This is the second article in a 3-part series from Monika Miles.
At the beginning of October, this publication ran my first article in the Rainmaking series, entitled “It’s Time to Think about Rainmaking”. In that piece, I shared with you a few steps to building your business pipeline and putting the art of rainmaking into practice. They include: change your mindset around selling; correctly identify your target market; put yourself in the room with your target market (regularly): establish your practice development goals; and keep accountable to those goals – especially to yourself. (Read the full article here)
There’s a lot behind each of those steps, but they are relatively straightforward. The hardest part is making the commitment to do the work. Building relationships and ultimately bringing in business doesn’t happen by accident. And sometimes for accountants, it is a challenge to put on our “sales” hats. It’s important to be intentional, and to invest the time needed to plant the seeds, water and nurture them, and ultimately see them begin to grow.
I had lunch with a colleague recently and the topic turned to business development. Even though she’s trying to build her new business, she has had to significantly reduce her networking activities because so many other things are competing for her time. Unfortunately, we can all relate to that at one time or another.
Time spent building business relationships requires a delicate balance. If we do less networking, it’s difficult to meet the people who will become clients or referral sources – particularly when the business is young or in growth mode. Yet, having enough time is always a problem. So, how do we engage in the very important task of Rainmaking and still find balance?
Here are some things that work for me:
Take stock of the many things competing for your time in a 24 hour day. Is it client projects? Business networking? Family? Volunteer/community activities?
Ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I can be doing right now to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself?” Of course, this is where written goal setting is so important. Some time ago, when you weren’t so busy and you decided to focus on your ambitions, maybe you sat down and told yourself what you really wanted to accomplish this year. Hopefully, you crafted goals for your business and your personal life and wrote them down! I suggest that you pull out that paper and ask yourself if your goals have changed, or if life has just interfered and made reaching them more challenging? If building your business is a stated priority, find a way to allocate some time to that and reallocate your time in other areas of your life. Could your spouse or other family member help pick up the kids one extra night per week? Can you hire a housekeeper? Can you do some client projects from home, rather than commute several hours per day? Could it be time to consider creating a home office to eliminate your commute entirely? Sometimes it’s just a matter of thinking differently about the things that steal away the valuable minutes of our days.
It can be hard to delegate marketing or Rainmaking activities – particularly if you are a sole practitioner or small accounting business and are the key person responsible for building the relationships that ultimately drive the revenue. Unless you can afford to hire a salesperson (and many times in start-up or growth mode we cannot), you’ll still have to do much of it yourself. Remember, you are the best person to build those important relationships that will hopefully grow into long term referral opportunities. However, you can delegate other things. How about administrative tasks that a virtual assistant could help with? Or small jobs you might offload to a college student seeking an internship? (Many accounting students are looking for that “real world experience.) Can someone assist you with social media, blogging or other web-based outreach? Of course! I’ve had much success in my business by hiring college students and contractors to assist in these areas. A little planning up front can ultimately help you to delegate the tasks that don’t require your direct attention – and free you up to do the important pipeline building activities!
Engage in Indirect Marketing
If we refer to attending networking events and having lunch with prospects as “direct marketing”, then blogging, engaging on social media, updating your web presence and sending out newsletters are “indirect marketing”. Generally, these indirect activities are not stand-alone, but they enhance the other direct activities and help to reinforce your brand. These activities do take up some time, but maybe not as much as you might think, and much of it can be done at your convenience. For instance, I sometimes draft blogs while sitting in my backyard – even if I have just a few minutes to think and work on my business. I can still be present with my family and be engaged in a little marketing activity at my leisure. Depending on your target audience, posting and initiating conversations on Facebook or Linked-In (or other platforms) may also make sense. Those activities can often be scheduled during off times, evenings or weekends. So much of life has become virtual today. Find a way to use that to your advantage!
Cut back, don’t cut out!
When it comes to networking, I believe that consistency is key. If your goals at the beginning of the year were to participate in four networking groups, and attend one meeting per week, that likely seemed to be a reasonable milestone at the time. If you find that it is now too overwhelming, then perhaps change up the meetings and instead of attending every group every month – cut back to one or two per month, and then catch the others next month. Don’t let networking become so burdensome that it’s stressful rather than an enjoyable part of building your business: cut back, but don’t cut it out completely. It’s still important to be seen out there! Be active enough so that your groups know you and miss you when you’re gone! And perhaps in light of competing priorities, don’t forget to periodically reassess your networking strategies in terms of cost/benefit, leads cultivated, and ultimately revenue generated. periodically. Hopefully, when some of your other stressors subside a bit, you can ramp up the networking again so that it works for you. Remember that some activity is always better than no activity.
Ultimately, the way you spend your valuable time is a very personal choice, and only you can decide where to direct your resources. I recommend that my Rainmaking consulting clients stay as consistent as possible and keep a constant drumbeat going in your circles about your business and your activities. Allocate some time, even if you have to reallocate occasionally. It’s very easy to quit networking, particularly if it doesn’t come naturally, or when the results don’t seem to be coming as quickly as you’d like. Yet it’s very difficult to grow a business without doing it.
About the Author
Monika Miles is President of Miles Consulting Group, Inc. - a professional service firm in San Jose, California specializing in multi-state tax solutions (sales tax and income tax) and addressing state and local tax issues such as nexus and product taxability for clients doing business across state lines. In addition to her technical tax practice, Monika also helps other professionals to grow their pipelines and enhance their practice development activities through a program called Jumpstart Your Rainmaking. For more tips on Rainmaking, building a plan, and keeping yourself accountable, check out her upcoming 3 part webinar series – Jumpstart Your Rainmaking. To learn more, contact us today at www.MilesConsultingGroup.com and www.jumpstartrain.com.