PracticeAccounting FirmsHighly influential: don’t get stuck in the lift

Highly influential: don't get stuck in the lift

A couple of weeks ago I was having lunch with a partner at a well-known accountancy practice

He was full of energy and positive ideas about how he saw his practice area
developing over the next 12-18 months: new clients to target, markets for
expansion, etc. I listened politely before stopping to ask: ‘OK, let’s say
you’re stuck in a lift with a potential client. Sell me your business in less
than 30 seconds.’

The words ‘rabbit’ and ‘headlights’ spring to mind. He simply did not have an
answer.

This is the essence of that much-feted Americanism, the elevator pitch.
Growing in popularity in recent years, it is fast becoming a tool all
accountants ought to have up their sleeve.

It can happen any time, any place. You meet someone that might be a referrer,
a potential customer or somebody who could network for you on behalf of your
firm. But you only have minutes to engage them in such a way that they will want
to find out more about your business and the services you offer. Given the short
time-frame, you need to let them know briefly what it is you do in a way that
arouses their interest and incites them to find out more. If you can’t hook them
within that minute then you’ll have missed a huge opportunity.

The key is to focus on the benefit to the client. Say who you work for – your
brand is very important and then focus entirely on how your client will benefit
from working with you.

Do not dwell on the features of your firm. Using words like ‘help’ are very
powerful interest generators. You might say something like ‘I’m an accountant
with XYZ firm and my particular expertise is in helping clients minimise their
tax liabilities’. You want to generate interest from the other person which
allows you to develop the discussion. Avoid jargon.

If you can’t immediately cite how your services will be of direct relevance
to that client, then don’t expect them to follow it up. A good pitch will be one
that is highly adaptable (and therefore all the more easily tailored to whoever
you’re talking to), raises no more than three major points and leaves that
potential client with a clear idea of why they should hire your firm.

Next time you walk into the lift and see a City MD twiddling his thumbs, head
in with a purpose; your firm’s reputation depends on it.

Jack Downton is managing director of The Influence
Business and a former colonel in the Royal Marines

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