The Lean Times Series #2 – Leveraging Lean Times

by & filed under All Articles, Growth Leadership.

This is No Time for Inaction. Get Focused Now!

By 2001, the year the high-tech boom went bust, I had been in the technology field for more than two decades. When the bubble finally burst, the repercussions were many and ugly. I’ve thought more about those times recently than I have in years, and for good reason. The crisis was a microcosm of what we’re experiencing today. The dotcom demise challenged many to intelligently reinvent. What I learned from that experience is newly relevant. Some lessons I learned:

Focus. Focus. Focus.

Targeting your buyer group has never been more essential. Let’s imagine your target is the dental community. You need to “drill” down, specifically identifying the subset of dentists whose needs you are prepared to serve.
One possible target might be practitioners who were about to retire, but who have put their plans on hold due to the economy. What are their immediate needs? What service could you provide that would respond to their changed situation?

Another possible focus might be dentists just out of school and establishing a practice in an economic downturn. How do their accounting service needs differ from those of an upscale cosmetic dental practice that now finds itself relying on routine procedures like cleanings and fillings to stay afloat? Here’s the takeaway – if a buyer group isn’t buying, look for one that is. Become an expert in it and craft your solutions to correspond to its specific challenges.

Get Leaner and Stop Squandering

Identify spending patterns that have been marginal in their return and drop them. Like the costly wining and dining of clients and referral sources. Lush lunches were perfectly fine when times were flush. But they don’t make much sense now.

At the end of the day, it’s not a big meal that’s going to move your buyer. It’s your ability to connect and to conduct a productive research call. This can take place just as well at Starbucks as it can at Ruth’s Chris.

Now put your marketing activities on a similar spending diet. Eight-color brochures are so yesterday. Today’s volatile market requires dynamic strategies that can change on a dime, not expensive proposals that are outdated as soon as they’re printed. Evaluate and update your website. Investigate online and social media options.

Retool Your Opportunity Pursuit

Another place to trim fat is in your pursuit of opportunities. There’s a tremendous amount of waste in book-length proposals that wax on about your firm, but offer no solid client solutions. Lean pursuit is precise and focused. Go in with a set of questions and a mindset of discovery. Spend the first hour alone with your prospect, actively listening and establishing credibility.

Gain insight into your buyer’s mentality and uncover gaps in service delivery. Then, and only then, bring in a selected team whose experience is closely tied to the needs revealed. Don’t crowd the CFO’s office with warm bodies. Introduce a few strong producers who can get the job done.

No matter what the time of year, you need to respect and respond to the natural rhythm of the sales process. That means taking time to conduct a research call even when you’ve got a pile of returns that need to get out.

Handle with Care

Competition is laser-sharp these days. Most probably that opportunity you’re chasing is also being targeted by five or six serious competitors. So you’ve got to treat every single piece of revenue with immense respect and focus.
Yes, the lean times are here. But there’s still a great deal of good work out there, and it might as well be yours.

Gale Crosley

About Gale Crosley

Gale Crosley, CPA, has been awarded The Advisory Board Hall of Fame. She was selected one of the Most Recommended Consultants in the Inside Public Accounting BEST OF THE BEST Annual Survey of Firms for fifteen years, and one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting by AccountingToday for fourteen years. She is an honors accounting graduate from the University of Akron, Ohio, winner of the Simonetti Distinguished Business Alumni Award, and an Editorial Advisor for the Journal of Accountancy. Gale is founder and principal of Crosley+Company, providing revenue growth consulting and coaching to CPA firms. She brings more than 30 years of experience, featuring a unique combination as a practicing CPA in two national accounting firms, along with significant experience in business development in the cutting edge technology environment with such firms as IBM and MCI.

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