How New CPAs Can Grow Their Client Network
Accountants may be stereotyped as poor at networking but social skills are just as necessary for new CPAs as they are for new workers in any other business. This is especially so as new CPAs who want to climb up the ranks need to bring in business and clients, which requires networking and social finesse as much as technical skill.
But expanding your client network does not mean going to random events where you never build any real connections. It does mean that CPAs should rethink how they approach their jobs, understand what their clients truly want from them, and look to build real, social connections that extend beyond mere business. Here are a few things that young CPAs should consider on how to build an effective network.
Know Your Strengths
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are over 1.3 million accountants and auditors in the United States. An accountant trying to sell himself to a client should have a reason why a client should pick him and not any other accountant. A new accountant may not have years of experience, but you have other good traits such as a bright personality, good credentials, or a willingness to go above and beyond to serve the client.
In order to sell yourself as an accountant, your first step is to figure out what your real strengths are and how you can inform potential clients of these strengths. And above all else, do not try to be something you are not. People can see through such deceptions like a morose person trying to be cheery or an accountant pretending that he knows more than he really does, and such lies will only drive clients away and harm your reputation.
“Network,” but Don’t Network
Anyone who has ever held a professional job, whether accounting or otherwise, can tell you that going to formal networking events is almost always a waste of time. This is because at those sorts of events, people are just trying to get something from someone else instead of trying to build a meaningful relationship.
Instead of actively trying to “network”, accountants should look to join groups such as a young professionals group or alumni network, meet people, and build relationships. These groups do not have to be related to accounting. In fact, accountants should look to actively join at least one group which does not have many accountants. If a client within that group discovers their business needs an accountant, you will thus become the most visible accountant to them.
Networking is fundamentally a fancy word used to describe how humans form professional relationships with one another. Focus on the relationship part more than the professional. And as noted above, be yourself when networking instead of trying to be someone you are not. Don’t get tripped up by small mistakes and be confident, but not arrogant.
The Importance of Social Media
A young accountant cannot advertise his skills through television or radio advertisement. But they can advertise using social media and content marketing. Networking can show that you are an affable fellow, but making interesting posts on social media can prove that you truly know your accounting material and make you more attractive.
Blogging is particularly useful, even if you will not get many hits. Blogging about recent accounting development is proof that you are interested in keeping up with important events and that your skills are not going to waste. Similarly, following important individuals on social media websites and taking note of their thoughts also can show your involvement and interest.
By being active with technology, you can help others remember your presence beyond some events that only occur a few times per year. The ability to stick in their minds can help you attract future clients in the long run.
You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. CPAs may be nervous about asking clients for referrals out of fears of driving them away, and it is certainly rude to ask an entirely new client for referrals immediately. But if you and your clients have a strong relationship, they should be happy to offer referrals as long as you take the first step to ask them.
This does of course mean that you need to build a strong relationship first, and that means going beyond the numbers. Offering strong customer service and learning about new technological advances will show clients that you are continuing to look for ways to help them, which will make them more inclined to offer you referrals.
To become an accountant and join a firm, you likely had to appeal to the right people in the right place. Do not let those skills go to waste by ignoring the importance of being friendly, forming relationships, and offering good customer service. Learning how to grow your client network now is a skill which will help you throughout your career.
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Cost accountant with major focus in SAP/General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS). Also, main functional inspector for accounting/finance audits for internal reviews as well as the Statement of Budgetary Resources audit initiative.