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 have this new focus for my talks: Be ReMARKable and show you are more than just another….‘ and that I am keen to present my keynote and after-dinner talks at conferences and events for accountants in the UK.  You may even have received my weekly email containing tips and tricks for accountants 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 might be pleased or relieved by my response. But what would your reaction be as regards referring conference organisers and anyone else who might want a speaker for their event to me? What if a day or two later you met the managing partner of 20 partner firm of accountants who was frustrated by the lack of relevance or credibility most speakers have to his firm?  Or you meet one of the team who are organising a conference intended to attract accountants? Would you think of suggesting that either of them contacted me? [I certainly hope that you’d do exactly that as I’d love to help them and to speak at their events.]

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].

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
– Still plenty of space for new clients; 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?

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 still 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?

If you would like me to speak on this topic or a related subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. 

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