Small Business Blues - An Open Letter to CPA Firms
In my role at AccountingWEB, I am in the fortunate position of working with CPA firms and with small business owners on a daily basis. As you can imagine, the relationship between the two as described by one group is not always the same as the relationship as described by the other group. So listen up accounting professionals. On behalf of all those business owners who are looking for help but seem to be frustrated with communicating with the accounting professionals who are courting them, I write this letter. Take heed, and listen to your prospects talking. . .
Dear Accounting Professional:
Why won't you make it easy for me to do business with you?
I am a small businessman who needs some help growing my business. I work 12 hours a day and I need someone who can step in and help me get control of my life again and steer my business in the right direction.
Please understand that I really WANT to do business with you. I'm looking for the right phrases, emotions, or actions that subtly confirms for me my overwhelming desire to HIRE YOUR FIRM. I'm looking for reasons to say "YES" to you, not "no." I don't want to spend my time selecting a CPA. But you're not making it easy.
- You sell accounting services everyday. I buy accounting services once in a blue moon. Help guide me through the process. Is my business too small for your firm? Do you have the staff to assist me with the day-to-day accounting functions? Tell me what I should be looking for. Tell me how you have helped others like me.
- I know which questions I want to ask. You know which questions I should be asking. Share them with me.
- I don't know what my budget is for your services because I don't know what it will take to get me to where I want to be. Based on what you know about me, tell me the low, median, and high range of what it could cost, and show me what benefits I would derive at each level.
- My customers buy my product for a fixed price, not my time based on how efficient I am. I can budget and forget my worries with a fixed price from you. Can you accommodate my desire to forget my worries?
- I expect you to be technically competent - that's not really a big selling point.
- The issue is how can you customize your knowledge to fit my needs, not how can I change my needs to fit what you have to sell.
- Your firm has been around for 40 years? Congratulations, good for you. What's important to me is 'What can you do for my business?'
- I know my business and my problems are unique. You've seen dozens of companies like mine and know that many of the problems are similar. Share with me some stories of how you helped other small business owners get control of their businesses.
- As a prospect, I know that you really want my business because you are spending hours trying to close the sale. Why is it that when I become a client the billable clock starts ticking immediately?
- I really do understand that in your business, you may not be the one doing the work. That's OK. Then let me talk to the person who WILL be doing the work so I can feel good about them.
- I desperately want to end my search for a CPA and get on with improving my business. Make me feel like you heard and understood what my concerns are so I can feel good about making a decision to hire you.
- My business is my life, it's all consuming. Show me that you care about me and my business too. If you really do care, then my search is almost over. If you really don't care, respect my time enough to diplomatically point me elsewhere.
Keep in mind, I'm looking for reasons to say "YES," not "no," but you don't make it easy. Honor your promises, do what you say you're going to do, show me that you understand, and above all else show me that you care. It's not that hard. Amazingly most of your competitors aren't doing it, so a little effort on your part will go a long way and will really make you stand out in my mind.
Make it easy for me to do business with you, and this can be the start of a fruitful relationship.
Most Small Business Owners
About the author: Michael Platt is the President of AccountingWEB and has consulted with many CPA firms on Marketing and Practice Management issues. Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org  to find out how he may be able to assist your firm.