Using Industry Profiles to Improve Your Business, with Wil Brawley and Michelle Golden
Using Industry Profiles for Sales Call Preparation, Business Valuations, Audits and More!
Get a handle on the most effective ways that accountants can take advantage of market research reports, including:
- How the reports should be used
- What these reports contain
- How the information is gathered
Read the complete transcript of the workshop!
January 16, 2001 Session Sponsored by Intacct
Session Moderator: Welcome everyone, and thank you so much for joining us today! We are happy to have Wil Brawley and Michelle Golden with us, presenting a workshop on Using Industry Profiles for Sales Call Preparation, Business Valuations, Audits and More. Wil Brawley is the Vice President of Marketing for First Research and also one of the principals of the company. His responsibilities include business development and marketing, customer relations, and product improvement. He is dedicated to helping First Research customers "think outside the box" and focus on the critical aspects of their clients' businesses by using extensive pre-call planning to their advantage. Through interviewing First Research's customers, he has learned that First Research's Industry Profiles are valuable to accountants not only for pre-call planning and proposals, but also for business valuations and audits.
Michelle Golden founded Golden Marketing Resources to implement business development and management solutions within small to mid-sized professional service firms. Michelle enjoyed several years as the marketing director for Williams-Keepers LLP, a mid-sized regional CPA firm. She then joined the multi-state law firm, Husch & Eppenberger LLC, as the marketing manager for all six of the firm's offices. In the ten years prior to her work with professional service firms, Michelle was a staff accountant in the corporate headquarters of two public healthcare companies. Deeply committed to educating CPA firms and their marketing professionals about new ways to enhance sales and marketing results, Michelle is very active in the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM). She is a Member of AAM's Board of Directors since 1997, cofounder of AAM's New Member Discussion List, a Conference Committee member since 1996, and a participant in various other committees and task forces. Michelle also volunteers with the St. Louis Tax Assistance Program and is a member of the CPAvenue Advisory Board.
Welcome, Michelle and Wil!
Michelle Golden: thanks Gail, it's nice to be here
Wil Brawley: Good afternoon! Thank you for having me here today
Wil Brawley: Today I would like to have an interactive chat, so please feel free to ask questions at any time. I intend to discuss First Research's Industry Profiles and how you can use them to provide strategic, tactical, and solution advice to clients. I'll give you an overview of each of the chapters in an Industry Profile and discuss some Best Practices. Accounting firms use our Industry Profiles for anything from Sales Call Preparation to sharpening Proposals to work on Business Valuations and Audits. Today we have 90 Industry Profiles and typically add 2 - 3 new profiles per month. The profiles are updated every 90 - 120 days. We cover multi-billion dollar, fragmented, often niche industries, such as Building Material Supply, Physician Offices, Telecommunication Services, Commercial Construction Contractors, Automobile Dealerships, and Banks & Credit Unions. A printed Industry Profile will range from 7 - 14 pages in length. We like to maintain brevity and to focus on the issues and information that is relevant and important to our customers.
Michelle Golden: There is as much application of the profiles for products as there is for sales calls
Wil Brawley: Each Industry Profile contains the following chapters: Hot Topics, Industry Summary, Industry Overview, Key Questions, Industry Trends & Developments, Industry Threats & Challenges, Industry Opportunities, News & Media Information, Financial Information, Web Site Links, and Glossary of Acronyms. I'm going to give a quick summary of each of the chapters of our profiles.
Michelle Golden: Before you do that, Wil, does anyone have any specific questions
Wil Brawley: Hot Topics are a great way to stay abreast of your current clients' industries. Call your clients and ask how these "Hot Topics" are affecting their businesses. We typically list 4 or 5 Hot Topics each time we update an Industry Profile.
The Industry Summary provides you with 4 or 5 bullet points that we believe are the most important facts about an industry.
Industry Overview summarizes the important facts and information you need to know when you are learning about an industry. This is a great chapter to read if you have a prospect and are not familiar with how their industry operates.
Key Questions gives you industry specific, dialogue-generating questions to ask on a call. The questions are categorized in to the following order: Products, Operations and Facilities; Customers, Marketing, Pricing, Competition; Regulations, R&D, Imports and Exports; Organization and Management; Financial Analysis; Strategy & Technology
The order is designed to allow you to ask the more general "Products, Operations, and Facilities" questions early in your call, and then work into more specific, detailed questions found in "Financial Analysis" and "Strategy & Technology". Or you may wish to pick questions from a specific category or categories, depending on the purpose of your call.
Michelle Golden: Key questions are especially valuable when you are preparing for a meeting with a new prospect. Key questions give you the right jargon to show you are familiar with the industry
Wil Brawley: Industry Trends & Developments: Organized by topic, this chapter will tell you about the current trends and recent developments in the industry. Industry Threats & Challenges: If you want to know what is keeping your clients up at night, refer to this chapter. Make sure to ask your clients how these threats and challenges affect their businesses.
Industry Opportunities; if you want to know what excites your clients, refer to this chapter. Make sure to ask your clients how these opportunities affect their businesses, and help them find ways to capitalize on them.
Michelle Golden: When you can ask meaningful questions about where the prospect stands, you can get a lot deeper uncovering their concerns
Wil Brawley: News & Media Information: This chapter summarizes recent industry articles from various publications.
Financial Information: This chapter provides Small Company Financial Benchmark Information as well as industry data and statistics. It also provides publicly traded company benchmarking.
Michelle Golden: this is the info you can use as a value-added deliverable with financial statements for the write-up client
Wil Brawley: Web Site Links: This chapter gives you links to relevant industry web sites in the following categories: First Research Favorites; Associations; Other. Let me pause, and ask for questions.
Michelle Golden: Have any of you had a chance to view a 1st Research profile?
Wil Brawley: I'm going to discuss Sales Call Preparation for a bit. When you go on a sales call, you want to be prepared and confident that you can align yourself with the client and speak their language. Industry Profiles are designed to give you the knowledge you need to venture away from your own products and services and think about your client's business. This mindset leads to solution-based problem solving and value-added client relationships that are not subject to prices. Customers choose value-added advisors based upon effective relationship building. Paramount to relationship building is a basic understanding of what drives your customer's business. Before each client call, our customers prepare themselves with knowledge of how the company operates, of its market drivers, and of its dynamic mix of suppliers, vendors, and products.
They consider questions such as these:
- What challenges do the company's CFO or CEO face on a daily basis?
- Specifically, how does this company add value to its clients?
- What major events have occurred in the company's industry in the past few months that could affect its operations?
- What factors drive the company's revenue?
- What factors determine the company's supply prices and or labor costs?
- What opportunities, such as technology, exist that may improve the company's operations?
Michelle Golden: For instance, if you are going out to see a managed care provider, you'll find "Managed care plans use various types of cost controls, including gatekeepers, "utilization reviews" that determine the appropriateness of care, and negotiated discounts with service providers to minimize healthcare costs." This is one of the definitions in Industry Summary. I have a healthcare background and can tell you that not every accountant knows something about Utilization Review. We'd be impressed.
Bryan Freshcorn: Let me ask a quick question. Other the frequency of the updating of information, are there any other differences between the profiles we can obtain via subscription and the ones we can purchase on the AccountingWEB site?
Wil Brawley: Good question. The profiles contained on AccountingWEB are the same as what we have at www.1stresearch.com. Are there any other questions???
Wil Brawley: Let me go to Best Practices. But first, I would like to offer one last thought on sales call preparation. Once the client sees that your are interested in their business and not in simply pitching products and services, you will establish a level of trust that is requisite to establishing a long term relationship. You can leverage the information in the profiles to help you establish that trust.
Michelle Golden: Every business development expert supports that statement, Wil. Relationships are KEY!
Wil Brawley: I am going to move on to some First Research Best Practices.
- Mail Industry Specific Prospect Letters
- Show with evidence that you have researched a prospect's industry before contacting them by using information from an Industry Profile. Explain in the letter your desire to know their business and understand their challenges.
- Always ask "Key Questions" First Research Industry Profiles provide "Key Questions" that are designed to generate meaningful discussions, whether you are in a face-to-face office meeting, or in a more casual setting.
- Uncover what keeps your clients up at night by asking intelligent, dialogue generating questions.
Wil Brawley: Example for calling on a Physician Office: Has the office tried to negotiate better reimbursement rates with the HMOs? As we tell you in the profile on this industry. Some physician practices are finding they're better off financially by not contracting or by negotiating with dominant HMOs. Or, Does the physician office have high leverage (debt relative to net worth)? We tell you in the profile that "Physician Offices average total liabilities divided by net worth equal to 3.9x. High debt is not unusual due to physician's substantial cash flow." And one last example: Does the physician participate in a "capitated" fee arrangement with any of its managed care networks? We tell you in the profile that "Capitated arrangements provide fixed payments to physicians per member - physicians must treat individuals using that fee, regardless of the service needed. Capitation rates for medical groups went up an average 7.4 percent in 2000, according to the new National Health Information's 2000 capitation survey"
Michelle Golden: Not only that, but it's nice that you define all the terms like "capitation" and "utilization review" and others. These questions will show the client that you can intelligently speak their language!
Michelle Golden: Wil, you mentioned sending industry specific prospect letters. I could see how the profile, alone, could give a firm lots of ideas for their own industry specific newsletter content. Do you mind if your subscribers do this?
Wil Brawley: We hope they will! That is a great Best Practice to add to the list. On to some more Best Practices......Here is a great way to use the "Web Site Links" in each profile...Clients appreciate it when you think about them while reading something that could directly affect their businesses. Use the web site links to find an article about a client's industry. Drop an article off at a client's office along with a short note letting them know that you thought it might interest them.
Michelle Golden: Lots of CPAs have little, "Thought you'd be interested" cards they can enclose, but I think a personal note is better. And mailing it is fine, too.
Wil Brawley: Absolutely!
Bryan Freshcorn: What's your criteria for creating new Industry Profiles? How many requests are needed to get a new Profile and typically how long does it take for a brand new Profile to be published?
Wil Brawley: Great question Bryan!
Michelle Golden: I was wondering that, too.
Wil Brawley: We take request from our subscription customers... we like to cover industries that are relevant across our customer base. We typically add 2 -3 new profiles per month.
Michelle Golden: Your client base is primarily CPAs and Commercial Lenders, correct?
Wil Brawley: Michelle, that is correct. Bryan, it typically takes 1 - 2 weeks for a new profile to be completed.
Bobby Martin: I have a question for the rest of the group, how do you currently prepare for sales calls?
Michelle Golden: Most firms I know might read the biz journal and/or look at D&B reports
Wil Brawley: Let me expand on our sources and the process of creating our profiles.
- Government Sources: Our primary government sources are the Federal Reserve, the Commerce Dept., the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Dept. of Energy, the EPA, FDA, FTC, and the ITC, as well as others.
- Industry Sources: Important information about marketing, pricing, competition, consolidation, regulation, risks, and industry issues and trends comes from the annual 10-K reports that public companies must file with the SEC. We usually review half a dozen or more 10-Ks for each industry, taking care to include the viewpoint of both large and small companies.
- Industry Associations are often good sources of information about policy and regulatory issues, and many also provide industry statistics that the government doesn't collect.
D. Michelle Golden: Do you interview any businesses for their take?
Wil Brawley: Yes, in terms of other sources....We rely on news sources mainly for description of events and discussion of issues, not for data. Some examples of sources are the Dow Jones Interactive Publications library and industry-specific Internet magazines. We also interview industry participants and/or consultants who have particular expertise in an industry. Let me talk for a minute about Business Valuations...Many of our clients site the information in our profiles in their business valuations. The IRS requires the business valuator to consider the economic and industry conditions in which the subject company operates (Revenue Ruling 59-60). Revenue Ruling 59-60 instructs that you must consider "the economic outlook in general and the condition and outlook of the specific industry in particular". Since you have to perform an Industry Outlook.... An Industry Profile is a great source for you to use! In particular, the Industry Overview..Industry Trends & Developments…Industry Threats & Challenges...Industry Summary....and Industry Opportunities. These are the most popular chapters for business valuators. Let me pause...And ask if there are any questions...
Michelle Golden: Do any of you do valuations? I'm curious what applications our audience sees for this product in your practices?
Wil Brawley: Have any of you used an Industry Profile?
Michelle Golden: we have a shy group!
Bryan Freshcorn: I've ordered the Electrical Contractor profile for a recent valuation. It came in very handy.
Wil Brawley: Would you like to comment on what you liked best about the profile, Bryan?
Michelle Golden: Do you feel like you can relate a little better to the client now?
Wil Brawley: Let me go back to 2 more Best Practices
- Get Quizzed.... Before you go on a call, ask a colleague to quiz you on the information in an Industry Profile. One of our subscription customers, a firm in Denver, uses this practice. They all quiz each other on the info. in a profile before going on a call. This is a great way to make sure you are retaining the important information!
- Sharpen Proposals... Make your proposals stronger and more compelling by using specific industry information. Your prospect will see the difference between your proposal and your competition's generic proposal.
D. Michelle Golden: Awesome! That means they are rehearsing for the meeting, too!
The industry challenges and threats are most useful for this because you, as a firm, can suggest how you will help guide the client through such challenges...
Session Moderator: As we near the end of the hour - are there any final questions or comments that anyone wants to share?
Wil Brawley: I want to thank AccountingWEB for having Michelle and I and to thank all of you for taking time out of your schedules to participate.
Kenneth McCall: This was a good overview of your product, and how to use it. Thanks.
Wil Brawley: Thank you Kenneth! I appreciate that.
Michelle Golden: thanks for having us!
Session Moderator: Thank you, Michelle and Wil, for an extremely informative workshop! And thank you to all of you for attending today!
Wil Brawley: Look for Industry Profiles in the "Tools" section of the AccountingWEB home page
Wil is the Vice President of Marketing for First Research and also one of the principals of the company. His responsibilities include business development and marketing, customer relations, and product improvement.
Wil received his A.B. in History at Davidson College. He is a Certified Cash Manager (CCM) and is Series 6 and Series 63 certified. He is a member of the Association of Financial Professionals (AFP) and the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM).
Prior to joining First Research, Wil spent several years in treasury management with NationsBank (now Bank of America). For two years he traveled three to four days per week, visiting with bank customers and helping them streamline their cash management functions. He then worked with some of the bank’s most valued customers as a Client Manager in Premier Banking. He learned that, to earn his clients’ and prospective clients’ trust, it was critical that he demonstrate a firm understanding of their businesses.
Today he is dedicated to helping First Research customers “think outside the box” and focus on the critical aspects of their clients’ businesses by using extensive pre-call planning to their advantage. Through interviewing First Research’s customers, he has learned that First Research’s Industry Profiles are valuable to accountants not only for pre-call planning and proposals, but also for business valuations and audits.
Wil lives and works in Burbank, CA, where he lives with his wife, Lauren, a former Miss SC USA and an aspiring actress. He plans on attending UCLA’s Anderson School of Business next fall in the Fully-Employed program.
Michelle Golden founded Golden Marketing Resources to implement business development and management solutions within small to mid-sized professional service firms. Michelle Golden (formerly Gable) enjoyed several years as the marketing director for Williams-Keepers LLP, a mid-sized regional CPA firm. She then joined the multi-state law firm, Husch & Eppenberger LLC, as the marketing manager for all six of the firm’s offices. In the ten years prior to her work with professional service firms, Michelle was a staff accountant in the corporate headquarters of two public healthcare companies.
Michelle grew up in Orange County, California and moved to Missouri in 1990. She attended Santa Ana College, Irvine Valley College and Columbia College majoring in Business with an emphasis in Marketing.
Deeply committed to educating CPA firms and their marketing professionals about new ways to enhance sales and marketing results, Michelle is very active in the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM). She is a Member of AAM’s Board of Directors since 1997, cofounder of AAM’s New Member Discussion List, a Conference Committee member since 1996, and a participant in various other committees and task forces.
Michelle also volunteers with the St. Louis Tax Assistance Program and is a member of the CPAvenue Advisory Board.
She has contributed to several articles in CPA Marketing Report, Lawyer Marketing, and Managing Partner.
Voice of the Editor
Which isn’t completely true. I mean, occasionally I drop by when I manage to sneak out of the nonstop frat party over at Going Concern, but I’m mostly a wallflower over there. I’m happy to say that I’ve been given express permission (or explicit orders, if you like) to wander over here to AccountingWEB more often.
Why is that, you might ask? My job is to replace the irreplaceable Gail Perry as Editor-in-Chief. What does that mean? I don’t really know! I think it’ll be fun getting a feel for things, throwing in my own thoughts here and there, and listening to the discussions you’re having about the accounting profession.