Productivity as a Competitive Advantage in Business Development

In professional services marketing, success often depends on our ability to get things done with limited resources. When a firm increases its productivity, it is able to produce more with the same amount of resources (work and time), which can lead to several important benefits.

In today’s world, productivity often depends on implementing the right technologies for your firm. In business development, this means identifying the manual aspects of your marketing and sales processes and selecting tools to help you streamline and automate those areas to increase your business development productivity.

When you implement tools that reduce administrative time, amazing things can happen. Let’s look at two scenarios:

Scenario 1: You spend less time on Task A.

Productivity - Spend Less Time

In this scenario, you are able to reduce the amount of administrative time spent on Task A which means the task gets done faster and you are able to move on to Tasks B, C, and so on.

Increasing productivity enables a firm to provide more “product” (in our world, hours) without increasing costs or other inputs. The ultimate result in this case is INCREASED PROFITABILITY.

Imagine the impact on your growth with tools in place to enable a doer-seller to deliver customized marketing collateral to 5 prospects in the same time it previously took them to send information to 1!

Scenario 2: You spend the same amount of time on Task A but with a greater focus on strategy.

Productivity - Focus on Quality

In this scenario, you are able to reduce the amount of administrative time spent on Task A, which frees up time for you be more strategic and work on the more complex (less clerical) aspects of the task.

You may spend the same amount of total time on Task A, but because more of this time is spent focused on strategy, the end result is INCREASED QUALITY (i.e., a better product). And in the world of professional services, this means better client experiences (which I dare say will ultimately also lead to increased profitability).

Imagine if your firm had tools in place to enable a doer-seller to take the same amount of time previously wasted searching for marketing collateral and use that time to focus on high-value relationship-building activities for a prospect!

Summary

Productivity and time management are ALWAYS topics of discussion within our firms, especially as it relates to business development. Finding ways to reduce administrative time in our marketing and sales processes helps to increase the productivity of both your doer-sellers and your marketing teams and gives your firm an advantage in the competitive professional services marketplace.

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Confessions of a Client: How to Get Me

We know how important it is for our doer-sellers to truly understand our clients. When people understand those they serve, they solve problems more creatively, provide better service and build stronger relationships.

To develop an in-depth understanding of our clients and prospects, it’s important for our doer-sellers to not only spend time with them but to actually put themselves in their clients’ and prospects’ shoes.

With this in mind, we developed a training session for our doer-sellers called “Confessions of a Client: How to Get Me.” In this presentation, our marketing team shared our story and personal observations about being on the prospect’s side of the sales process. We discussed how we selected a firm to assist with our brand refresh and website overhaul, covering everything from how we determined which firms would be invited to participate in the bid process to how we ultimately selected our vendor.

My guess is most of you have a similar story to tell, and this can be very powerful in showing the sales process from prospect’s perspective.

Looking back at how we selected a partner, we believe these were their keys to success:

  1. They identified us as a target. They made it known that we were a firm they wanted to work with.
  2. They made contact. They used their network to identify in-roads and set up meetings. They paid attention to what information was being published by us and about They used this information and their network to build a relationship with us.
  3. They helped us for no other reason than to help us. When they first reached out to us, we were NOT ready to build a new website, and we let them know very directly. They helped us anyway—by passing along helpful information, calling us when they spotted interesting opportunities in the market, offering introductions to others, etc.
  4. They practiced patience. They checked in with us regularly and made sure we knew they were waiting in the wings for the opportunity, but never assumed they were our only option.
  5. They made mistakes. BUT they did a great job recovering from those mistakes.
  6. They were on our team. We knew they were the right pick for us because it felt like they were already on our team, well before we officially selected them. They guided us throughout the process, from getting budget and buy-in from leadership to establishing a baseline price range.
  7. They compensated for their perceived weaknesses. They played to their strengths, and found ways to make sure we knew it. They also asked what their weaknesses were and addressed how they would overcome them.
  8. They asked for the work and were prepared to close the deal. At every stage in the process, they made sure that we knew how much they wanted to work with us. They also knew that the decision might not be unanimous among our various decision-makers, but they had prepared for this by identifying their champion within our firm and making sure that champion would go to bat for them.
  9. They won the work. Enough said.
  10. They continue to win work. They regularly stay in contact with us to understand what we’re working on, what our priorities are, what challenges we’re facing, and so on. And they continue to find ways to help us with these priorities and challenges.

Summary: Share Your Story!

This is just one example of our own experience as the prospect. Consider sharing your own story with your doer-sellers to offer a different perspective on the sales process and to help them put themselves in their clients’ shoes.

McMarketing: How Marketing Departments are like Franchise Operators

Our firm recently had an opportunity to work with a growing franchise business, and in conducting some research to better understand the unique challenges and opportunities facing franchise operators, I discovered that franchisors and accounting marketers have a lot in common.

If marketing is the franchisor, our doer-sellers are the franchisees; we as marketers are successful when our “franchisees” are successful, so it is in our best interest to help position them for success in business development.

The following tips are for successful franchise operations, but apply to accounting marketers as well:

Have a Clear Concept

Successful franchises have a clear core concept and a shared understanding of the organization’s mission, vision and key differentiators. You can’t expect franchisees to communicate a clear concept to customers if the franchisor has not clearly defined the concept, provided transparent communication across the organization, and supplied franchisees with marketing collateral that conveys this concept.

Similar to franchisors, marketers are in the ideal position to define and drive our firms’ growth strategies, including key verticals, high priority targets and our unique selling propositions. It is also our responsibility to share this information with doer-sellers of all levels within the firm so we are all on the same page and working together towards shared goals.

Protect Your Brand Relentlessly

A franchisor’s most valuable asset is its brand. Your brand represents your culture, your products and services, and your pledge to your customers. This is why franchisors make it a top priority to define clear brand compliance standards, establish controls around branding and monitor franchisees’ compliance with brand standards.

In the accounting profession, a firm’s brand also carries considerable weight, especially given the often intangible, complex nature of the services we offer. Consistency (and accuracy!) in your branded materials and content is an important factor in how clients and prospects perceive your firm.

Having a resource such as POUNCE for our “franchisees” to access and distribute marketing collateral in a controlled environment is key to protecting the integrity of our firm’s brand.

Provide Comprehensive Support

The most successful franchise operations provide extensive support for franchisees in the form of policies, procedural guides, training, marketing assets, market and industry research, and more. They also facilitate communication among franchisees to encourage the sharing of ideas, best practices and success stories. Basically, franchisors strive to ensure that their franchisees always have resources and help available for any business-related questions or issues.

Likewise, the role of marketing within accounting firms includes providing the processes, tools and training needed to position our doer-sellers for business development success. We are the go-to resource for any and all things growth-related within our firms. Marketing support also includes encouragement and recognition of milestones and wins!

Maintain A Strong Working Relationship with Franchisees

Effective franchise operations require a strong working relationship between franchisor and franchisee. Trust, open communication, and mutual accountability are just a few of the characteristics that create healthy working relationships that ultimately lead to business success.

In any organization, it’s no secret that the magic happens when sales (or as is the case for many of us, doer-sellers) and marketing work together towards the same goal. By publicizing our marketing plan and priorities, sharing things that have (and haven’t) worked and providing a comfortable avenue for doer-sellers to provide ideas and feedback, we can build strong, collaborative relationships with our “franchisees”.

The result? Better rate of success (i.e., more wins), more satisfied clients, and happier and more engaged team members.

 

Whether it’s a quick service restaurant franchise or a CPA firm, the success of a franchisor is ultimately aligned with the success of a franchisee.

 

Move Over, MarTech: Why You Should Focus on Your BD Culture Stack

Everyone is likely familiar with the concept of a Marketing Technology (or MarTech) stack—that is, a group of technology-based tools that marketers use to execute and manage marketing activities across a number of channels.

In today’s post, we’re discussing a similar concept: a Business Development Culture Stack (if you haven’t heard of this, it’s probably because we made it up).

We’re defining a BD Culture Stack as all the things used to build a culture of business development across the firm. Essentially, what are all the things your firm does that shape your culture as it relates to sales and business development?

This may include performance management, BD expectations for individuals, pipeline management tools, sales empowerment tools (ahem, POUNCE), BD training, and a whole host of other pieces.

Whether intended or not, all firms have a culture as it relates to growth and business development. Instead of just letting it happen, it’s worth the effort to help set and maintain it.

So how do you change culture?

1. Get Everyone on the Same Page

The first step to fostering a culture of business development is to ensure everyone is reading from the same page. Make sure everyone understands why BD is important and share firm and department goals with everyone. Transparency is absolutely critical is getting everyone on the same BD page.

2. Set (and Communicate) Expectations

Firms that are seeking to build or sustain a business development culture must clearly communicate to everyone in the organization why cultural change is important and necessary, and be willing to tell team members what’s in it for them. Each individual within your firm must understand what the firm expects from them with respect to business development.

3. Provide Support (Training & Tools)

Once your people understand what is expected of them, you provide them with the necessary support to empower them to execute activities and achieve their BD goals. This comes in the form of business development training, defined processes (such as a pipeline process), and technology tools that support these processes.

Business development skills can be learned and cultivated, but your practice professionals need training, feedback and support in order to develop those skills.

4. Recognition & Accountability

Business development is a process that takes time, particularly when you are starting out. Results do not come overnight, which makes it even more important to recognize those who contribute to the firm’s marketing and business development efforts, not just outcomes.

Consider aligning business development efforts and achievements with compensation or promotion opportunities. Measurement, accountability and rewards must all be in place in order to reinforce the message and encourage desired behaviors.

Culture creates competitive differentiation; strategies can be duplicated, but culture is unique. BD culture and BD strategy are two sides of the same growth coin—you likely have a BD/marketing strategy, but do you have a BD culture development plan?

Perfect Match: Pairing POUNCE with Other Tools & Processes

Banner for Perfect Pairings article-v2In honor of National Matchmaker Day, we are recognizing a few of the ways that POUNCE pairs perfectly with other marketing and business development tools and processes. (Just call us the Cupid of Accounting Marketing.)

Check out some ways POUNCE can integrate with other tools and processes to help you streamline and enhance your firm’s business development efforts.

POUNCE + Your Website

Statistics show that professional bios are some of the most visited pages for professional service firm websites. Ensure these website bios are up-to-date by syncing your professionals’ POUNCE profiles to your website. Information contained in POUNCE—including not only bios and professional headshots, but marketing materials as well—can be pulled onto your new website through our open API.

POUNCE + Millennials

POUNCE can be your millennial doer-sellers’ new best friend. Younger professionals are conditioned to manage their own information online and expect information at their fingertips. POUNCE helps to engage your millennials to take ownership of their business development efforts by providing them with 24/7 online access to a tool they can use to market your firm.

POUNCE + Proposals

While POUNCE is not intended to be a comprehensive proposal software, we have found that it is a cost-effective and valuable tool in helping our team develop quality proposals quickly. For example, at P&N almost every proposal that we issue contains bios for our key team members; POUNCE makes it easy for us to pull up-to-date, consistently formatted bios for our entire engagement team with just a few clicks.

POUNCE + Mergers

If your firm is considering merging or has recently merged, you need a tool like POUNCE to help you standardize branded resumes and materials and create consistency across your firm.

Additionally, mergers mean combining groups of people that may not know each other. POUNCE can be a powerful tool in the integration process by creating a central access point for all firm marketing materials and team member resumes.

POUNCE + Rebranding

Similar to a merger, a rebrand is a complex process that involves a lot of moving parts. POUNCE can be a complementary tool for firms going through this process by providing an accessible place to house updated marketing materials and professional resumes in line with your new branding.

POUNCE + Conferences

The POUNCE mobile app means that your firm’s marketing materials and professional bios are accessible anytime, anywhere, which makes POUNCE a perfect companion for conferences and tradeshows where your doer-sellers may interact with a number of prospects in a short period of time. This enables your team to send a prospect relevant information immediately following a conversation without having to have printed collateral available on hand.

Honorable Mentions

With POUNCE’s open API, you can leverage the data maintained in POUNCE and connect it to other systems, including:

  • POUNCE + CRM: Update your CRM when marketing materials are emailed through POUNCE to a client or prospect.
  • POUNCE + HRIS: Update your HR information system when a user adds a new certification.

 

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!

 

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: