What does a crisis reveal about your business development skills?

A common turn of phrase is that a crisis reveals our character in how we respond. While that may be true in some respects, I believe what a crisis actually uncovers is how effective we are with our skills. The question is, what is this crisis revealing about your CPA firm’s BD skills?


It’s easy to sell when selling is easy. You don’t have to be as effective; skills don’t have to be as honed. Frankly, it’s easier to get by with mediocre skills. Attending conferences and networking events and sticking around people you already know or hiding behind a table was possible before, but that’s simply not enough during a crisis. In fact, not only do we need fine-tuned skills, but we also need a broader, deeper pipeline to overcome the loss of the “easy wins.”


Referral sources, effective networking at events, and good conversations have always been keys to building a successful BD pipeline, but those avenues for building a pipeline need to adapt to changing times. Here are some tips for honing your BD skills in times of crisis and beyond.


Go back to basics: In the accounting profession, we know that relationships, developed through the right conversations and over consistent periods of time, are king. One positive of the current virtual environment is the renewed focus on relationships. Leverage your relationships, and connect with your clients, prospects, and referral sources with purposeful and meaningful meetings and touchpoints.


Don’t wait and see: BD isn’t the only area where we all feel stuck. It may seem like the world stopped in March, but in reality, the earth kept turning, and business kept moving. The sales cycle for CPA firms is long, and you can’t wait until you return to the office or until things quiet down, because they’re not going to. You have to continue building relationships and communicating if you want to be remembered.


Show your value: Common fears like the client won’t be able to pay or they don’t want to hear it right now aren’t necessarily true. Many clients are experiencing tremendous uncertainty and will pay for value and advice during this time. Clients are engaged now more than they’ve ever been, and while some of your efforts may not translate into business today, they will set you up for a stronger 2021, and that’s a win.


Be intentional: Your conversion rate will be stunted during this time, so it’s more critical than ever to build a robust pipeline. BD at CPA firms has previously relied heavily upon referral sources. To fill your pipeline in this season, you’ll need to consider more direct-to-consumer touchpoints, which requires intentional action. If you want to achieve the same results as before, you’ll need more connections, more touchpoints, and more time. Adapting your BD strategy will only serve to benefit you in the future.


Engage online: Nurture your referral, client, and prospect sources by discovering where they are and engaging with them on their terms and through their platforms. This may mean a collaborative video call with your referral sources, their prospects and yours, or it might mean reaching out on LinkedIn and supporting your client’s or prospect’s message.


Whether you’re communicating virtually or in-person, it’s all just BD. Don’t separate the experience or the relationship based on the method of communication or the state of the markets. Honed BD skills are going to be effective, no matter the circumstances.



About the author

Ranked twice by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People, Sarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting is an accounting marketing growth advisor. She helps Accounting firms identify and implement strategies to help them grow their firms and distinguish themselves in the marketplace. Connect with Sarah to learn more at 773-208-7170, sjohnson@inovautus.comorwww.linkedin.com/in/sjjohnson