When you are starting out in the accounting marketing profession, figuring out ways to drive new business at your firm can be tricky. Finding ways to contact and nurture cold prospects is daunting. Instead, cross-selling is an often underutilized strategy that can bring in revenue and help you effectively hit new business/growth goals using an audience you are already connected to.
Providing additional services to the clients who already know and love your firm will increase profit while strengthening and deepening client relationships. Here are some quick tips to get started creating a lucrative cross-selling strategy.
Reframe the Narrative
The term “sales” can be very intimidating, especially to accountants. Many accountants got into the field because it fits a more introverted personality. The term “sales” can stir up the image of awkward conversations, pushing people, and asking them to buy something they don’t want.
Cross-selling does not have to be that way. In the Business Development article featured later in this issue of the Minute, Judy Bodenhamer of the Client Experience Group very keenly rephrases the term “cross-selling” to “cross-servicing.” This small reframe calls out the fact that you are not really trying to “sell” your clients something, but better “service” them by providing additional services that will be of great benefit to them and their business.
Give your professionals tools to have conversations with clients about how a specific service could be of value to them, rather than pushing a “sales” mentality that will feel inauthentic and uncomfortable.
Education and Communication
For the first few years of my career in accounting marketing, I figured that I was one of the only people in the firm that didn’t truly understand what tax did or wondered what an auditor’s specialties were. Over time, however, I learned that I’m not alone! Often professionals may have a vague understanding of what others in the firm do, but not a full picture. In fact, some may not even know all of the services that the firm offers!
Finding ways to educate your people about the services that each department offers is key to cross-servicing clients. This can be done in a number of ways. Here are just a few:
- Create an internal directory of services. This can be broken down by person or service line, making a clear distinction of who in the office has skills in which area. This is an easy, handy way for people to have access to who does what. Looking for someone with experience in SALT? Check the directory. Need help with outsourced accounting? It’s all in the directory.
- Host departmental presentations. Another great idea is to host a “science fair” type of educational event where each professional team puts together a display and in-depth illustrations of their service offerings and how they can help. While you may not go that far, consider including education sessions on different services during your regularly scheduled firm-wide meetings.
- Create collateral. Consider interviewing your professionals to learn more about what they do, and create either an external marketing piece that can be shared with clients or an internal educational ‘get to know’ document that your professionals can read. Create a regular cadence of distribution so your people know that each month they will be learning more about an expertise of one of your people.
Do Your Research
It’s important to take a look at the data that is available to you so that you can find gaps and opportunities.
This can be done in a number of ways. Here are a few:
- Pull a list of all of your clients who are using your firm for a single service. Talk to the accountants assigned to them to find growth opportunities, and then connect the client to others in the firm who can help.
- Break it down by client. Ask each professional to pull their top five clients, and take a deep dive. Create a matrix that breaks down the services you offer by department. Then go through each client to identify which services they currently pay for and identify potential opportunities
- Consider interviewing your clients. Sometimes the best way to identify hidden opportunities is to have a conversation. Schedule 30-minute interviews with your top clients over coffee, happy hour, or Zoom. Ask them questions like, “What are the biggest struggles you are facing?” “What are the top issues facing your industry as a whole?” “What are your succession plans?” Having answers to these questions may point you to new service areas that could help solve their problems.
Identify Your Touchpoints
There may be some hidden opportunities to get in front of clients that you haven’t thought of yet. Do you have an on-hold phone message? Consider adding a quick plug for a service you provide (we have one for our outsourced accounting department). Do you have slides on the TVs in your lobby? This is another great place to share the message of a variety of services you offer.
Think of all of the “touchpoints” you have with your current clients, and find ways to educate them about services that can make their businesses stronger. More examples include: a postcard outlining a service mailed in their tax organizer, a service spotlight in your monthly e-mail blast, an educational blog post about when a specific service might be necessary, a post on social media, or an event/webinar.
Create a Process
This may seem obvious, but make sure you create a process and a schedule. Using any of these strategies just once will not make a big impact. Make sure you find a rhythm. Whether its internal education, touchpoints with clients, or updating a directory, create a routine schedule. Consistency is key, and if you’re anything like me, your to do list is long. If I don’t schedule things, they won’t happen.
The Bottom Line
Cross-servicing your clients is a win-win. It helps your clients solve problems and continue to thrive, and it results in increased revenue for your firm. Remember to use the methods and strategies that feel the most authentic to your firm and client base.
Do you have additional ideas about strategies for cross-servicing clients? We would love to hear from you! Post them on the AAM discussion boards, and let’s get the conversation going.
About Emily Taibl
Emily manages Sweeney Conrad’s marketing department and is the lead on all brand strategy both internally and externally. She handles all marketing activities for the firm including planning, client outreach, content management, website, recruiting, and social media. Prior to Sweeney Conrad, Emily ran her own boutique PR/Marketing firm specializing in the restaurants and non-profits. She serves as the Chair of the Association of Accounting Marketing’s monthly newsletter, the AAM Minute, and is on the Marketing/Business Development Team for Allinial Global.