Thursday, August 5, 2010

How Many Accounting Salespeople Do You Know?

Many technical professionals are often horrible at selling themselves. Many accountants, attorneys, consultants, and engineers don't think of themselves as salespeople - and they don't want to!

Their DNA, through their academic and educational foundation and their professional development, seldom includes the notion of strategic relationships and business development best practices.

I genuinely believe that a very small number of people are born with these best practices and insights into what works. Very few companies and learning and development organizations bring a disciplined approach to the knowledge, skills, and evolutionary development of revenue-generating skills for non-business development professionals.

Many people in the accounting and engineering professions, for example, are not typically extroverts: It's just not in their DNA. They are not the relationship-initiating types.

Many would rather dive into 400 pages of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance papers or endless technical specifications than attend a networking event where they have to shake hands and exchange business cards.

Additionally, such interaction simply was not part of their education. Networking and relationship-building is not taught in our schools. It isn't part of the accounting or finance curriculum, and it isn't covered by companies upon employment.

Law firms seldom teach strategic relationships, and when they do, it is often focused on the art. They encourage associates and partners alike to immerse themselves in various civic, professional, and community organizations, yet very few are able to convert relationship creation into relationship capitalization or monetization.

If you can change the perception of transactional, quick-hit sales to a more strategic, longer-term perspective of business development, this competent group of professional service providers will not only listen, but they will embrace practical, pragmatic advice in building and profitably nurturing their respective businesses.

By the way, it has been our experience that this group is very good at building relationships based on competency and trust. The challenge often remains creating the initial access and nurturing relationships to extend and expand current engagements.

Flaws in Professional Certification Processes

If you look at many of the professional certification processes such as those required for a CPA, attorney, project managers, and even the medical profession, their curriculum for accreditation seldom includes content focused on the systematic disciplined process for the development of strategic business relationships.

None of these processes motivate, encourage, or praise individuals for the art and science of building, nurturing, and leveraging relationships. Instead, and rightfully so, they credit ethics, operational efficiency, and HR policies.

They applaud continuing education in compliance, but frown upon the very essence of their survival and success, which is business development and building strategic and quantifiable relationships.

And when it comes to compensation, whatever is spent comes directly out of the partners' pockets, so asking them to dedicate resources to building their business development skills is often frowned upon as unnecessary.

Or, they hire rainmakers - people who have networking in their DNA - to drive revenue for them. But these people are few and far between and can provide a false of security.

For example, if a power networker brings a huge international deal to a firm that keeps 20 people busy for two years, the firm may be led to believe that it is succeeding - but how will they develop 10 more of these types of deals?

Technical professionals will need to expand their area of focus as competition for professional services continues to increase. Not only will they need to deliver the services promised (thus delivering value), they will also need to turn their relationships into more of a strategic, long-term view of business development.

By : David_M._Nour

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