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How to create a 5-step business development process for your accounting firm

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How often do prospects slip through the cracks? Do you deliver proposals only to hear crickets? Do people in your firm bristle at the idea of “selling” or say they’re too busy for business development? There is a common cure for all of these problems: a business development process.

Without a business development process, it’s a challenge to lead your firm forward or grow consistently. Business development isn’t “sales.” It’s the process of implementing strategies and opportunities across your firm to promote growth and increase revenues. And it’s not solely the responsibility of your firm’s marketing team or partners – everyone in the firm can and should be a part of the process.

Although every firm’s exact process for landing new clients will look different, the following five steps are a good place to start.

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Business development step 1: Discovery

When your firm’s marketing efforts generate interest in your services, this creates a lead, and you should schedule a call with the potential client as soon as possible. This is known as a discovery call.

The discovery call serves four purposes:

  • You can ask the client some initial questions about what they need.
  • You seek to understand their pain points. Why do they need your service? Why do they want to change firms?
  • You gain an understanding of their decision-making process. Who will ultimately make the decision to work with your firm? What factors into that decision (price, value, trust, etc.)?
  • You identify the person or people in your team best suited to meet the potential client’s needs.

Step 2: Deep dive

This second call (or meeting) is a chance to take a deeper dive into their pain points. It connects the right person from your firm with the potential client’s decision-maker. You ask detailed questions to ensure you understand the nuances of the problem they want to solve by working with you.

This step is also when you collaboratively create a game plan with your team, share your capabilities, process and pricing. This doesn’t have to happen on one phone call. Once you have a deep dive call with the client, you may need to meet separately with your team to strategize.

Step 3: Decision-making

By the time you reach the decision-making process, your prospect has all of the information they need, and it’s time for them to decide whether to engage with you. They may compare your package and pricing to other firms. Make sure you schedule a time to follow up with them about their decision.

Your role during this step is to follow up with your prospect and answer any additional questions that might arise.

Step 4: Awaiting signature

Once the prospect decides to engage your firm, you need to send a contract or engagement letter. You may need to follow up with the client to ensure you get the signed engagement letter.

Step 5: Close

At the end of this process, you’ve either won the new business, and you can move on to new client onboarding, or the client decided to engage another firm, and you can close out the prospect. Be sure to communicate the decision and details to all appropriate parties.

So who on your busy team is going to oversee this process? This is where having a business development quarterback comes in. Someone in your firm should be responsible for overseeing every lead. The same person doesn’t have to monitor all leads, but each one needs to have someone in charge.

Your business development quarterback doesn’t necessarily have to lead all of the calls and handle all of the tasks involved in the process, but they do make sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing when they’re supposed to be doing it.

Working through your business development process helps your team understand your firm’s goals and strategy for winning new clients. So take some time to think through your business development process and ensure you have someone to quarterback prospects through it. Then you’ll have everyone on your team working toward the same goals, leading to greater success and growth.

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