What Firms are doing to Increase Sales, with Karen Bergh

Karen Bergh
What Firms are doing to Increase Sales by Karen Bergh of RainMaker Pro Training and Consulting

Session Moderator: I want to welcome all of you to our workshop this afternoon. Feel free to ask questions anytime you like. Karen will answer them as she is able and I'll "collect" those we miss so we can come back to them.

Now, I'll introduce Karen Bergh!

Karen Bergh trains and coaches professionals who want to sell more. Early in her career, her creative copy for ad agencies appeared in national campaigns, and helped sell products ranging from gas grills to banking services. While working for Ernst & Young, her Riverside, California based team claimed victory to closing an additional $1.5 million in new business in one year.

As the President of Virtual Marketing, Karen showed people how to develop and execute corporate marketing strategies. Working for a software manufacturer, she facilitated a product-knowledge training program that launched a new profit center, helping to achieve business development goals.

Karen is a member of the Professional Women's Roundtable/National Association of Female Executives, is active as a Board volunteer in several community organizations, publishes a monthly marketing column, and speaks at conferences. She currently serves as an on-camera host for the electronic magazine for successful entrepreneurs, Endeavors. She is based in Riverside, California, and also runs a busy household with two brilliant, and extremely un-shy toddlers and a loving husband.

Session Moderator: Welcome Karen! The floor is yours!

Karen Bergh: Thanks, Tina. I'm blushing, though you can't see it! How is everyone today?

Thanks to all of you who joined us today! As a strategic marketing consultant for accounting firms and other service professionals, I am a proponent of the school of thought that promotes having certain dedicated "others" besides partners involved in attracting new clients.

Today I want to share with you some examples of firms who are increasing sales by supporting sales and marketing teams and encourage you to share with us your success stories and suggestions as well.

Before we get started, are there specific issues you are concerned about?

OK, to get started then is everyone comfortable with the definitions of sales versus marketing? What the roles of each are?

To boil it down to its simplest elements:

Marketing functions usually include the internal activities that help a sales force when they are in the field. These activities can include the development of collateral materials, writing special direct mail letters and campaigns, creating presentations, writing proposals, and conducting public relations and special events.

Marketing administrative functions often include maintaining the firm's database, information management, sales funnel tracking and internal marketing.

Sales people perform the "rainmaking" functions: generate leads for new business by creating opportunities to talk with prospective clients about problems the firm can help solve. Sales people turn those leads into new business with their personal selling skills.

Very often, marketing personnel also provide the training and support systems to support the rainmaking activities.

Does anyone have any additional thoughts to add? Why would a firm need a dedicated team of sales and marketing professionals?

Again, because I believe a dedicated team is important (and we'll talk about real results in a minute), here are some additional thoughts...

Partners and key accounting staff are busy doing billable work. New business activity and the type of active marketing effort that goes into getting new business can be distracting. Key accounting staff are dedicated to client service, and by taking care of active client accounts often generate additional revenue for the firm by "cross-selling" additional services.

Sales and marketing people are typically devoted to the lead generation that is focused on new business revenue from prospective clients. Another recent trend of late: marketing professionals may be asked to serve in a Client Relations capacity where valued client accounts do not depend solely on one relationship.

Sharon Buzzanca: To increase revenue and meet the needs of existing clients.

Karen Bergh: I'm sorry, Sharon, was that a response or a question...I think I missed something!

Sharon Buzzanca: Response. My reason for joining today is we have implemented a bonus program to promote an increase in revenue at year end.

Karen Bergh: Thanks. So, you agree that firms need a dedicated team in order to increase revenue and meet the needs of existing clients...

Sharon Buzzanca: Definitely, team members need to be devoted to sales/mktg.

Karen Bergh: [Meeting the needs of existing clients, by the way, can lead to additional sales to existing clients, but we are talking about teams who are primarily focused on "bringing NEW business into the firm"]

Bryan Freshcorn: Karen-what do you mean by "dedicated"-persons whose sole function is marketing?

Karen Bergh: Bryan: I am defining those as full-time positions who are generally non-partners, and non-CPAs, who do nothing but "bird-dog" prospects (sales) or generate leads (marketing, in a more general sense).

What are the key goals for sales and marketing professionals? To boil it down another way: To engage in the relationship development that leads to closed sales [sales], and for creating the visibility and credibility that the firm's professionals need to augment their own marketing efforts [marketing].

Mike Saliba: Sharon - How does the bonus program work? How much is budgeted for it, how are bonuses paid, etc.?

Marcia L Campbell: Sharon - How big is your firm?

Sharon Buzzanca: Each member has a goal and an overall team goal. If the target is met there is a bonus pool and the partners decide based on team me. Our firm is 22/3partners. The bonus is to be paid to existing members 4/15/01, 5/15/01

Mike Saliba: Is the bonus for only new clients that come into the office or also for additional billings to existing clients?

Karen Bergh: I have one client that rewards team members for "ideas" (bonus pool) as well as commissionable sales for those who "bring in the client"

Henry South: Karen - Have you found that there are some people that make better salespersons and what are they like?

Marcia L Campbell: Karen, what size of firm do you need to have a designated sales person?

Karen Bergh: My client (to answer Mike's question) rewards members for additional billings to existing clients as well, providing the work would not have come about except for the initiative that person showed (the idea, again).

Two questions: Henry, to answer your question: Yes, there are some people that make better "salespersons" than others. There are key traits that they should have, or could be trained to acquire. Some of them are:

Outgoing/People person, Way with words/persuasive talk, Likes people, Good communication skills, Ability to close a deal, Self confidence, Knowledge of the product they are trying to sell, Outgoing personality, Ability to approach potential clients, Smiles, Knowledge of the subject of marketing, Not afraid to try new things, Personable, Know how to present your services, Great interpersonal skills, Know clients needs, Friendly, Power to quote or estimate jobs.

Denine Rood: Similar to Marcia's question, how big a firm would most benefit from a dedicated marketing person (as you described earlier)?

Karen Bergh: The second question: what size does a firm need to be?

My opinion is at least $1-2 million in revenues, minimum, and probably more. Are any of your firms that size, or bigger?

Denine Rood: Yes - $9 million.

Karen Bergh: Denine, do you have a dedicated sales, or marketing, person or persons?

Denine Rood: Oh, how I wish! I am the "head" of the marketing committee, but I am a CPA Consultant, so have client responsibilities.

Henry South: We are $4 Million and we have one dedicated person in marketing and had one person that was only sales.

Karen Bergh: Thanks, Henry. How do you feel about the results you are getting from the marketing effort (lead generation)? Now that you have lost your sales person, will the firm replace him/her?

Denine Rood: Henry, how was the salesperson compensated?

Henry South: Marketing is reasonable but we let the salesperson go, he had a hard time selling services, he came from a background of selling product. The salesperson was paid a base salary with a percentage of collected fees.

Marcia L Campbell: Karen, can you help smaller firms also with their marketing?

Karen Bergh: Henry, good point: proper screening for the right fit is important. Let me give you an example of a (large local) SoCal firm.

We recently conducted a survey of firms around the country, and to use the examples provided by three firms that have 85+ professionals: Corbin & Wertz of Orange County, California, has six non-partner, non-CPA sales professionals who are responsible for bringing new clients into the firm. There are no in-house marketing professionals. All six were hired from outside the firm, and are seasoned consultative sales professionals. All were hired for their book of business and extensive personal, productive networks.

At TravisWolff in Dallas, there are two marketing people and one full-time non-partner, non-CPA rainmaker. All professionals are encouraged to engage in sales training, which the firm pays for (sometime videotaping them to help them hone their presentation skills). All accounting professionals are held accountable for business development, and the sales and marketing professionals help support their goals and activities.

Also, at PKF Texas in Houston, there is one full-time, non-partner, non-CPA business development guru, and in her first four months there is credited with bringing in six new clients. In just my short observation period, it appears to me that Karen Love’s relationship marketing feats have become almost legendary among the members of the Association for Accounting Marketing, for example. Her dedicated sales efforts, and techniques, work.

Denine Rood: How big is TravisWolf?

Karen Bergh: TravisWolff, like Corbin&Wertz and PKF Texas, has at least 85 professionals.

Henry South: Karen Love used to be at Travis Wolf.

Karen Bergh: Denine, did you say how large your firm was? Any comparisons to any of your firms to the three mentioned?

Denine Rood: We have 150 people, 14 partners, about 50 are professional staff (of the 150), and $9 million is revenues.

Karen Bergh: Denine: I agree with your previous "wish" : with a firm that size, you should probably have and certainly could benefit from a dedicated person or two!

(Henry, you know Karen, too?! Like I say, I think she's something of a legend! Her TravisWolff reputation preceded her!)

Anca Munteanu: Karen, can you give a few examples of Karen Love's relationship marketing ideas and what worked to bring the 6 new clients.

Session Moderator: She IS a legend.

Henry South: Yes I have known Karen for several years In fact we sent our sales person to spend a day with her.

Joseph Matherne: Karen - Are Love's relationship marketing ideas similar to Bachrach's Values Based Selling?

Karen Bergh: Anca: Karen considers herself like the "Yahoo" of her firm. She is very active in her networking, and says she hates that word. She considers herself a "giver," and has successfully capitalized on what some industry leaders call the "law of reciprocity!”

Anca Munteanu: What are some of her techniques?

Denine Rood: "You scratch my back"...sort of?

Karen Bergh: Karen, for example, has engaged her firm and represents them as the contact for the Technology Center initiative that marries start-up technology based companies in Houston with the service providers who can help them grow. PKF Texas is actually a sponsor, and Karen provides the "high profile", personal interaction that attracts prospects.

Joseph, I haven't read Bachrach, but sounds very similar. You work with, and serve, those who most reflect your values.

Joseph Matherne: Exactly, finding clients that are willing to enter into a trusted advisor relationship based on mutual values and goals.

Session Moderator: Karen, if I may... Love utilizes an intentional, focused process that cuts through "lukewarm" leads to get to the really, hot ones.

Anca Munteanu: How does she turn a cold prospect into a hot, or does she use networking to find the lukewarm ones only?

Karen Bergh: Anca: To a great extent, qualifying prospects comes about when you are identifying needs.

Henry South: Karen looks for the hot leads and tries to spend her time with those relationships that will lead to something.

Lisa Patterson: If you were to attempt to provide that "high profile" personal interaction or become as networked as she is, what would you do?

Denine Rood: How so?

Session Moderator: She utilizes relationship marketing as a foundation to this process and then uses it to continue to get results. The "how to" is unique to each firm and their target market.

Karen Bergh: Several people asking the same kind of question: what is it, exactly, that you are DOING while you are cultivating those relationships?

What is relationship marketing? And because you get more and better results with focus, a committed group or person who does nothing but "relationship marketing" can be one of your most powerful tools in your marketing toolkit. These people easily pay for themselves, and more. Here's my definition: Relationship marketing focuses on how to network effectively how to turn network contacts into solid leads and referral sources for leads, and of all the personal selling skills and techniques you can use to promote a professional practice [I'm essentially talking about self-promotion here.]Does anyone want to add their ideas or questions about what relationship marketing entails?

Relationship marketing is an art, as well as a skill. I teach workshops on some of the skills, and how to strengthen your referral relationships.

Karen Love works hard at listening, and asking probing questions, to uncover these needs.

Relationship marketing provides a framework for turning needs into engagements. Or, finding solutions that address those needs. Even if your firm is not the one providing them (the law of reciprocity: you help a friend, they help you later).

Session Moderator: The focused process also puts YOU in front of the people your firm wants to be in front of in a very intentional way. As Karen Bergh said, key to your success is identifying who you want to be in front of and who is your best referral source.

Denine Rood: Do her leads come from internally, as well as from her external network?

Karen Bergh: Karen does have a close relationship with the partners and team members in the firm.

Anca Munteanu: Do they put her in front of people/clients?

Karen Bergh: Yes, the accountants in the firm will very often offer a "name" or an introduction and Karen works on cultivating the relationships and qualifying needs to advance the connection.

In effect, the "matchmaking" she does comes from her capacity to understand the value (and thus be able to "broker") the strengths and personalities of the accountants she is representing. Does that make sense?

Denine Rood: What was Karen Love's background prior to her marketing positions in CPA firms?

Karen Bergh: Tina, Do you know Karen Love's background?

Mike Saliba: What are some of the additional services that accountants are successful at marketing, both to existing traditional tax/auditing clients and new clients.

Denine Rood: Business valuations, management consulting, HR consulting to name a few

Karen Bergh: I have some clients that are successful marketing financial service, executive searches for controllers/CFOs, QuickBooks consulting...Others are having success establishing these third-party partnership with strategic alliance partners for IT, and others.

Mary Thomas: Our firm markets Estate Planning, Financial and Tax Planning, Outsourcing, and have recently added Investment Services

Karen Bergh: Mary, Outsourcing of what service?

Mary Thomas: The Outsourcing projects that we've done have involved large projects for local industry and hospitals. And, we offer Fraud Prevention and Detection and a Fraud hotline.

Lisa Patterson: I'd like to add litigation support, economic analysis, etc.

Karen Bergh: Thanks, Mary and Lisa, for adding your firm's forays into value-added services.

If anyone is interested in understanding how to profile for hiring and/or training for sales positions, please feel free to contact me after the workshop.

Sharon Buzzanca: Mary: expand on Fraud hotline.

Mary Thomas: We provide a special toll-free hotline number that allows an individual to speak directly with a member of our staff, or leave a message. It provides for anonymity, and we have a set of standard questions and arrange a callback for additional information about the crime.

Lisa Patterson: Mary, what then is your obligation? Do you recommend whether or not to report the crime?

Mary Thomas: We do report the conversation, but maintain the anonymity of the caller.

Karen Bergh: Mary, this fraud line is pretty far outside the core competencies, and related services, that CPAs are starting to offer. What value do you feel it has offered your firm so far?

Mary Thomas: One of our partners is a Certified Fraud Examiner - it really adds to services that we are able to offer governmental and industrial clients.

Karen Bergh: Mary, so your thought is that offering the Fraud services helps strengthen
your client relationships? Does it generate revenue too?

Now I have a question, are your firms finding existing clients open to your firm offering new/other non-traditional services? What kind of responses/results are you having?

Anca Munteanu: The partners in my firm seem reluctant to offer existing clients additional services. Should the marketing person be able to do that?

Paul Jocks: Existing clients are open to additional services beyond the traditional after some education and offering to help by us in a non-traditional service area. Just saying we now offer this or that does not produce any tangible results.

Karen Bergh: Anca, I am seeing that marketing people (with the partners or account managers permission and involvement) can serve in a neutral "client relations" capacity that can help open doors to introducing the new services.

Mary Thomas: In our firm, I'm very knowledgeable about the services that we offer - but, our partners and staff are the ones who 'close the sale'.

Karen Bergh: Paul, thanks for your comments. So, can you tell us who is doing the education/"pre-selling"?

Paul Jocks: This usually starts with the partner in charge. However, we started this year by discussing the concept of cross-selling and helping staff members identify areas that existing clients need help. Limited results so far from staff but we are just getting started and will continue with more training in Nov-Jan.

Karen Bergh: Paul, which firm are you with? I'd like to call you later to learn more about how that effort is working!

Paul Jocks: Williams, Herbert & Jocks, PC 734-675-0266 ext.230

Mike Saliba: Is there some rule of thumb on what percentage of a firm's revenue is budgeted for marketing (excluding specific bonuses paid to individuals based upon successes).

Session Moderator: Wow, Karen, I have to say this is one of the most DYNAMIC sessions we've ever had.

Sharon Buzzanca: We had great success giving one hour financial planning appts with pickup of tax return

Karen Bergh: Sharon, that's great! Did you "donate" the first hour? Has it led to additional revenue/new engagements?

Sharon Buzzanca: Yes, the preparer sets the appt and the client was ready to make a change

Dick A. Arakelian: Do you think that Elder Care services are more hassle then they are worth?

Karen Bergh: Elder care comment: I believe you should leave the advocacy stuff to other professionals who make that their sole focus. However, I believe it would pay to partner with these folks to be "the advisor" they turn to, or send the adult children to, for financial, tax and estate planning issues. Especially relevant to CPAs: asset protection, and tax planning. For the elder care market, I mean.

Paul Jocks: What are your thoughts on focusing on existing clients and making sure they have everything we can possibly provide before going to external marketing?

Karen Bergh: Thoughts on existing clients: if it's true that you get 80% of your business from 20% of your clients, you should make their best interests your #1 priority. However, the additional revenue that can be gained through dedicated lead generation and prospecting--not to mention "branding" --can create a profitable addition to $2 million-plus firms. I don't think you can do one without the other. But then, I talk to firms who are happy with their current growth and profitability and who haven't made the commitment to the additional resources.

Alun Morgan: Karen, for a smaller firm, is a part-time marketing resource worthwhile?

Karen Bergh: Alun, who is currently doing your "marketing"? And, who is doing the "sales"?

Alun Morgan: Very little activity at the moment, we are thinking about generating new work, or selling new services. The latter could be problematical as the current client base is quite low value work.

Karen Bergh: Alun, I'd be interested in talking with you offline. If anyone wants to call me later, I'll be in my office Thursday a.m. (909) 276-0992 10 a.m. Pacific Time zone.

Paul Jocks: Can you give us your definition of "branding"?

Karen Bergh: Paul: Branding is a complex process. But, in a classic Marketing 101 sense, it encompasses: identifying logos and trademarks; the promise that you are delivering something "special" that is uniquely yours; how you differentiate your produce or service in the marketplace; capturing mindshare and "heartshare" so the "brand" in a given category is YOURS. "Be not only the best, but the only one consumers or clients will consider"

Session Moderator: This has been a lively exchange. Thanks to all of you for being here today.

As always, feel free to let us know of other topics you want to see. Have a successful week!

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