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:

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.

Building a Business Development Culture, Summed Up with this Playlist

I was recently re-reading this article that our very own Marketing Director Rachael Higginbotham wrote on building a business development culture and decided it is a story worth re-telling in song form. Enjoy!

Track 1: Set Expectations

The Song: “Whataya Want from Me” by Adam Lambert

Standout Lyric:
Hey, slow it down
What do you want from me
What do you want from me
Yeah, I’m afraid
What do you want from me
What do you want from me

How it Relates: If you’re trying to change behavior, it is critical to communicate to your team members what exactly they are expected to do. The more specific you can make these expectations (in terms of participation, activities and results), the better. Improving focus on business development cannot happen without clear communication that everyone is responsible for helping the firm grow.

Track 2: Provide Training, Tools & Processes for Success

The Song: “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash

Standout Lyric:
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

How it Relates: Communicating expectations is only the first step. Once your people know what they need to do, you must show them how to do it. This comes in the form of business development training, defined processes, and technology tools that support these processes.

By removing the obstacles (such as, not having the knowledge or skills needed for business development), your team members will be able to clearly see how they can meet (or exceed) their business development goals and expectations.

Track 3: Establish Accountability

The Song: “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson

Standout Lyric:
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

How it Relates: Am I just looking for a reason to use my favorite MJ song? Perhaps. But here’s my explanation anyway:

Behavior truly changes only when there is the aspect of accountability, either in the form of a carrot or a stick. While this song maybe more focused on personal accountability and action, firms can hold their team members accountable through performance reviews, sales and business development incentives, and leadership opportunities.

Track 4: Is the Cultural Needle Moving?

The Song: “Got My Mind Set On You” by George Harrison

Standout Lyric:
It’s gonna take time
A whole lot of precious time
It’s gonna take patience and time
To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it
To do it right child

How it Relates: BE PATIENT! Culture change takes time—a whole lot of precious time—and consistent efforts. You won’t see results overnight, but don’t give up! Persistence is key.

BONUS TRACK!

The Song: “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship

Standout Lyric:
And we can build this dream together
Standing strong forever
Nothing’s gonna stop us now

How it Relates: By setting expectations, providing tools and training to ensure focus and consistency, holding people accountable, and having a bit of patience, nothing can stop your firm from achieving its growth goals!

 

 

 

Tips for Effective Marketing Collateral

Since we’ve already reaffirmed that marketing collateral still matters, let’s talk about how to make it effective. Here are a few tips to ensure your marketing materials resonate with your prospects:

1. Focus on the problem solved…

People only buy two things: solutions to problems and good feelings.

To draw from the wisdom of WinWholesale COO Monte Salsman, “people only buy two things: solutions to problems and good feelings.” If you think about your own recent purchases, you’ll likely discover that they fall into these buckets.

The professional services your firm provides are meant to solve problems, and marketing collateral is the perfect avenue for explaining how your services benefit a potential client.

Just as you did with your professional resume, use the “so what” test when reviewing your marketing materials. Does the piece focus on information that means something to the prospect, information that they care about?

2. …but don’t overlook the importance of good feelings.

Obviously, the services you offer are meant to solve problems, whether they are compliance-focused, financial or operational in nature. But a prospect has to feel good about purchasing the solution from you.

Your firm likely has several competitors that could also solve the same problems, so why should the prospect pick you?

Your marketing materials are just the place to clearly state your value proposition. Yes, you can solve the problem at hand but you do this in a way that is more efficient, more effective, more communicative, etc., than your competitors.

3. Create pieces that work online and offline.

There is no doubt that today’s business exchanges are conducted online more frequently than in the past. But the reality is that (especially in professional services) a significant portion of business interactions are still conducted offline.

In-person meetings are instrumental in building connections and relationships that last, and especially critical in generating those good feelings mentioned above. Online channels are great for sharing information, but human interaction still packs a greater punch in developing like and trust, which, as we know, is essential to winning business.

And, generally speaking, our professionals are more confident in prospect meetings when they have something tangible to leave with the potential client.

Create some efficiencies by designing dual-purpose marketing pieces that will work online as a downloadable document or attachment, as well as offline as a printed piece.

4. Less is more.

As we mentioned in our post on professional resumes, attention spans are short in this digital age. Be sure to use concise language that gets to the point quickly and clearly demonstrates the meaning and benefits of your services to the audience.

5. Put quality first.

Your marketing collateral is more than a description of what your firm does. It can make an impression on your prospects that represent you and your firm long after an initial meeting.

To be remembered as a professional, respectable company, your copy should be free from typos and your branding should be consistent. Provide high-quality paper for printing these materials.

Make quality a priority.

Conclusion

Static marketing materials are far from dead, and can actually enhance your firm’s overall marketing and business development strategy and efforts.

 

Do you have other tips for creating effective marketing materials?

The Power of Professional Resumes in Professional Services

A professional resume is something that every professional needs, but not everyone bothers to write. Or they write one once, and then never update it. Or they wait until it’s needed for a proposal and just jot down the first few things that come to mind without putting much thought into it.

That’s a huge missed opportunity. Your professional resume is a strategic marketing tool, and should be given the effort and attention it deserves. A professional resume should be a concise overview of your skills, experience and achievements as they relate to specific services being offered or market segments being targeted.

Consider the following when developing your professional resume:

Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes.

Focus your professional resume on how you help your clients.

Keep in mind that even though your resume is ABOUT you, it is not FOR you.

Of course, there should be a focus on your achievements and experience, but it is important to show prospects how you use that experience to help them. Explain the significance of your achievements.

Once you have drafted your resume, try the “so what?” test. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, and for each item on your resume, ask yourself “why do I care?” Does this help instill confidence in the person reading your resume that you are competent and trustworthy? If not, edit.

Use language prospects understand.

You may be an expert in state sales tax legislation, but that doesn’t mean your prospects are. Be mindful of using industry jargon and providing too much detail. It’s important to strike a balance between detailed descriptions that demonstrate your knowledge, and big picture thinking that shows you understand your clients’ overall goals and challenges.

Try to adapt to your prospects’ vocabulary. Use key words and phrases that will resonate with them. Remember, it’s about them, not you.

And while we’re at it, not everything in your resume needs an acronym. Sometimes, “project management” experience > “PM” experience.

Ensure consistency with your firm’s style and brand.

One of the most common problems with professional resumes is a lack of consistency. You want to present your professionals as a cohesive team. The style in which your resume is written should reflect your firm’s brand.

Keep it concise.

People have very short attention spans. Your professional resume is intended to be a snapshot of your knowledge, skills and experience—just enough to demonstrate how you help your clients and why you are qualified.

Your professional resume is not intended to be a complete autobiographic chronicle of your life, to be bound in leather and passed down to your great-grandchildren. That’s a different story for another time.

UPDATE IT!

Your professional resume is not—I repeat, is NOT—a “one-and-done” exercise.

You don’t want your resume to seem frozen in time. It is important to update your resume with recent experience and achievements on a regular basis, at least annually.

Spend the most resume real estate on what your focus is now, with exceptions for outstanding honors or experiences that have had a significant impact on how you got to your current position.

Conclusion

As a professional, your clients are seeking your knowledge and experience, and the best way to capture this information is in the form of a resume.

A good professional resume can help clients feel confident in hiring your firm, and can put them at ease knowing that your team is ready and capable of helping them to achieve their goals. As a marketing tool, your resume should make it clear why someone should trust and work with you.

Now that you’ve crafted an effective professional resume, contact us to learn how POUNCE can help your firm manage resumes and marketing materials for business development.

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