Growing your firm requires your fee earners to be able to market and sell themselves effectively. However, this is not normally a skill which comes naturally to accountants. In this article, Heather Townsend, author of ‘The Go-To Expert’ explores exactly why this is.
It’s not what you entered the profession to do
If you went into any accountancy firm, and asked the question, “how many of you went into your profession in order to sell and market yourself?”. I doubt you will get a single affirmative answer. This is because most accountants chose their profession because they were attracted to the technical work, not the marketing and selling side of being in the professions. Or if I am going to be slightly controversial, it seemed like a good idea to get an accountancy qualification and then decide what they were going to do for their career.
It’s difficult to translate complex technical stuff so anyone can understand it
Many accountants, as well as other professionals, struggle to translate their technical expertise into something that is easily understandable to the lay person. It’s very easy to write more and more technically orientated copy, rather than simple, easy-to-understand material which their target audience can relate too. Consequently, accountants often fail to connect with their audience via their marketing efforts.
It’s supposedly commercial suicide to share how you go about doing things
Very often the barrier that many accountants face with their marketing is a self-limiting belief that they can’t openly share their thinking on a matter. i.e. “if I share how I do something, or share our secrets, what will my clients need me for – and wouldn’t our competitors nick our thinking?” These are typically just beliefs, and often not founded on anything tangible. After all, if all your expertise is something that you can share on a blog post, then it’s not much expertise! Most people, even if you give them step-by-step instructions on how to do something in a blog post, will rarely execute them in the most time effective way. After all, reading a blog can’t deliver the level of expertise, insight and ability that your qualifications and number of years in the profession has given you.
It’s a cultural problem
Culturally here in the UK, less so in other parts of the world, it’s not the done thing to brag about your expertise or ‘blow your own trumpet’. Many accountants, similar to other professionals, subscribe to the view, which isn’t always correct, that you should let your results do the talking for you. If accountants are to get better at marketing and selling themselves they will need to become more comfortable with proactively saying, “This is what I can do”.
It’s due to a lack of soft skill and business development training
Very often accountants, as well as lawyers, consultants etc, are poor at marketing and selling themselves because they haven’t been taught the skills how too. All too often firms focus their fee earner’s development on technical skills, at the expense of softer skills. In fact, the first three years of professional development an accountant is given is overwhelmingly technical. Often as a result of this focus on technical skills, and a firm’s business model, there becomes an implied or even explicit culture in firms that client work is the number one priority for a fee earner. Consequently, business development can often be seen as something to do when you don’t have any client work, or something to delegate to the marketing department, or something that can be left to the rainmakers.