âLucy, you have some splainin' to do!â (Desi Arnaz as âRickyâ in I Love Lucy) Those people who tout social prospecting as the next big thing need to provide answers to questions, specifically: âWhere does the business come from?
There's a disconnect because accountants and other professionals are advised to join community and professional groups, and mingle with wealthy folks. You've joined, you attend. Woody Allen said, âEighty percent of success is showing up.â What next?
Business Comes From Seven Places
Here's the good news: You have multiple paths to getting business. The bad news is you must actively pursue it. Let's assume you've joined a group and met lots of people, communicating who you are, what you do, and why you are good. You've also been learning who they are, where they work, and what they do. You've done Woody Allen's 80 percent of the work.
1. People you meet. It's human nature to consider trading up. People are comparing you to their current CPA, thinking about the attention and service they receive. They may be new to the area and need someone who does what you do.
Strategy: They explain they've got a CPA. You assume they are happy. âLet me know if anything ever changes.â You might offer a card, but because they see you regularly, that's not critical. You are low-key.
2. Referrals. The average person knows about 600 people, according to the New York Times. He may know someone who isn't happy with his CPA, is new to the area, or is in transition. There's a need. He volunteers your name. âI know a great guy at the club â¦ .â
Strategy: It's another passive situation. He knows what you do. If you know him really well, you might coach him how to tell someone you might be in a position to help. It depends on how forward you want to get.
3. Business within the group. Nonprofits are notorious for putting an accountant on the board, then expecting free advice. If in doubt, ask the attorney the nonprofit sat next to you. If the organization files tax returns with the state and federal government, there are issues of responsibility and liability. Under these circumstances, it's reasonable for the service provider to expect to be paid.
Strategy: Be aware of which organization files its taxes and the board's satisfaction or lack thereof. If you learn they are unhappy, you might mention you have someone in your office who does this kind of work because you have several nonprofits as clients. This gently communicates the work isn't done for free.
4. Other organizations. The professional staff around town know each other because networking and collaboration are their career ladders. They may be satisfied with their accountant, yet know another nonprofit across the street has a problem beyond the scope of their current provider.
Strategy: Remind your contacts you understand issues faced by players in the nonprofit space. When business comes up, reference articles you've read or changes in the law. Use simple English.
5. The big stuff. Certain moments in life require more attention. Divorce and selling a business are two examples. People tell their friends first before alerting their advisors. For example, when a couple tells their banker or financial advisor they intend to divorce, this may change the one signature policy on checks drawn on their joint account. Friends hear it first.
Strategy: You hear lots of juicy news. First, keep your mouth shut. Second, remember friends are supportive. Third, be top of mind without being pushy. They may really need what you provide.
6. Speak out. Your nonprofit might launch a capital campaign. The organization needs the story told throughout the community. One of the most efficient ways is to get on the meeting agendas of other community groups, like service clubs and the chamber. Credibility and gravity come along with being an accounting professional. You are an ideal spokesperson.
Strategy: Introductions precede speaks. You want your professional credentials (what you do, where you work) to be included. You are being showcased as you doing good for your organization. You've gained visibility. Someone needs an accountant.
7. Seminar, anyone? Country clubs and cultural institutions are usually housed in impressive buildings with ample parking. They likely rent event space to the public. If you are thinking about hosting a seminar, consider their location.
Strategy: Choosing their location gains prestige through association. Your group will appreciate the revenue because you chose its venue over a conventional hotel.
Glad-handing isn't a job requirement for business through your involvement in community groups. But raising your visibility and seeing the value in occasional opportunities marks you as a successful professional.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, Captivating the Wealthy Investor, can be found on Amazon.com.