professionals know where to find information on service offerings for non-profit organizations? A summary of your firm’s state and local tax experience? The resume of your R&D tax credit expert?

Based on a study by IDC, 36% of a typical work day is spent looking for and consolidating information. How much of this time could your firm get back if all of the information your team members need was neatly stored in one location?

36% of a typical work day is spent looking for and consolidating information

This is obviously not unique to business development; BUT if your firm lacks a system for organizing and accessing the materials that support your doer-sellers in the sales process, you may have some inefficiencies here.

The beauty of a tool like POUNCE is that materials are instantly and easily accessible. Users know exactly where to find the information they need, significantly reducing the amount of time wasted in search of marketing and sales collateral.

Not Delegating Tasks that Should be Delegated

Many of us struggle with delegation and feel the need to execute tasks on our own, even when our plates are spilling over. While doer-sellers can’t delegate or outsource the entire business development process, there are some easy ways they can leverage other team members.

Prospect research is a perfect example of a critical BD task that can be delegated. Researching a prospect organization and key contacts can be done by staff or administrator who can investigate and simply present their findings.

Other tasks that can be delegated include:

  • Content development
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Send client or prospect gifts/thank-you notes
  • Drafting proposals, including initial fee estimates
  • Analysis of current clients to determine cross-servicing opportunities

Delegation in general is one of the best time-management tools. Additionally, sharing business development responsibilities with staff contributes to their career development, skills-building, and job enrichment.

Summary

Too few hours in the day is one of the biggest BD roadblocks for our doer-sellers. By working with our teams to focus on the right activities and eliminate inefficiencies in the business development process, we help them invest their time and effort on high-value tasks, opportunities, and relationships.

We can help them focus on the right things (i.e., being effective) and leverage the right resources to help get those things done (i.e., being efficient).

7 Tips for a Successful Prospect Meeting

By Jeanette Benedetto

So, you’ve scheduled an initial meeting with one of your target prospects. Great! This first discussion is crucial for relationship development and ultimately winning business. Here’s how not to blow it:

1. Meet in-person, when possible.

Getting some actual “face time” with your prospect is an important step that lays the foundation for a relationship that can last decades, leading to repeat business and even referrals. It’s important to take advantage of, if at all possible. In an increasingly digital world, an in-person meeting will set you apart.

2. Do your research.

Spend some time gathering information about the person/people you’ll be meeting, and their organization. If you have something in common, such as attending the same school or volunteering for similar causes, it can really help break the ice. LinkedIn is a good place to start, especially if you can touch base with any mutual connections ahead of time.

3. Bring materials if you need to.

It’s fine to come prepared with information if it puts you at ease, but don’t leave behind an entire binder for your prospect to study. Be selective about any printed material you give during the meeting—keep it simple, clear, and useful. If you’re skeptical about marketing collateral’s place in today’s digital world, read this. (Need a hand? POUNCE can help you create and customize materials for a quick, on-the-way-out-the-door turnaround.)

4. Ask the right questions.

You don’t want to turn your meeting into an interrogation, but you will need to keep the conversation moving in the right direction. Consider asking questions that will lead to better understanding of what your prospect does and where their pain points are. Be careful not to ask broad questions that could be easily looked up online (make sure you do that research we mentioned). This leads us to our next tip…

5. Be prepared to listen.

This isn’t the time for a carefully-crafted sales pitch. Your initial meeting is the ideal opportunity to ask questions and then truly listen to your prospect’s answers. It’s not about your product or service, it’s about their needs. Learn, connect, and build a relationship with them. Once you understand their pain points and gaps, you can come to the next discussion with relevant ideas and solutions.

6. Follow up.

Immediately after the meeting, jot down anything that stood out to you. Whether it’s the prospect’s unique situation, their needs, or potential solutions your firm offers, make sure you don’t let the details slip away. Call your contact within a day or two and take the opportunity to thank them for the conversation. This is the perfect chance to highlight or reiterate ways you can help them, and it’s a great time to provide details about your services and people (cue POUNCE).

7. Find genuine ways to help.

Rather than chasing down a deal, set your sales goal aside (temporarily) and be sure to look for ways you can help this prospect. Maybe one of their pain points is something that another person in your network has experience with. Or, you could connect your prospect with someone else in your firm who is better-equipped to tackle their needs. If you’re looking for opportunities to help rather than opportunities to sell, they’ll be open to additional conversations, continuing to build the relationship and bringing even more business your way.

 

With these seven tips and POUNCE literally in your back pocket (did we mention there’s an app?), you’ll be prepared and productive in every prospect meeting going forward.

 

Jeanette Benedetto is a Marketing Coordinator with Postlethwaite & Netterville. Her focus areas include event coordination, digital marketing, content development, and communications management.

Article Round-Up: New Ideas to Pounce On

Looking for inspiration and ideas for firm growth? Here’s a round-up of some of the best pieces of content I’ve come across recently.

1. 5 Ways to Build a $100 Million Company

http://www.visualcapitalist.com/5-ways-100-million-company/

One of our [business development-loving] partners recently passed along this infographic/article on 5 different approaches to building a $100 million company:

  • Option 1: Hunt Flies (10 million customers at $10 per year)
  • Option 2: Hunt Mice (1 million customers at $100 per year)
  • Option 3: Hunt Rabbits (100,000 customers at $1,000 per year)
  • Option 4: Hunt Deer: (10,000 customers at $10,000 per year)
  • Option 5: Hunt Elephants (1,000 customers at $100,000 per year)

Like many firms our size, our client base is a mix of Elephants, Deer and Rabbits. Based on my own experience in the business development process, the same amount of time and energy goes into winning new clients, regardless of their size. If the level of effort to successfully win new Rabbits is the same as it is for Deer and Elephants, how can we shift our focus and hunt larger animals?

Of course, moving from a diet of Rabbits to predominantly Deer and Elephants doesn’t happen overnight; our goal is to facilitate incremental improvements, which we track through changes in specific metrics, such as:

  • Average ($) size of opportunities in our pipeline
  • Average ($) size of the opportunities we close
  • Average ($) size of our clients

We report and discuss progress on these metrics as part of our monthly pipeline meetings. As business development coaches within our firms, we can help lead the hunt and make sure we are pushing our teams to pursue larger opportunities.

Check out the infographic here.

2. Better than Bonuses: 4 Motivators that Matter More than Money

https://www.workfront.com/blog/better-than-bonuses-4-motivators-that-matter-more-than-money

This article is interesting in the context of how to appropriately motivate your doer-sellers to participate in business development. The question of if/how to structure incentives for bringing in business is a highly debated one across many professional services firms, but several studies (referenced in this article) have found that other “incentives” can be even more effective than monetary bonuses.

Read the full article.

3. Quarterly Marketing Plans vs. Annual Marketing Plans: 4 Crucial Comparisons

https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/quarterly-marketing-plans-vs-annual-marketing-plan

Most firms probably have some sort of annual marketing plan and budget. If you’re like us, you probably spend a significant amount of time at the beginning of each year laying out exactly what we want to accomplish and what it’s going to take to make that happen.

While it’s important to have a proactive strategy for growth, equally important is our ability to quickly recognize and react to challenges and opportunities as they arise. With changing legislation, evolving technologies, and shifting client priorities, marketing teams must be more agile than ever before.

Quarterly marketing plans—or at a minimum, quarterly evaluations of our annual marketing plans—are a simple way to ensure that our marketing efforts continue to align with both firm goals and market opportunities.

We are halfway through the year—are you focused on exactly what you thought you would be 6 months ago?

Read more about agile marketing planning here.