P R O F E S S I O N A L . . . C O N T R O L L E R S
We Can ALL Sell For Each Other (Advice to Colleagues)
by Adrian W. Hollander, C.P.A., CISA, CIA, CBA, CFSA,
President of COMPLUS Inc. – Professional Controllers
Our target market for CFO services is made up of small to medium sized "for-profit" companies (with usually 20-100 workers and at least one office clerk/bookkeeper). They are too big for the owner to run with a check book in his/her pocket and too small to hire one of us full-time. There are approximately 15,000 such companies in the Chicagoland metropolitan area. (The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce says that there are altogether almost 300,000 business units.) We must avoid conflicts of interest, so "vertical market" or "industry" specialties are impossible. We work for the interests of our clients and never for their competitors. If COMPLUS could serve only 500 clients, there would be work for about 100 CFO’s. Our market-share is nowhere near saturation.
Prospecting work done by the "Professional Controller" marketing service is superb; nevertheless, it’s not a sound business principle to have too many eggs in one basket. We can ALL sell for each other. The direct mail approach doesn’t reach everybody, nor does it stimulate all good prospects to respond. Many potential clients are still out there, but they won’t usually volunteer spontaneously. I urge that we each join and participate actively in at least two business groups. When somebody tries to sell us something, turn the tables. Let’s trade business cards whenever we meet someone new. (If you need more, just ask me.) Ask if he/she has seen one of the Professional Controller letters. (We’ve been mailing for about 10 years. Connect to what’s familiar.) Selling is not required of a COMPLUS associate, but selling does take the lid off your earning potential. (There are only 24 hours in a day.) Don’t let a good lead go to waste just because your plate is full. Somebody else can use the work.
Despite the fact that "I hate forms," sometimes they help understanding by standardizing the way we communicate (like language rules). Enclosed is a QUESTIONNAIRE (use your browser "back" arrow to come back here) for gathering data to help us to understand the needs of a prospect. Professional Controllers gathers this type of data for me and you will recognize much of this lead information as what I have transmitted to you. Try to get as much of this data as possible. Please print a copy of the QUESTIONNAIRE any time you need another.
Names and phone numbers (alone) are little help. Warm leads are valuable. Armed with a willing contact and the information you gather, whoever makes the interview call can be optimistic and well prepared. The most important information items, besides the obvious contact name, address, and phone number, are data about volumes coupled with nature of business. The owner will usually disclose his "hot buttons" in response to my favorite opening question, "Please tell me more about why you agreed to this meeting."
Usually, a prospect is already being served by other professionals. One of our objectives is to improve the quality of whatever relationships the owner wants to keep. We should not be competitors for those relationships. We definitely do not sell ourselves as substitutes for attorneys, bankers, computer software vendors, tax specialists, or "independent" CPA’s. We DO want to be the leader and coach for the internal accounting and management information functions (part of the management team). We expect clerical personnel to learn how to do the "daily" work so our presence can be just part-time. Our competitor is really someone who wants a full-time job as a CFO/Controller in our "target market" environment. We can usually do a better job for half-price or less.
We are team players. (I want to be sure that the owner has at least one ally, me. We hope for more allies, though.) We will do what the owner wants, but we draw the line at illegal, unethical, unprofessional, immoral, and fattening – well, we stretch a point on fattening because we want an invitation to the company parties. More seriously, we promise that management information will tell the truth (not that the owner will like it). Let’s agree to deal with the news and not shoot the messenger. Our job is to enable decision-makers to run the business, without feeling blindfolded.
Sometimes an owner will ask if we can make decisions for him/her. My answer is "I suppose so; I do for my business. But if you really want that, please call ME ‘President’ and pay me accordingly. We will still need a part-time Controller, though. They are different jobs." If the owner chuckles at this response, we will have understood each other.
By the way, when you do an interview call, look for any opportunity to "CLOSE !!!" The best closing question that I have found is "May we start …(activity)… on …(date)… ." "Chemistry" is important. (The harder we have to work for a job the less likely we are to get it.)
Accountants may be considered to be the world’s worst sales people, but we don’t have to live down to the stereotype.
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