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Keep your pipeline alive now so you can thrive later

Business opportunities are available amid chaos

Art Kuesel, Kuesel Consulting, Inc. | June/July 2020 Footnote

Editor's note: Updated May 29, 2020

With so much in the world in disarray and businesses feeling like they are in limbo (or worse) because of COVID-19, it may seem like the wrong time to focus much attention on business development at your firm.

However, business development is just as important now as ever, if not even more. Ensuring you keep your pipeline alive now is key to reigniting the fire when business gets back to its new normal. Even though much has changed, needs are still there for our prospects — they just may not look the same as they once did, even a month or two ago.

We know that the business development lifecycle for CPA firms takes months or years to build — several touches with a prospect are often necessary for establishing a relationship and cementing you as a valuable resource in the prospect’s mind. So, there is no reason to assume there’s not an opportunity because of this crisis. Compliance needs may have changed, and advisory through difficult times is absolutely in high demand. You will want to be careful in how you approach your prospects in your manner of messaging and communication, but that doesn’t mean the opportunities are not there.

Empathy goes a long way

First, in circumstances like these, empathy goes a long way when communicating with prospects. Recognizing they’re likely facing an entirely uncertain time and connecting with them on that level shows you care about their wellbeing. The landscape perspective you provide as a CPA adviser is valuable in that it offers a 30,000-foot view of a complicated situation. Find a way to communicate what you’re seeing — to your clients and to your prospects — in a way to which they can relate. Sharing that perspective and knowledge, ideally with some solutions, can endear you to a prospect as a helpful and useful resource during troubling times.

Additionally, recognize that many of your services are important but not urgent. There’s no doubt that compliance deadlines create a sense of urgency, but when a business owner has several other issues on their minds, including navigating cost-cutting, furloughs or layoffs, emergency economic relief and just trying to survive, some of the compliance tasks go by the wayside. That’s where advisory comes in.

How to keep the pipeline alive

So, you’re keeping the crisis in perspective and adopting an empathetic approach; but how can you ensure your firm keeps a foot on the gas pedal during these uncertain times? How are you adapting your approach, and the services you can provide that a prospect will need now and in the future?

Here are some tips:
  • Recognize that everyone has a need right now. It may not be tax or accounting — perhaps it is assistance with SBA Disaster Relief or Paycheck Protection Program loans. Even just reaching out during this time to ask, “How is it going?” can go a long way with your prospects that you’ve been nurturing for some time. Pivot the conversation away from, “Are you ready to make a move?” and instead ask how you can be of service. You’re in a unique position to offer advisory that goes beyond compliance: loan assistance, cashflow analysis and projections, and more. As the profession continues to grow advisory services, now is the time to show your measure.
  • Without being opportunistic, realize that your prospects may be in a frustrated place and not receiving the help they need from their current accountant. They could be experiencing some disenchantment depending on how well their current adviser is handling working from home. Poor technology infrastructure or excess distractions can leave these clients feeling like they’re treading water on their own while their current CPA gets up to speed. If they’re not feeling the love, they may be looking to make a change. It’s important to feel out the situation with empathy during this time (don’t pounce) and offer your services with restraint and discretion. Nothing is easy for anyone right now, so know that they won’t take switching accountants lightly, but could be in the position if they are feeling left behind.
  • Invest in product development. There’s no doubt that when we emerge from this crisis, businesses are going to have an advisory and strategy need — an immediate idea that comes to mind are stronger contingency and business interruption plans. How can you, as advisers, fill that need with your knowledge and tools? What other service opportunities are out there? Once prospects are out of survival mode, they can think about how to plan for better outcomes in future situations like these. How can you blend audit, tax, estate planning and business defense into an advisory service that makes you invaluable to the prospect? Rally mission control and invest some thought into how you can improve your services to better meet the needs of your current and future clients so you’re ready when the time comes.

The need is there

What I’ve been hearing, without question, is our clients need us more than ever. So, why shouldn’t our prospects whom we’ve been nurturing over the months before this crisis be the same?

While affordability during this time may be in question, the need itself remains, which translates into business development potential. At times like these, everyone needs a strong adviser in their corner. This is a time for you to show up and be that adviser.

Art Kuesel is the president of Kuesel Consulting, Inc. He’s worked with thousands of CPAs in his career, helping them to develop their personal business development skills. He may be reached at 312-208-8774 or