Accountancy and the military. Not as obvious a mix as a G&T, but as
competition intensifies for business, accountants increasingly ask me whether my
military experience sheds any light on how they can beat the competition in
While a calculator may not be of much use on the battlefield, and a rifle
would be considered a bit extreme in a business pitch, there are some tactics
that work whether you’re a number-cruncher or an enemy-cruncher.
First of all, accountants must scope out the enemy. Ignore at your peril
finding out about the competition. If you cannot find who last supplied your
prospect with your service on their website and you’re not sure who they’re
considering, check whether they have LinkedIn contacts in your industry.
Secondly, just as soldiers wait for the right moment to attack, don’t strike
too early in a business pitch. A far-too-common mistake is jumping straight into
the hard sell, which will suggest desperation. Pouncing at the first sign of
interest can ruin a pitch. You must always be prepared to seize an opportunity,
but committing yourself too soon can lead to catastrophe.
Remember to develop tailored tactics. When planning your selling strategy, it
can be dangerous to follow a strictly predetermined pitch. Every prospect is
different – sticking religiously to the same template for every pitch means you
fail to address the prospect’s individual needs and expectations. And prospects
can often tell if your slides are the same ones you bring out for every other
Like any soldier, you must trust your team: accountants often fail to present
themselves as a united team in a pitch. Make sure you develop that trust by
preparing hard together and let it show when you pitch for business. Buyers want
to see a team, not a number of individuals.
One of the commando training tests involves going through a water-filled
tunnel, too narrow for you move by yourself. You have to rely on others.
Your team doesn’t have to go this far, but it does demonstrate the importance
of trust in a team. This year, accountants must look beyond the obvious and
tackle their pitching strategy from every possible angle.
Jack Downton is the managing director of The Influence Business and a
former colonel in the Royal Marines.
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