How to Identify and Deepen Key Relationships
As a marketer for the accounting industry with experience in boutique, mid-sized and large accounting, tax and advisory firms for the past 10 years, I have heard this statement countless times: “I am an accountant, not a salesperson.”
While that may be true, times have changed for the accounting industry — especially within a public accounting firm. Now there is a greater expectation to be an accountant and a sales generator.
There are simple best practices you can work into your routine to begin meeting that expectation, and it doesn’t entail cold calling people you don’t know. Instead, it requires just the opposite — looking at your current relationships for opportunity.
This article, the first in a five-part series, outlines five key tips for reviewing business relationships with clients, prospects and sources of referral (i.e., lawyers, accountants, consultants, bankers and more) with the goal to strategically plan routine touch points that will deepen your existing relationships.
- Make a short list of your top relationships, no more than three per category. Be sure to note how well you know the person: Do you know their business goals and objectives for the year? Do you know their birthday? I recommend that all members of your list are people you have been in contact with in the last six months. If you haven’t been in contact with them during that time period, you most likely do not have a strong relationship.
- Set a reminder in your calendar to personally reach out to them. Make sure to also set reminders for their personal milestones, like birthdays, anniversaries or children’s graduations. It is important to build your relationships on a business and personal level, remembering that your investment into the relationship is primarily why a client stays with you. It is also the reason a prospect buys your service and a source of referral refers business. Note that the frequency may vary depending on the relationship category. For example, you may speak to your client on a weekly basis and a referral source on a quarterly basis.
- Make sure contact details are up-to-date in your firm’s client relationship management (CRM) system. You want to ensure your contacts receive alerts and any marketing campaigns your firm has planned for the year, such as thought leadership, event invitations or educational opportunities. It is important to note that depending on the size of your firm, a CRM system could exist in the form of an Excel spreadsheet or a formal CRM system, such as Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics.
- Make sure you are connected with each contact on social media.
- Set actionable and attainable goals with deadlines to keep yourself accountable. This is to first deepen your relationships and second to look for opportunities where your expertise could benefit your contacts. Goal examples for each relationship category include:
- Clients. During busy season, you will invest a great deal of time with your clients. Take the opportunity to find out what their business goals and objectives are for the year. Understanding their plan may open an opportunity for you to help them get there. Make notes in your CRM system about each client’s business goals and objectives.
- Referral sources. Set up two meetings per quarter with each referral source to trade target lists to identify where referrals can be made.
- Prospects. Encourage one prospect to attend firm-hosted events each quarter and be sure to attend the event yourself to deepen the relationship.
In summary, once you have identified your short list of key contacts and set up a routine for keeping in touch on a business and personal level, the relationship will naturally deepen over time, which will result in discussions around business opportunities.
Stay tuned for next month’s article which will delve into best practices for developing relationships via social media, including updating your LinkedIn profile, joining the right groups and fostering a healthy social network.
Erin Connolly-Kriarakis is the senior marketing manager for the New Jersey region of CohnReznick LLP, one of the leading accounting, tax, and advisory firms in the U.S. Erin has more than 10 years of experience providing strategic marketing solutions for the accounting industry with a focus on increasing an organization’s bottom line. Her expertise in strategy development and implementation include CRM, data analytics, building multi-channel campaigns, developing strategic partnerships, target relationship development plans and tracking ROI on activities and tactics. In 2016, she was named a Leading Woman Brand Builder by Leading Women Entrepreneurs & Business Owners.