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What Happens When Accountants Get Religion

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Sep 11th 2014
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There's more to life than work. Many professionals find themselves worshipping on weekends, saying thanks and being involved in the community. Can this lead to business? Yes—if you keep it low-key.

First of all, don't scroll to the "Comment" section and start typing",I don't prospect within my faith!" That's not what I'm proposing. This article is addressing the concept of tactfully raising your visibility among people with whom you share a set of beliefs and values. When you sit in your row at services and look around you see familiar faces. Often you know some first names and what they do for a living along with a sense of their level of success. Shouldn't you have a persona? Actually, you already do. Here are a few tips for radiating the right signals.

1.Attend Events. Religious organizations with multiple services on weekends operate in a silo structure. You may recognize familiar faces at Saturday evening services, yet see no one familiar if you attend the Sunday late morning service. People might be neighbors and "worship together" yet not see each other because they are on different schedules. For these reason religious communities holds lots of social events. Attend. Mingle. People will ask what you do. Tell them. Take an interest in them. But do not start exchanging card—keep it low key. Remember, this is an ice cream social, not a networking event.

Benefits: Gradually word get out about what you do. Dress well and always conduct yourself professionally. You've helped create your short description, which others will pass around.

2. Be Involved and Take a Role. Many congregations have lay readers and ministers, opportunities where members of the congregation take a role in services. In fact, I've been a church lector for years. Volunteering is a way of saying thanks and giving back. Once a month I'm scheduled to deliver the first and second readings. Conservatively dressed in a suit, you give a good impression. Some congregations station the lay ministers near the doors thanking people for attending. You give back and get great visibility.

Benefits: It's amazing: After a while everyone knows you. You might not recognize them, but they say hello on the street. Wearing the right lapel pin or tie is a discrete way to communicate what you do. People use your volunteer role as a measure of your professionalism. "He's an accountant. He also does the readings at services. He must be good and honest, because he does the readings at services."

3.Get Close to the Money. This advice came from a former Greek Orthodox Priest who became a financial advisor. Congregations often have a finance committee providing oversight, a council serving as an advisory board and a development committee involved in fundraising. Your professional skills are an excellent fit for the first and second and a good fit for the third if you don't mind asking for money. Every organization can use an extra accountant as a volunteer.

Benefits: In the eyes of the congregation your involvement places you in an advisory role. For example, they may be thinking to themselves: "She's a CPA. She handles the congregation's money. She must be good. Indeed, she must be honest because she handles the congregation's money."

4.Advertise. Words gets around. People know what you do. Some might even approach you and ask to become clients. Most religious congregations have a weekly bulletin handed out after services, and it often includes a page of business card ads. Call up the provider and take out a business card ad for the next year or so.

Benefits: Regular attendees see your name every week. If they flip through the bulletin or even just toss it when they get home, their peripheral vision catches your ad on the back page. They might not consciously pay attention, but they do it weekly! It reinforces what you do. Many people prefer to do business with people they know or people sharing the same beliefs or opinions.

What Have You Accomplished So Far?

Everything you've done so far tactfully raises your visibility. You have not passed out a card or asked anyone for their business. You are now considered "successful." Why? Because in many people's minds, aggressive salespeople who push for business are "desperate." You are in a financial profession. You have clients, too. Since you don't push for business you aren't desperate. In their minds, the opposite of desperate is successful. You are visible, always well dressed and poised. They know what you do. What's wrong with that?

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.

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By Greg Kyte
Jun 25th 2015 20:11 EDT

I don't prospect within my faith.

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By Bryce Sanders
Jun 25th 2015 20:11 EDT

Dear Greg:
Thanks for commenting on my article. I agree. The worst story I ever heard was about the fellow who stood outside the door after services and handed his business card to departing parishioners. It can be disastrous.
Raising you visibility is a different subject. It's human nature for people to make assumptions. With your help they can get it right.

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