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By Troy A. Waugh, CPA

Is this going to be your year for turning the power of marketing and sales on in your business? If your answer is yes, here are 10 steps that make a difference:

1. Focus on client's profits--not your own. There is a limited demand for tax return preparation services and audits, but there is unlimited demand for accountants and consultants who can help clients improve net profits! If you are still focusing on increasing your billable hours, billing rates, or net fees, it's time to reorient your thinking. Read Paul Pilzer's Unlimited Wealth and Robert Russell's You Too Can Be Prosperous.

2. Write a personal marketing plan. Most partners and managers can devote only 100-300 hours a year to marketing. Why not plan this time as well as you would a 300-hour client engagement? Focus on desired outcomes, actions, steps, and a time and dollar budget.

3. Don't hibernate during tax season. Clients are never more interested in help with their business than when confronted with last year's financial results, and with their tax liability. Plan now for cross-selling to each client you meet with during this tax season. Augment the effort with press releases, articles, and mailings. Prepare the materials now; release them during tax season.

4. Build relationships with your clients' team members. Before tax season gets underway, meet with your Top 10 clients' attorneys and bankers. If you focus on not-for-profits, get to know the board members. All of these people are the movers and shakers in your community. Create a team working for your client, and you will create a team that also works for you.

5. Monitor your sources of new business and organize your leads. If you learn where your best business comes from, you will know how to invest your time in the future. Use a contact management system like Telemagic or ACT! to keep track of your leads and referral sources. Organize these contacts into "A," "B," and "C" categories, then formulate a communications strategy tailored to each.

6. Never assume your clients are delighted. Delighted clients are your most important source of referrals. Survey your client base to identify those clients who are merely "satisfied," then look for opportunities to convert them into raving fans. While you are at it, review everything your client sees, hears, or touches. Is your reception area inviting? How does your receptionist greet each client? Are report covers attractive? Letters well written and easy to read? Is your staff skilled at communicating?

7. Develop a unique selling proposition, and quit talking about fees. When meeting with prospects, focus on the value you can offer, and on what makes you different and better than your competitors. Fee terms should almost be an afterthought.

8. Learn to ask better questions. Knowing how to ask good questions is the foundation of being an effective advisor. Through questioning, you learn what you need to know to help your clients.

9. Help clients prepare for the future. Past may be prologue, but clients are more interested in today and tomorrow than they are in yesterday. Help your clients use financial statements as a foundation-stone for making better judgments and business decisions.

10. Prepare a services matrix. Prepare a matrix of clients and services used for your largest clients. Probably 5% of your clients (including families and controlled groups) make up over 50% of your revenue. Use the matrix to determine opportunities for 1996.

11. Always give more than you promise. Always exceed your client expectations by one percent and you will have a continuous flow of delighted clients. Sometimes, under pressure, you may promise delivery of a report before it realistically can be done. Learn to manage expectations by promising the outside date, not the earliest. *

Troy A. Waugh, CPA, is the founding partner of Waugh & Co., Brentwood, TN. (615) 373-9880

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

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