Motivating Partners and Staff to Marketing Action, with Allan Boress

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Allan BoressMotivating Partners and Staff to Marketing Action
Presented by Allan Boress
Allan S. Boress and Associates
Contact [email protected]

Tuesday, February 6, 2001

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It is the MARKETING ACTION your professionals take that dictate the success of your firm's marketing efforts. The greatest marketing director, ad budget, public relations campaign and seminar program go to waste unless your people are PERSONALLY and PROactively involved in the marketing process. The top sales consultant to the accounting profession and author of the only book ever published on how to change the culture in a CPA firm, Allan Boress, CPA, shared his knowledge earned over 20 years of consulting to over 500 CPA firms. Workshop participants learned the most effective and proven ways to get partners and staff into directed personal marketing action.

Workshop Transcript

Session Moderator: Welcome everyone and thank you for coming! Today we are happy to introduce Allan Boress, CPA, CFE, who will share with us some pointers on how to motivate members of your firm into marketing action.

Allan Boress is a consultant to professional firms on a variety of issues revolving around selling, marketing, client relationships, business development, time management, and more. Since 1980, Allan has taught these skills to over 100,000 professionals.

Allan is also the author of "The 'I Hate Selling' Book", which totally redesigns the sales process for professional service providers (attorneys, accountants, consultants, public relations experts, engineers, architects, etc.) and other sellers of intangibles. Allan's training offers a systematic approach to bringing in more business -- an approach that removes the pain of fear of failure and rejection from the sales process forever.

Welcome, Allan - the floor is yours!

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Thanks for joining me by the pool this afternoon. It's 70 degrees here in Florida and I hope we can answer your burning questions.

What I would like to do first is ask you what you came here for. It is probably easiest if we get your issues on the table first as it is often the case that I can answer multiple questions at once. So go ahead and ask!!!

Sean Haggerty: Allan, the one burning question I have is: How do you get non-marketing partners to build their practice?

Summer Brooks: Good question!

Session Moderator: I'd like to know what part new-hires play in the marketing process, when they're still getting their feet wet in the firm

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Folks - let's get your questions on the table so we can move forward - don't be shy!!!

Steve Smith: Why, in general, do most professionals hate to sell?

Elizabeth Frazier: How do you get partners to spend money on marketing when they view referrals as a primary way of getting new business?

Jeff Cristall: How do we get partners out of their comfort zones without pushing so hard they rebel or withdraw

Michael Heines: How can you change a Partners mind that Referrals are not the only may to build a practice

Summer Brooks: How can I get non-marketing partners to realize the value of marketing, which will ultimately give the marketing dept. more leeway in order to better the firm's potential??

Jolene Colant: Hi Allan-You are familiar with my firm- (Allan came in last year for a three part seminar with my firm--He was great!) I am afraid of loosing the momentum we built up last year. We turned some naysayers around, but I feel them slowly slipping back into bad habits. Help!

Eileen J. O'Connor: What sort of marketing or sales professionals should an accounting firm have on staff? What is the best way to use them?

Bruce W. Marcus: Where do you think the responsibility lies for motivating accountants to participate in the marketing effort?

Elizabeth Frazier: How do you motivate staff accountants to participate in the marketing effort when several Partners are not participating?

Louise Anderson: I'm joining late, but would like to add another question - how do you measure the effectiveness of marketing, particularly when it's a "loose" marketing effort, such as community activities???? Any thoughts on how we could benchmark this activity?

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Thanks! Let's start with the easiest one - the role of new hires.

Most firms hide their new hires. I am not sure why; they graduated college and many of them are even more sophisticated than some of the experienced people on staff. Some have been in student government, president of their fraternal organizations etc. By hiding new hires in the beginning, we are giving them all the wrong impression as to how to succeed in our business.

Claudia Feeney: I absolutely agree. The word partner does not equal perfection.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: I was raised by identical twins, Jordy and Sandy Rubens. These fellows of blessed memory were the smartest people I've ever known. From the first day in public accounting they took me on sales calls, hunting with clients, and networking

Louise Anderson: Our partners need to do much more mentoring in the marketing activities - but then maybe it's because they really don't know what works and what doesn't!

Claudia Feeney: I have nine diverse partners...and they are all pretty scared of equals rejection.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Every new hire should be given a marketing role as soon as they join the firm - whatever that is: helping with direct mail, writing articles, helping create speaking engagements -- and they always should be taken with networking.

Claudia Feeney: We have a State of the Firm meeting each quarter...and in the last one, I told them that they have all passed marketing 101, which is to have the trust of their clients. That each of them is the marketing person for the firm when on an engagement...I teach them how to think outside the box about themselves

Bruce W. Marcus: The problem is that new hires hear the term marketing for the first time when they join the firm. Unfortunately, they are told that practice development is important for their careers, but they're not told how to do it. A good way to start with new hires is to insist that they start writing -- either articles or client advisories. That gets them into the marketing loop quickly.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: There are many key elements to getting the non-marketing partner to start carrying their share and none of them are easy. Here they are:

I have worked with over 500 CPA/CA firms so I am not talking out of my hat - please believe me that when I say #1 is tying compensation to new business.

#2 is peer pressure. One of the members of our little chat room was worried about perhaps too much pressure, etc.

Claudia Feeney: Pressure within from the other partners?

Allan S. Boress, CPA: I am sick and tired of being afraid of hurting someone's feelings. It always starts with the managing partner. The MP must MANAGE the business, like Bill Gates manages his.

Claudia Feeney: Like holding the great marketers up for example?

Allan S. Boress, CPA: In this case, the MP must sit down and MONITOR the personal marketing activities of the non-marketing partner. The MP must work with the marketing director and the non-marketing partner and come up with a workable plan of action to create new business.

Sean Haggerty: Allan, we have a very strong MP here at Mintz and have several dynamos. Although we tie compensation to new business, we still have non-performers. I, the marketing manager, monitor personal marketing activities. We are thinking of lessening the marketing of these people and giving them more chargeable time - and marketing time for existing clients.

BANDBCPAS: Nothing kills marketing better than "billable hours", Sean

Allan S. Boress, CPA: #3 We must realize that change must come in baby steps; small increments. Other partners must encourage the non-marketer.

Claudia Feeney: What do you think of telemarketing firms....I.e. not your basic "interrupting at dinner type:" but professional "questioners."

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Telemarketing is an easy out. I have rarely seen it work.

#4 Non-marketing people must KNOW WHAT TO DO. Selling is no less a skill than auditing. The mere thought of having someone build a business strictly through intuition is insane. As soon as you excuse the non-marketers from the game, you have made an excuse for the next one! NO!

Someone asked why do CPAs hate to sell? There are many reasons - lets take a look:

1. They have no time. This is a handy excuse for everything in life - people find time to do the things they think are important.

Claudia Feeney: Because they are not good at it...and it is not a concrete thing. It's not their job :)


Claudia Feeney: Wow...what does that mean?

Allan S. Boress, CPA: When you continue to promote non-marketing types to the partnership, you send the wrong message.

3. They don't like "selling." So, who does? How many of us would have gone into this biz if we liked selling? Do you like shaving? Tough!

Marvin Beasley: Are you saying if you don't market you shouldn't be a partner?

Claudia Feeney: I find they like selling new projects to present clients because they are "loved"..but new business? Fuggetaboudit.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: 4. They just don't know how to do it effectively. Folks - I don't care what you do to provide the skill sets, but if you expect people to take the risk of selling without excellent training by PEOPLE WHO KNOW THE BUSINESS - you are as nuts as the people you work for

5. There has to be a COMPENSATION SYSTEM THAT WORKS. Most firms try to figure out what it will take to motivate people to sell monetarily - and they usually come up with something brilliant like 10% of the first year’s collections. NO! - The people that are going to be doing the selling should design the system. Of course, most CPAs and CAs are morons by definition when it comes to running a business and most would rather have 100% of nothing than 85% of something.

Jolene Colant: AND accountability!

Claudia Feeney: I have been in marketing and advertising for 21 years. I have never seen a field like this when it comes to marketing.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: 6. Big reason people don't sell, no matter what you pay them and where they are in the firm is LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY. Less than 5% of all professional firms have a working reporting system. Would you have turned in homework if sister didn't collect it? So what if they are professionals - The biggest hitters in the sales world fill out reports.

7. Another huge reason is NO POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT!!! I was working last year with a firm where they had a young manager on staff. He told me that in his FIRST YEAR he corralled a $100,000 CLIENT (Friend of the family) for the firm!!! Hey - would you like someone working for you like this??? So - what did the morons do? Nothing - nobody even said a word.

Session Moderator: That seems very typical to me.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: How much has he brought in the last seven years? You figure it out.

Claudia Feeney: What about unrewarded marketing directors???????

Allan S. Boress, CPA: At IBM, where they know a little more about selling than the accountants who think they know everything, when someone makes a huge sale - THEY RING A BELL. It must be a BIG DEAL, REALLY BIG DEAL when people who are paid to create billable hours do something beyond their natural skills.

8. No freedom to fail. Most firms are managed by fear. Ever notice how people are afraid to make mistakes in your firm? I recently read where some real businesses (not CPA firms) PAY THEIR PEOPLE TO MAKE MISTAKES. Because, only by making mistakes, can one feel comfortable taking risks of personal marketing. So nobody does anything.

Paul O'Byrne: (British contribution): That would cost us a fortune.

Summer Brooks: I guess it makes sense, to a degree.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Thank you Mr. Brit. That is the typical accountant shoot-it-down mentality I am talking about.

Paul O'Byrne: You welcome, Allan.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Many of my clients encourage their people to take risks. They don't beat them up when they fail.

BANDBCPAS: Risk is where all profits come from.

Michael Horrocks: What kind of risks can a CPA take?

Allan S. Boress, CPA: The kind of risks a CPA can take is asking for referrals, looking to get articles published, asking clients about additional service requests.

9. Everyone needs their own PERSONAL MARKETING PLAN.

Susan McMains: Many of us are marketers or sales people. The problem is getting the partners to buy in to these ideas. HOW?

Allan S. Boress, CPA: I would like to address the question about how to get partners to buy into ideas.

Bruce W. Marcus: The fact is that most accountants (and lawyers) don't yet recognize that they now live in a competitive environment. Just being a professional isn't sufficient to compete.

Daniel Morris: Partners buy into ideas after they are convinced that the future with the idea is better than the future without the idea

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Accountants are unique beasts; they do not realize they live in a competitive environment BECAUSE THEY DO NOT.

Daniel Morris: We absolutely live in a competitive world.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Accountants to don't live in a competitive environment because they compete against accountants! This is the easiest business in the world; the government requires people to do business with us.

Daniel Morris: We compete against other solution providers - regardless of their professional designation - alternatives exist inside and outside our profession.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: There is no competition to speak of because all firms face the same issues you are bringing up today.

Jeff Cristall: Last time I checked we are all making more money than ever before, we are having trouble getting people to risk under these conditions.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: You cannot convince anyone to do anything; they have to discover it themselves.

Jeff Cristall: Great comment they have to discover, can we help them along the way.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Do you think that in a real business the owners are doing work they could delegate to someone else? Do you think that the owner of a manufacturing plant is stamping out parts in the back? NO - she is running a business - planning, managing, coordinating, motivating, schmoozing, SELLING.

Susan McMains: That's why they don't want others to sell for them. They fear they might loose the deal.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Accountants are MOTIVATED PRIMARILY BY:
a) FEAR. The way to sell an accountant (And I have sold as much consulting work to this profession as anyone, save Jay Nisberg) is to TELL THEM THE DOWNSIDE RISK OF NOT DOING SOMETHING.

Daniel Morris: Discovery is a process - a system of experimentation - we need to teach and lead by showing the joy of experimentation.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: When you get accountants to experience 'Joy" please let me know.

Jeff Cristall: Doing tax returns is joy to most accountants.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: b) ALL COMMUNICATIONS TO ACCOUNTANTS MUST BE IN THE FORM OF A LIST. Any communication to an accountant of any importance must be WRITTEN! Never expect an accountant to respond to something you say - they are generally poor listeners.

Lisa Huston: Maybe you're not communicating your messages in the language they understand.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: c) Remember - accountants move SLOWLY. When selling your idea you must be MUCH MORE PATIENT than with a normal human being. They are not decision makers - they are plodders.

d) Remember to FLOOD THEM WITH INFORMATION. Accountants are info-junkies - without 'PROOF' ain't nothing gonna happen.

Jolene Colant: Amen!

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Thank you

e) Any sales job on an accountant must be REPETITIVE. It's going to take several impressions to get past the muddle and break them of their trance.

How do you keep momentum going? I think this is a great question to ask our esteemed guests as we have Bruce Marcus, marketing consultant extraordinaire, and I know many of you have great things to say...

Go right ahead and help Jolene out with this!

Bruce W. Marcus: The answer is in merchandising. The most important client for a marketing director is the accounting firm. Every activity, every success, every plan, must be communicated to the entire firm.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Okay - motivation and momentum start with GOAL SETTING BY THE GROUP that is a STRETCH FROM THE NORM OR STATUS QUO.

Bruce W. Marcus: The firm must be inundated with whatever activity in marketing that anybody is doing. If the managing partner won't pat the guy who brings in a client, then the marketing director must.

Elizabeth Frazier: Most of our Partners look for Proof in the form of instant gratification and instant results and not all marketing lends to that - what do you do then to show them that marketing is important?

Susan McMains: Can you touch on this as it relates to "busy" season too?

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Susan mentioned busy season. We face a unique task - picking up after a long stop. No other business takes themselves out of the marketplace for months at a time

Allan S. Boress, CPA: MARKETING IS NOT TANGIBLE. Marketing is an investment, not a cost like everything else. You cannot easily quantify marketing like you quantify the cost of a new computer. Not everything is a cost! Marketing happens OVER TIME. Something you do today may not hit (unless repeated) for a year or two or more!

Bruce W. Marcus: Unfortunately, the return on marketing investment is too long in coming. But the activity itself can be merchandised, and every success blown up in large type.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: If marketing were immediate, then we would all run one ad and get rich.

Elizabeth Frazier: Exactly, but how do you get them to understand that?

Bruce W. Marcus: You can't get them to do anything. You have to show. Keep a ball rolling long enough, and they'll get the idea.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Take a look at my list above. The way to COMMUNICATE WITH ACCOUNTANTS IS IN WRITING IN THE FORM OF A LIST!


Bruce W. Marcus: Allan speaks true. They seem unable to deal in abstract concepts. Unfortunately, marketing isn't the tools, it's the art. And that's why you have to be tangible.

Elizabeth Frazier: The ball usually gets stopped because it is not providing instant results - that is where I am now with our marketing efforts.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Maybe you are working for the wrong firm.

Susan McMains: Is it important to communicate where leads come from so they are identified by marketing?

Allan S. Boress, CPA: How many years does it take for a company to bring out a successful product? How many months in advance do they start advertising movies in the theaters? Marketing has to be FUNDED just like any other investment - it doesn't come cheap and it doesn't come free.

Allan S. Boress, CPA: The most successful professional firm I have ever seen is an engineering firm in Ohio that INVESTS 10% of gross revenues in marketing.

Susan McMains: CPAs will never spend that kind of money.

Bruce W. Marcus: The CPAs who don't spend that kind of money will be left behind by those who do.


Michael Horrocks: You mean some kind of CRM (Customer resource management) software?

Allan S. Boress, CPA: I don't care how you track leads- track them on notebook paper for all I care - don't get sucked into looking for the perfect program to track leads!

Paul O'Byrne: British contribution 2: When's the Bruce Marcus workshop?

Bruce W. Marcus: Try logging on to

Allan S. Boress, CPA: Thanks for joining me today - some of you will be leaving - please visit our web site at

Elizabeth Frazier: Thank you for your help.

Bruce W. Marcus: And thank you, Allan. A good session.

Session Moderator: Thank you all for attending today! And Thanks, Allan, for a great workshop! Ron Baker will be with us this Thursday for a workshop on Trashing the Timesheet - don't miss it!


Allan Boress, CPA, CFE, is a consultant to professional firms on:

  • Systematic Selling Skills
  • Building Entrepreneurial People
  • Strategic Marketing
  • Winning Presentations
  • Enriching Client Relationships
  • Targeted Business Development
  • Building a Dynamic Referral Network
  • Mastering Time Management
  • Staff Retention
  • Cross Selling

Allan Boress trains more professionals than any other individual in the world (that we can find) in the areas of systematic selling, personal marketing, and client relationship management. Since 1980, Allan has taught these skills to over 100,000 professionals.

Allan's The "I Hate Selling" Book (AMACOM Publishing, 1995) totally redesigns the sales process for people who sell "air" -- that is, professional service providers (attorneys, accountants, consultants, public relations experts, engineers, architects, etc.) and other sellers of intangibles.

AccountingWEB Recommends...
Click here to buy the book. Interested in reading about selling? Try The "I Hate Selling" Book, by Allan Boress.

"Building Entrepreneurial People" (Harcourt Brace, 1995), also written by Allan, is also unique; it's the only book that teaches the reader, in a step-by-step manner, how to re-create the culture in a professional service firm -- that is, how to turn it from one of business development reactivity to proactivity. This how-to book is based on more than 1,000 interviews over a period of nine years with the most successful people in the professions.

Allan's training offers a systematic approach to bringing in more business -- an approach that removes the pain of fear of failure and rejection from the sales process forever.

An award-winning instructor, Allan has worked with the top professional firms in the world. He is regularly the highest-rated speaker at every conference.

Allan is available for consultation, firm retreats, and on-site presentations. You can contact him at:
Allan S. Boress & Associates
1500 N. University Drive, Suite 239
Coral Springs, FL 33071
Telephone: 954/345-4666
Fax: 954/344-2759
Email: [email protected]

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