Getting New Clients Through Speaking Engagements
Every relationship—including business relationships—has a kite and a string: Sales and marketing people are the kites. Accountants are the strings. Someone has to rein them in, bring them back to earth. We have to be realistic: as accountants, tt's likely you are a string, not a kite.
But that doesn't mean you don't have a need for kites. Yes, it looks easy for the sales folks: They cold call, run some ads, beat the bushes for referrals. But accountants don't go door to door. How can they get new clients?
Consider speaking engagements, which can be a terrific practice-builder, if it's done right.
Start by assembling a few compelling topics of interest to the general public. Build them using attractive slides and easy-to-understand terminology. Develop 30- and 60-minute versions. It's likely your firm or professional association has some packaged presentations available. (If they qualify for continuing education for your fellow accountants, lawyers or financial planners, that's even better.) Build your own presentation if others aren't available.
Determine your objective. Likely it's to gain new client relationships. Your educational seminar is designed to position you as a professional and get audience members interested enough to call.
Secure Those Bookings
Speaking engagements require you to line up the opportunities. If you are new to this arena they won't be coming to you. Let's assume you will initially send a letter followed by a phone call. Consider the following ideas:
- Your Local Church or Religious Organization. You are a familiar face and a professional. Would they be open to a talk on identity theft or recent changes to tax laws? They publicize your talk from the pulpit and through the bulletin. You present in the Parish Hall.
- Homeowners Associations. Many over-55 communities have clubhouses. Retired folks have plenty of spare time. The association needs to provide activities.
- Alumni Association. It's likely they have a local chapter. Join. Attend the monthly luncheons. Do they have speakers? After time has passed, suggest you could do a talk. Share your list of topics.
- Service Clubs and Professional Associations. Do they feature speakers from their membership? It's likely you already belong. Get into the rotation.
- Financial Advisors. It's likely you have one and know others. They organize seminars. An accountant who will discuss tax law changes can be a big draw. Be mindful they will likely expect you to invite your clients. They are supplying their own clients and prospects.
- Law Firms. Some financial advisors have developed relationships with law firms, visited and presented short talks for attorneys in their conference room. Why not accountants?
Getting New Business
Accountants aren't seen as pushy salespeople. Try not to change their perception. When you are introduced you might position yourself. "I'm a CPA with (firm). Our practice is focused on business owners. It's likely you work with a CPA already. If you are happy with them, that's great. If you think there's room for improvement, perhaps we should talk." Is that subtle enough? You got your message across.
The handout you distribute should have contact information. It's likely you've impressed them as a competent professional. If they want to do business, how are they supposed to get in touch?
Finally, encourage them to ask questions. They can ask during the session, after the close or in the next few days. Explain how to find your contact information in the handout.
If your presentation is well received, it's likely they will bring you back. Keep them aware of topics. You made a good impression. The organization likely has other chapters. They will share your name and suggest others bring you in. After all, there's no cost to the group. If you live in the Snow Belt you have another advantage: Sometimes guest speakers can't make it because of weather. Position yourself as a backup speaker that lives locally. You might get last minute calls during the next blizzard.
Your profession commands a great deal of respect. Raising your visibility through speaking engagements can lead to new prospects.
About the author:
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc.  in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book "Captivating the Wealthy Investor" can be found on Amazon.com.