New style professional networking

Hats off to Alan Kennedy, of SWAT who hosted a new format (to me) professional networking event today.

He had invited a number of other professional suppliers to the accountancy world to meet at 12.00 to share ideas for networking with accountants and to help us better understand what SWAT can do for accountants. All the attendees were already either being referred work by SWAT or were already referring accountants to SWAT.

We even tried a little speed-networking and were chivvied along by SWAT’s marketing director, Vicki Banthorpe, who ensured that the exercise was completed promptly. Conversations continued over lunch and after the close of the ‘formal’ proceedings at 2pm.

I met with a number of interesting people and some of them expressed particular interest in my role as a mentor helping managing partners to groom new partners in their firms. The idea clearly resonated with at least two of the participants who seemed to think they knew people who would want to be introduced to me. Time will tell but of course I’ll be arranging to see the introducers again and also someone who wanted to talk some more about how I help improve the results of businesses that target or operate within the UK tax and accountancy professions.

I’d already heard a little about speed-networking but had never previously been attracted to the idea. On this occasion however it worked very well as we all had a shared interest in providing our disparate services to accountants.  Each of us has now spent just a few minutes with a dozen new contacts so we can each now decide who we want to meet again for a more substantive discussion. The other advantage of this style of networking is that no one was stuck talking to the most boring person in the room. And for the avoidance of doubt – there were no boring people present today!

So many thanks to Alan and to SWAT for their hospitality and for giving me the opportunity to try speed-networking.

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ps: I was delighted to see that Alan commenced proceedings by showing the short video, A Few Good Expenses, having been introduced to it through my recent email newsletter. You can also see it on my Accountancy jokes and fun blog.

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How's business? – Avoid falling in the trap when you reply

If you’re either a busy accountant and/or a regular at networking events, you probably get asked this question all of the time. You may also be asked by friends and family, ex-colleagues and prospective clients as well as by your bank manager, suppliers and potential advocates.

How carefully have you thought about the way that you answer this question? Did you realise that, completely unwittingly, the person who asks the question is setting you a BIG TRAP?

You probably want to avoid jumping in with both feet.

What’s the trap?
Quite simply it’s either implying that you’ve no time for more work or that you’re no good in any event.

It’s easiest to see the trap when someone else jumps in.

Imagine you’ve just met me for the first time in a few years. You’re aware that I help accountants build more successful practices, more enjoyably. You may even have received my newsletter for ambitious professionals or visited this blog. After the initial introductions you look me in the eye and you ask me, “So Mark, How’s business?”

How would you react if I gave you one of the following answers?

– It’s great thanks. I’m really busy; or
– Really good thanks – I’ve got loads on; or
– Fabulous thanks for asking. I’m flat out.

If you’re like most people you’d be pleased or relieved by my response. But what would your reaction be as regards referring new work to me? What if a day or two later you met the managing partner of 6 partner firm of accountants who was frustrated by the reluctance of his partners to embrace social media for lead generation purposes? Or who simply wanted to know whether he should be encouraging his partners and staff to embrace social media? Would you think of suggesting that he called me? [I certainly hope that you’d do exactly that as I’d love to help him and his firm.]

Or would you think something like – There’s no point in recommending Mark – he’s already got plenty of work? Even though you probably know that I would love you to recommend me in such situations you might be hesitant. Please don’t be as there’s plenty of room in my pipeline and I thrive on referrals. [2012 Edit: My time is limited though so I plan to establish an exclusive premium access facility over the coming months for a select group of accountants – and more online facilities for everyone else]

Can you see the trap now?
If you tell people you’re busy you can discourage them from referring or passing work to you. It matters not that it’s your automatic response; that you weren’t thinking when you said it. The word ‘busy’ or any inference that you have plenty of work is often enough to put off people passing more work your way. They may well think to themselves: “Shame. I was going to refer some work to you, but now I’m not sure that you’d give them enough time and attention.”

Clearly there’s a need for balance here. The other way of falling into the trap is if your answer is something along the lines:

– Not so good at the moment; or
– I’ve plenty of vacancies; or
– Thanks for asking – I could do with some more referrals please.

Again, if you’re like most people you might well wonder ‘why’ business is not that good and wonder how much of a risk you might be taking if you refer work to someone in such a situation. You might think: “How can he/she be any good if they don’t have much on at the moment?

So…?
Years ago an entrepreneurial marketing guru, Chris Frederickson, suggested that a good answer to the question “How’s business?” was: “Business is great and we’re looking for more!”

I tried that for a while but it seemed a bit too ‘American’ for me. For some years when I was in practice my reply was more along the lines “Everything seems to be going really well at the moment; I’ve plenty of work, largely from referrals, and still scope for more.”

But I’ll bet you’ve got some even better ideas. So tell me: How’s business?

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

by

How’s business? – Avoid falling in the trap when you reply

If you’re either a busy accountant and/or a regular at networking events, you probably get asked this question all of the time. You may also be asked by friends and family, ex-colleagues and prospective clients as well as by your bank manager, suppliers and potential advocates.

How carefully have you thought about the way that you answer this question? Did you realise that, completely unwittingly, the person who asks the question is setting you a BIG TRAP?

You probably want to avoid jumping in with both feet.

What’s the trap?
Quite simply it’s either implying that you’ve no time for more work or that you’re no good in any event.

It’s easiest to see the trap when someone else jumps in.

Imagine you’ve just met me for the first time in a few years. You’re aware that I help accountants build more successful practices, more enjoyably. You may even have received my newsletter for ambitious professionals or visited this blog. After the initial introductions you look me in the eye and you ask me, “So Mark, How’s business?”

How would you react if I gave you one of the following answers?

– It’s great thanks. I’m really busy; or
– Really good thanks – I’ve got loads on; or
– Fabulous thanks for asking. I’m flat out.

If you’re like most people you’d be pleased or relieved by my response. But what would your reaction be as regards referring new work to me? What if a day or two later you met the managing partner of 6 partner firm of accountants who was frustrated by the reluctance of his partners to embrace social media for lead generation purposes? Or who simply wanted to know whether he should be encouraging his partners and staff to embrace social media? Would you think of suggesting that he called me? [I certainly hope that you’d do exactly that as I’d love to help him and his firm.]

Or would you think something like – There’s no point in recommending Mark – he’s already got plenty of work? Even though you probably know that I would love you to recommend me in such situations you might be hesitant. Please don’t be as there’s plenty of room in my pipeline and I thrive on referrals. [2012 Edit: My time is limited though so I plan to establish an exclusive premium access facility over the coming months for a select group of accountants – and more online facilities for everyone else]

Can you see the trap now?
If you tell people you’re busy you can discourage them from referring or passing work to you. It matters not that it’s your automatic response; that you weren’t thinking when you said it. The word ‘busy’ or any inference that you have plenty of work is often enough to put off people passing more work your way. They may well think to themselves: “Shame. I was going to refer some work to you, but now I’m not sure that you’d give them enough time and attention.”

Clearly there’s a need for balance here. The other way of falling into the trap is if your answer is something along the lines:

– Not so good at the moment; or
– I’ve plenty of vacancies; or
– Thanks for asking – I could do with some more referrals please.

Again, if you’re like most people you might well wonder ‘why’ business is not that good and wonder how much of a risk you might be taking if you refer work to someone in such a situation. You might think: “How can he/she be any good if they don’t have much on at the moment?

So…?
Years ago an entrepreneurial marketing guru, Chris Frederickson, suggested that a good answer to the question “How’s business?” was: “Business is great and we’re looking for more!”

I tried that for a while but it seemed a bit too ‘American’ for me. For some years when I was in practice my reply was more along the lines “Everything seems to be going really well at the moment; I’ve plenty of work, largely from referrals, and still scope for more.”

But I’ll bet you’ve got some even better ideas. So tell me: How’s business?

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more marketing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Three elements of communication – and the so called "7%-38%-55% Rule"

You’ve probably come across this ‘rule’ on a communication seminar or course somewhere. I’ve heard it repeated many, many times but I do not agree with it as the figures are invariably quoted OUT OF CONTEXT.

As a professional speaker (to accountants and business people) I cannot afford to rely on inaccurate theories as to what constitutes effective communication. I learned long ago that the words I use are far more important than is suggested by the simplistic percentages quoted in this rule. As the subject came up again in conversation recently I thought it would be helpful to share the related clarification more widely.

The original research to which everyone refers was undertaken in 1971 by Albert Mehrabian (currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA). He reached two conclusions:

1 – There are basically three elements in any face-to-face communication:
• words
• tone of voice and
• body language.

2 – These three elements account differently for the meaning of the message:
– Words account for 7%
– Tone of voice accounts for 38% and
– Body language accounts for 55% of the message.

It seems that many people who quote Mehrabian’s research seem unaware that this second conclusion was NOT a general observation relevant to all communications.

Mehrabian reached this second conclusion in the context of experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes. Thus the often quoted disproportionate influence of tone of voice and body language is only really true when someone says they like/dislike something/someone but their tone of voice or body language implies the opposite. Commonly this will mean that two or more of the three elements are ambiguous. Such ambiguity appears mostly when the words spoken are inconsistent with the tone of voice or body language of the speaker.

This would be the case for example when someone says “I do not have a problem with you!” whilst at the same time their closed body language says the opposite and they avoid eye-contact and sound anxious.

In such situations Mehrabian’s research showed that the receiver of the communication will accept the predominant form of communication, the non-verbal (38% + 55%), rather than the literal meaning of the words (7%).

Let’s face it – that conclusion IN CONTEXT is not really a surprise is it?

On his website Mehrabian specifically states: “Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”

My view, despite this clarification, is that it’s important to be congruent when we communicate. That is, our body language and tone of voice should be consistent with the words we use. Otherwise we can confuse people and reduce the prospect of getting our message across so that it is understood. We have to take responsibility ourselves for any failure to communicate effectively. It’s OUR fault and not the fault of our listeners.

The words we choose to use ARE generally more important than is often assumed. Certainly, when making a presentation we need to pay just as much attention to the words we say as we do to the way in which we will present them – how we will move and the variations in our tone of voice.

This is good news as most people will spend far more time working out WHAT they are going to say, than rehearsing HOW they are going to say it and HOW they will move when they are talking. Speaking personally I tend to focus on all aspects of my presentations and talks. I consider each of them to be a performance. I want to inform, inspire and entertain my audiences. And feedback suggests that I’m generally pretty successful in this regard.

Perhaps one reason why Mehrabian’s research is quoted so often though is that body language and tone of voice are evidently important aspects of communication. And in the absence of any other validated research we have to quote Mehrabian to make the point – even if we do so out of context. Such quotes are generally effective though – maybe because of the tone of voice the speaker uses and their body language when they tell us about the “7%-38%-55% Rule”.

Now all I have to do is to communicate the benefits of my Tax Advice Network more effectively!

Added October 23 2009:

by

Three elements of communication – and the so called “7%-38%-55% Rule”

You’ve probably come across this ‘rule’ on a communication seminar or course somewhere. I’ve heard it repeated many, many times but I do not agree with it as the figures are invariably quoted OUT OF CONTEXT.

As a professional speaker (to accountants and business people) I cannot afford to rely on inaccurate theories as to what constitutes effective communication. I learned long ago that the words I use are far more important than is suggested by the simplistic percentages quoted in this rule. As the subject came up again in conversation recently I thought it would be helpful to share the related clarification more widely.

The original research to which everyone refers was undertaken in 1971 by Albert Mehrabian (currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA). He reached two conclusions:

1 – There are basically three elements in any face-to-face communication:
• words
• tone of voice and
• body language.

2 – These three elements account differently for the meaning of the message:
– Words account for 7%
– Tone of voice accounts for 38% and
– Body language accounts for 55% of the message.

It seems that many people who quote Mehrabian’s research seem unaware that this second conclusion was NOT a general observation relevant to all communications.

Mehrabian reached this second conclusion in the context of experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes. Thus the often quoted disproportionate influence of tone of voice and body language is only really true when someone says they like/dislike something/someone but their tone of voice or body language implies the opposite. Commonly this will mean that two or more of the three elements are ambiguous. Such ambiguity appears mostly when the words spoken are inconsistent with the tone of voice or body language of the speaker.

This would be the case for example when someone says “I do not have a problem with you!” whilst at the same time their closed body language says the opposite and they avoid eye-contact and sound anxious.

In such situations Mehrabian’s research showed that the receiver of the communication will accept the predominant form of communication, the non-verbal (38% + 55%), rather than the literal meaning of the words (7%).

Let’s face it – that conclusion IN CONTEXT is not really a surprise is it?

On his website Mehrabian specifically states: “Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”

My view, despite this clarification, is that it’s important to be congruent when we communicate. That is, our body language and tone of voice should be consistent with the words we use. Otherwise we can confuse people and reduce the prospect of getting our message across so that it is understood. We have to take responsibility ourselves for any failure to communicate effectively. It’s OUR fault and not the fault of our listeners.

The words we choose to use ARE generally more important than is often assumed. Certainly, when making a presentation we need to pay just as much attention to the words we say as we do to the way in which we will present them – how we will move and the variations in our tone of voice.

This is good news as most people will spend far more time working out WHAT they are going to say, than rehearsing HOW they are going to say it and HOW they will move when they are talking. Speaking personally I tend to focus on all aspects of my presentations and talks. I consider each of them to be a performance. I want to inform, inspire and entertain my audiences. And feedback suggests that I’m generally pretty successful in this regard.

Perhaps one reason why Mehrabian’s research is quoted so often though is that body language and tone of voice are evidently important aspects of communication. And in the absence of any other validated research we have to quote Mehrabian to make the point – even if we do so out of context. Such quotes are generally effective though – maybe because of the tone of voice the speaker uses and their body language when they tell us about the “7%-38%-55% Rule”.

Now all I have to do is to communicate the benefits of my Tax Advice Network more effectively!

Added October 23 2009:

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Is your firm ambitious?

As you know my focus is very much on helping ambitious professionals and ambitious professional firms.  I’ve been asked whether I can define such a firm.  Dare I say it’s a bit like a meteor – easy to recognise but not so easy to describe in detail.

My dictionary defines ‘ambition’ as a strong desire to do or to achieve something; and as a desire for success.

Success of course means different things to different people. In the same way the partners in different ambitious firms may well aspire to different achievements. I have encountered a wide range of professional service firms over the years and the more successful ones invariably ascribe their success to different factors.

Having said that I would also note that there are a number of generally accepted characteristics of successful professional firms:

If you’re an ambitious professional you may want to take a moment to consider how your firm measures up:

  • Profits in excess of £100k per partner (sometimes considerably more)
  • Consistent double-digit annual growth
  • Dynamic inspirational leadership
  • A defined firm culture
  • A positive attitude to risk
  • Consistent cross-selling
  • Actively selling non-compliance services
  • Increasing the proportion of fees that come from non-compliance services
  • A structure that allows leaders to lead
  • Clear investment strategy for the future
  • Appropriate planning procedures and systems
  • Lower than average staff turnover figures
  • Increasing use of technology across the organisation
  • Client portfolios that remain with the firm when partners leave/retire
  • …. And a genuine enthusiasm for what they do

Of course no one firm will consistently demonstrate all of these characteristics and in other firms there may be good reasons for choosing not to pursue all of them.

If you harbour ambitious dreams though you will want (or ‘desire’) to do things so as to make those dreams come true. That means taking active steps in the right direction. And that requires that you know where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads more insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants who want to STANDOUT and become more successful. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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