The Secret to Turning...

The Secret to Turning Accountants into Salespeople

How Can Accounting Firms Grow? 

There’s a stat (that may or may not be real) made famous by Michael Scott in The Office, that it is 10x more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. 

This is good for us accountants, as we are stereotypically not great at being salespeople. Everyone would agree that maintaining positive relationships and delivering good work is the priority for a practicing CPA (and adhering to professional standards)! But then the question becomes, how do firms grow, other than just acquiring other firms? 

With our penchant for mitigating risk, accountants are sometimes hesitant to ‘ask for the sale.’ Combine that with traditionally long sales cycles that have to fit around an ever-expanding ‘busy season’ and you’ve got a litany of obstacles before you even start. 

In my last role, as a start-up tech leader I had to learn how to generate revenue. I had to think about what skillset I had as an accountant that would help me do this. The answer was to use data.

Using Data To Grow Share of Wallet 

Accountants, at least good ones, can tell a story with numbers. Being able to distill and/or communicate data into insights, and answer ‘why this matters’ to their prospects and existing clients is paramount to success. 

So, if growing the firm by expanding share of wallet with existing clients, and if accountants are good with data, the question becomes how can these be brought together? 

Think about this question…if you could be alerted to any conditions within your client financial statements that would indicate there were opportunities for additional services, what would those be? Accountants will know this, things like ‘are my clients thinking of M&A activity (buy or sell), do they have excess working capital to extract, are there financial ratios indicating business performance issues, the list goes on. 

The challenge and pain point to identifying these within a client book of business is time. The idea of spending hours mining through client data for these insights is labor intensive and imperfect. 

That is where interVal comes into play. By bringing all your client data together, being analyzed with the growth opportunities in mind, all in a user-friendly format for your client’s to engage with, you can be armed with the data needed to have conversations about what services the client could use, using objective third party data, and knowing how you can solve that problem for them with your services. 

Using Data in New Business 

The best part of all this is it is actually applicable to prospective clients as well. You can reduce that 10x cost by spending less time in a sales process by shortening the time to value. By providing insights into performance that others don’t, and surfacing your advisory services engagement with this data, it makes the sale easier. It allows for the framework for a conversation about the prospect’s financial health, and not about winning their fees. 

Strength in Numbers 

Like anything else, the first time trying this approach of identifying and selling engagements using data will be different, and take some getting used to. However the more data you connect and the more conversations you have, the better you’ll get. Start by just getting comfortable speaking to the data without making ‘the ask’ so that the flow of conversation is refined and then layer on the sale. Also start with talking to long-standing clients that you feel comfortable with where transparency can be brought to the discussion of using this software is new (and exciting) and that you’re trying it out (and make them feel special that they are one of the first clients you’re using it on). 

So in conclusion, turning your super-power as an accountant of interpreting data into your differentiator in the upsell and sales process will help you grow your firm more naturally and cost effectively.


Author: Dave Bunce, CPA, CA.