Business development – When do I fit it in?

  • By John Sharkey
  • 18 February 2014 00:00

Business development is a key objective for any accountancy practice during the start of the 2014 year. 'Hunting' and 'Farming' are two very important key words used in the business development world to identify how you approach your business opportunities.

This is part 4 of our series of blogs on the five Cs of marketing for accountancy practices in 2014. If you missed the first three you can find them here, blog1, blog2 and blog 3.

The very easy option to develop your business is to 'go for it' (unfocused hunting) when there is time and then you find you may get disappointed with the end result, as you did not give it the proper attention it deserved.

Let us take the following example; your business development objective is to increase the current client base by 36 in 2014. That number over a year does not sound daunting, but if you have inactive periods and suddenly you are faced with the fact you have achieved 12 new clients by October and have a shortfall of 24 to make up by the year end, would you focus so much time to achieve that or let it go? You planned to achieve 3 clients a month and that sounded better than the 8 clients a month shortfall you have to make up in the months ahead to hit your final figure.

But before you go on a possible wild hunt for new clients, how much work have you really done on developing your current clients (farming) or asking for referrals? If you consistently exceed expectations then you will not have 'just clients', you will have 'advocates'. These people are your free marketing department and they are much more valuable to you than just being just clients; how you develop advocacy in your client base is a key theme of this blog.

Why your advocates? It is likely that many of your current clients are already acting as advocates of your firm. They are the clients who are most enthusiastic about the service they are being provided with, and the relationship you have forged with them.

New business opportunities generated from referrals are extremely valuable to your firm as they make it easier to build the trust that is so important when selling professional services. A measure of 'reflected trust' is created when you are referred by a trusted source.

The best time to ask for referrals is directly after you have delivered an excellent service and added value to their business. It is when this value is still fresh in their minds. This will significantly increase the likelihood of them agreeing to refer or look at other opportunities to work with them. Make the asking of referrals part of your end of assignment routine and evaluate existing new opportunities. Many jobs end with a client meeting which is the best time to ask.

Going back to the scenario about wanting to achieve 36 new clients in the coming year, you can plan this with your client advocacy programme and ask for more business or referrals.

In our next blog we shall explore the planning stages of good business development and how you can plan to hit your targets effectively. For more information on client advocacy please read our previous blog on this subject.

By Raj Rajput and John Sharkey

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