How to Organize Your Firm for Growth: The Carrie Steffen Interview
Carrie Steffen, Founder of the Whetstone Group, works exclusively with B2B businesses and service based businesses so you can organize your firm for growth.
What that means is she can show you insider tips on structuring your team and efforts to maximize new clients no matter the size of your current firm.
In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Carrie Steffen discuss:
- How to organize your team and firm for growth and strategic marketing
- How to assign growth, sales, and marketing roles to team members
- How to organize, measure, and track your marketing campaigns
- The Whetstone Group
- Contact Carrie at Carrie (AT) thewhetstonegroup.com
- The secret to turning a prospect into a long-time client (interview)
- How to get consulting clients for your firm with zero marketing (interview)
4 Pieces to Look at First When Structuring Your Firm for Growth:
Carrie Steffen, Founder of the Whetstone Group – a consulting business for CPA firms, B2B companies, and similar – spends her time creating infrastructure and processes, as well as developing new roles and responsibilities for the people in the firm.
When she first enters her client’s firm, she outlines a 4 step plan to begin maximizing new sales.
First, she looks at strategic marketing opportunities. That means addressing the correct key markets as well as compiling a compelling mission statement. This is the 30,000 plan to start with.
Second, she organizes sales management. This is the person(s) in charge of the sales team. These people will have a roster of key relationships formed and current opportunities up for grabs and open. If this person(s) doesn’t exist, Carrie believes you should identify someone even if they’re a partner also doing compliance work.
Third, she puts together the sales team. These are the folks who are out in the field finding new relationships, meeting prospects, following up, and closing the sale.
Fourth, this is the tactical step. The plan outlines the first steps to begin bringing in new clients. Call this the implementation phase.
What if I have a small, 5-10 person team?
Carrie powwows with a lot of bigger firms. These firms have the manpower to have ‘sales-only’ team members. But, for the budding firm or mom-and-pop, the bodies just aren’t there.
First, if you’re a new owner, you should prepare the foundation now for a sales force. If you’re not a new firm, start at the partner level. If you have only one partner, maybe the partner recruits a team member to work with them. Get together with your team in full and ask “where is the growth right now?”
Some team members, who might not be salespeople, may still know of some opportunities around. If you’re unsure what to do, obviously you can hire external help even if just to consult for a few days.
Bottom-line, firms are most successful when all the partners (at minimum) are involved in the sales process. Obviously, in accounting, all won’t feel comfortable with the process, so make sure everyone plays to their strengths. Partners bringing in clients should, however, receive a bonus for their efforts.
If you can’t or aren’t comfortable with sales calls, you can always take a more indirect approach. Perhaps you write high-quality articles that get submitted to trade publications or local papers. They could even be used to market internally with your own clients.
That brings us to another area for growth…internally.
How to Find New Revenue from Your Current Client List
The first place to begin with your firm for growth might not be at networking events, but right inside your four walls. That means, growing from the clients you already have. This is a great way to step into the growth mindset without having to get too crazy with sales tactics.
First step…talk with your clients about bottlenecks in their company. Listen to their current issues…maybe it’s cash flow, growth themselves, asset management and more. All those needs can be packaged into a new product you offer.
DAVID’S TIP:Have the mindset of a consultant with your clients. You’re not a CPA anymore, but a hired gun who is there to only solve big problems. That alone can flip the script on your mindset.
Think about all the touch points you have with a client. Where in these touchpoints can you begin talking about new services or even just their problems? Carrie recommends having an “internal service sheet.” This sheet is a training tool for any team member, even partners, to help summarize current offers, diagnose symptoms of a problem client’s have, examples of key questions to ask and more.
A great way to begin pulling in new team members is by bringing them into these meetings with clients. This can get other members excited and onboard with the growth plan. Now, I know many partners can be reluctant to bring a new hire into a meeting with a valued client. The last thing you need for your growth plan is the new hire to say something they shouldn’t. However, if you set the expectations of the meeting up beforehand with your employee, it should run smoother. Not to mention, you could identify an up-and-coming talent in your firm this way. Many a future rockstar CPAs have got away because they weren’t given the right chance.
These should be initial steps when you’re thinking of internal growth. Let’s look at external growth again.
How Much Should I Spend on Sales and Marketing?
This is the golden question every managing partner wants to know. Start with writing down a marketing budget. Many firms wait until after they spend money to check out this number, but you should budget first. You’ll be more efficient that way.
The average to spend on marketing is 2.3% of revenue. If you’re looking for faster growth, you may be more aggressive with that number.
The three areas to spend on are:
- Pure Marketing: This kind of marketing is your PR. It gets your name out there and builds credibility. This might include newsletters, mailings, banner ads, and other ‘brand’ pieces.
- Sales Activities: Here you focus on sales calls, drawing up proposals, perhaps you outsource this piece.
- Marketing Activities: These pieces are more direct than brand advertising. These lead up to a sale meaning they do lead gen for your sales team. Included here are follow-up calls/emails, putting on a seminar for prospects and clients, etc.
The real power is combining all three of these pieces. Pure Marketing doesn’t work if you aren’t leveraging your newfound credibility into Sales Activities. Marketing Activities won’t work without brand recognition through Pure Marketing. Sales Activities need regular leads to do their job more efficiently hence Marketing Activities.
80-90% of new prospects will become a client after almost a dozen touchpoints. That’s a lot. Thus, you need a three-pronged approach to stay top of mind.
The most efficient battleplan is to think about “who is my target audience and where do they hang out?” Trim out the fat and focus on the best type of clients for your firm. Then, capitalize. Try and touch one person five times rather than touch five people one time. You need those touchpoints again and again.
The biggest misses are in those transition phases. Perhaps you ran a marketing activity but didn’t run the follow-up. You had a great sales call but didn’t have multiple touch points through other marketing mediums. Look for opportunities that transition into sales opportunities.
DAVID’S TIP;The biggest mistake we see is someone giving up after one try at marketing. They run one campaign, it didn’t perform perfectly, so they say “marketing doesn’t work” and give up. If you don’t have all three of these approaches, as Carrie mentions, of course your marketing and sales efforts won’t turn into new clients!
Carrie invites you to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.