Can you answer these 3 questions when out networking?

If we focus only on what we can get from a networking situation we are likely to be disappointed more often than not. On the other hand if we focus on how we can help those we meet two things happen.

Firstly the pressure is off and it’s easier to enjoy the event. Secondly we are perceived as more interesting – because we are more interested in the people we are with. This is a simple fact of life. As a result we are likely to get more value from the networking event.

Here are THREE questions to ask people you meet when you’re networking:

1. “What is your expertise?” You want to know more than the fact they are a solicitor or even an employment lawyer. How would they like you to remember them as compared with the other employment lawyers you meet?

2. “What sort of thing are you working on at the moment?” – This can also help make them more memorable as compared with other people you know in a similar line;

3. “What should I listen out for when I’m with other people so that I can say ‘aha – I should introduce them to you’?”

If you obtain answers to these questions, you will have identified how the person you asked can help you, or people you know, because you will know what they do.

By knowing what sort of thing they are working on you have an idea of what they are currently doing and at what level, and by asking how you can best identify potentially useful referral opportunities, you are providing some pro-active help, for which they will remember you.

Back to the title of this blog:

How would you respond if you were asked these, or similar, questions? Think about how much more memorable and referable you will be if you are ready and able to share this sort of information. Good luck.

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>  

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Why accountants need to be more confident

The ACCA published a new research report in August 2012 entitled ‘Closing the Value Gap’. This explores the role of accountants today and in the future. A couple of statements in the Executive Summary caught my eye as they provide a new take on the issue I have been focusing on recently; that too many people think accountants are boring. Remember, Boring Is Optional!

The Executive Summary notes that:

“Old-fashioned images of what it is to be an accountant, such as the classic bean-counter stereotype, can be at odds with the changing landscape and the rapidly evolving trend towards greater specialisation.”

This is followed by a quote from Richard Sexton, executive board member for reputation and policy at PwC.

‘It’s important for us to come out of the shadows into the daylight and use that as an opportunity to better explain what we do, how we do it and the value we generate. There will be some challenging conversations. But it’s important that you’re confident enough to talk about what you do, why you do it and why it’s important.’

This issue of confidence is important. Too often accountants seem almost apologetic when answering the question, ‘What do you do?’  If you can’t be proud of your professional qualification and confident in the value of the role you play, how can you expect clients, friends, family and other third-parties to hold you in high esteem?

Important caveat. There is an enormous difference between confidence and arrogance. Arrogance is not a positive quality. Those who are arrogant often seem to be looking down on others. Arrogant accountants are rarely liked or admired by anyone.  If your confidence makes other people feel insulted, whether you intended this or not, you will be considered arrogant.

I like the suggestion that ‘confidence is arrogance under control’.  A confident accountant uses their talents to genuinely try to be of use, or to succeed at the task at hand.  Such an approach makes them likeable, admirable and interesting. And that’s much better than being thought of as Arrogant or as Boring, wouldn’t you agree?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Five ways general practice accountants can choose a niche

It is generally accepted these days that you will benefit more from advertising, marketing, networking and referrals if you focus on a recognisable niche.  Let everyone else continue trying to be all things to all people.

But, if you are like most accountants in practice you don’t think you have a specialist focus. You have dozens or even hundreds of clients spread across various industries. You don’t want to limit the type of new client you target. You can sort out the tax and accounting needs of most people, most of the time.

I’ve included links below to previous posts where I have explained why this approach will be less successful than one whereby you focus and niche – or even, micro-niche, your targetted new prospects.

Here are five ways you can choose a niche:

  1. Identify the clients who already pay you the highest fees. Want some more like that?
  2. Focus on those clients who have been with you the longest and who are now paying you more than when they first came on board. These are the ones you know how to grow and support.
  3. Think about which group of clients you most enjoy working with, advising and helping? Enjoyment is infectious.
  4. Do you have any clients who have written unsolicited testimonials or recommended you to other people who are in the same field? They already think you have a niche!
  5. On balance which would you say are your best or favourite clients? Use whatever criteria you want – it doesn’t have to be about fees.

Find some similarities between the clients you identify through this process. Tidy up the definition so that it becomes something you can say and that people can remember. That will then be your niche and you will win more new clients faster than if you persist with being the same as every other generalist accountant.

Do share your niches below. Let’s see how varied they are.

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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Ten ways to avoid being boring on twitter

Whilst I do not follow all of the UK based accountants who join twitter, I do try to add them to one of two lists I have for them (see foot of this post). And I do monitor the tweets they post. I also regularly check out their profiles. Some are more interesting than others.

When I encounter a new accountant on twitter I only need to read a few of their tweets for me to reach a conclusion as to whether or not they are like the boring majority.

Sadly many accountants have either taken no advice or are following possibly well intentioned but often unhelpful advice when they tweet. This explains why so many accountants then give up on twitter within a few weeks or months.  I have addressed the reasons for this many times on this blog.

Today I will simply focus on one factor that almost guarantees you will find twitter disappointing. This is if you come across as boring.  Here’s my list of ten ways you can avoid this:

  1. Ensure your twitter profile is interesting. Not simply a standard reference to you or your accountancy firm that could apply equally to hundreds of other accountants.
  2. Ensure you have a recognisable head shot as your profile photo – even if you insist on tweeting in your firm’s name. I explained here why it’s not a great idea to tweet in the firm’s name. What works for household name brands does not work so easily for local firms of accountants.
  3. Avoid posting promotional tweets about your services – your early followers probably already know you or are only interested in you following them back. No one is going to start following you if all they see are promotional tweets. It’s boring.
  4. Avoid posting links to generic news stories. It’s boring. Why should anyone follow you if you are not posting anything new or different to what they can see through other regular sources? The only exception to this tip is if you are able to include an interesting comment in the news tweet.
  5. Do not tweet about what you had for breakfast each day. No one cares. Twitter no longer encourages us to answer the question: “What are you doing right now?” And with good reason. It’s boring to see tweets full of the minutiae of someone’s life.
  6. ReTweet interesting items that catch your attention and add a comment to explain why.  Retweets without comments quickly become boring.
  7. Vary your tweets – some should be about business, some will include tips, some may be promotional, some fun and some simply helping others by ReTweeting their tweets and/or replying to their enquiries.
  8. Do NOT simply set up a load of automated facilities to post tweeted links on your behalf. If you do not engage with other tweeters you will fail to build a real following as your tweets will quickly become boring.
  9. Ensure that some of your tweets reveal who YOU really are, beyond your role as an accountant. People buy people. You will be perceived as more interesting and more people will follow you if you are a real person.
  10. Help your followers and those in whom you are interested by responding to their questions on twitter. By  providing genuine help you will be evidently more interesting than someone who simply posts promotional tweets.

What else would you add to this list?

If you want to see all the tweets posted by almost a thousand UK accountants and accountancy firms on twitter, follow these lists:

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>
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Making the 80:20 rule work for you

Although many people have heard of this ‘rule’ very few accountants consciously think about how applying the rule could help them and their clients.

The 80:20 rule is also known as the ‘Pareto principle’, the ‘law of the vital few’ and the ‘principle of factor sparsity’. Simply stated, the idea is that for many events, 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the causes. Another way of putting this is that 20% of what businesses (and individuals) do generates about 80% positive results. The percentages are not fixed; they are simply indicative of the fact that when you examine what is going on in your life, you will often find that a small proportion of your activities have a disporportionate impact as compared with all of the others.

I first read the seminal book by Richard Koch, (“The 80 20 principle“) in 1996. This explains how we might benefit from recognising how often this counter-intuitive principle impacts our business lives. I often return to the book for inspiration. Equally I often raise the idea in my talks and during mentoring sessions.  Essentially about 80% of what you or your practice does is unimportant or a waste of time. The key is to figure out what’s really important or produces the most positive results and do it.

How might ambitious accountants apply this principle?

  • Identify those 20% of clients who generate 80% of the firm’s profits (or of the partner’s contribution) and focus attention on them rather than on the 80% of clients that take most time but only contribute about 20% of the profits;
  • Allocate more resources to those 20% of your activities that generate the highest margin, rather than the 80% of activities that contribute much less – and take more time;
  • Focus on those (20%) Networking activities that you most enjoy and which have the most prospect of generating worthwhile referrals, and stop wasting time by attending the others (80%);
  • Devote more time to reading the 20% of accounting and tax news that is immediately useful and relevant as compared to the 80% of magazines, papers, emails and website feeds that are simply ‘interesting’;**
  • Keep in mind the idea that there is often a ‘vital few’ as compared with the ‘trvial many’;
  • Help clients to appreciate the importance of the concept to their own businesses.

** NB: It was partly this idea that led us to develop the weekly newsletter published by the Tax Advice Network. It simply contains timely, practical and commercial advice re at least 3 key points of immediate relevance and interest to accountants in general practice. No wonder so many subscribers renew year after year. Try it now for 4 weeks – no charge – to see what you’re missing.

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