Sunday, August 22, 2010

This Really Works

Before we get into the meat of this post, let me offer a mea culpa … yes, I realize what follows will read like a commercial. I’ve actually avoided writing about this for a long time because I don’t want to come across like I’ve suddenly become Ron Popeil, hustling pocket fishing rods, Veg-O-Matic and rotisseries on TV.

But, you need to read about this because I know it really works and, no, I’m not getting a penny for writing about it.

This is a tool that not only helps your clients, it also elevates and differentiates your services from competitors AND it is a powerful means to both acquire new clients and obtain more work from existing clients.

Alas, it isn’t free, so if this posting is intriguing you’ll have to contact the source and determine if the expense vs. value is right for your practice. I can tell you about the benefits from a business development and client service/retention perspective; they’ll have to tell you how much it costs.

The products are the Snapshot (formerly ProfitCents) reports you can create from software offered by Sageworks, Inc.

Snapshot provides value for an owner/manager of a small- to medium-sized business by offering recommendations to help improve its financial performance. Snapshot analyzes the business’ financial data and generates easily understood narrative text reports. Many accountants find these reports to be very helpful when trying to explain the meaning and prospective impact of the P&L and balance sheet numbers. The reports include constantly updated comparative performance data so you and the client can see how the business is doing vs. similarly situated enterprises. If applicable, it also offers automation of the pre-audit process. For these reasons, a growing list of accounting firms (approx. 4,000 at present) subscribe to this software.

But the reason I’m writing about Snapshot today is specifically because it is a powerful – almost unsurpassed – business development tool. As noted above, it offers differentiation and elevates the value of your professional services to your clients. Beyond that, it has exceptionally potent persuasive impact upon prospects. Here are two examples of how it can be used with the owner of a small-to-medium size business:

Using Snapshot to get more work from an existing client. If you are a regular reader of this blog you have read about my “stickie” strategy. Here’s how it works if you are a Snapshot subscriber: 1) you have just completed a client’s tax filing, P&L/balance sheet, what-if cash or profitability analysis, etc. where the business’ performance has been reduced to numbers. You then, 2), enter the performance data and create a Snapshot Extreme® report for the business. 3), you compare the industry averages (these are highly localized and relevant, e.g. Architecture & Engineering firms in Southern California, so the results are apples to apples) to your client’s numbers and find one or more areas where their business falls short vis-à-vis the averages. 4), you grab a stickie and in your own handwriting (don’t type it) write, e.g. “Sharon, note where I’ve made highlights. These are below your industry’s average. I think you’re leaving money on the table. Call me and let’s talk about this. Dave” 5), the client docs, relevant section(s) of the Snapshot report are bundled together; the stickie placed on top, and the package sent off to the client. 6), a few days later the odds are overwhelming that Sharon will call you.

You then get together with her, discuss the performance gap and strategize how she can improve her results. I’ll leave it to you to suggest remedial steps, but it isn’t difficult to see how it will involve you, and this translates to billable hours. For example, you help her assemble a package that you will then use to approach her bank to press for expansion of her bank line or, perhaps, to liberalize covenants. Or, you can do an analysis to determine what the impact would be if she closed down a marginally profitable sales office in the neighboring city. Or, you can determine the impact if she changed her sales team’s compensation scheme so it had a reduced salary but larger commission component. Or, how would the numbers look if she upgraded her computer & software capability and based upon greater prospective efficiency, reduced her admin staff by one person?

Using Snapshot to convert new prospects to clients. If you have my manual or have read this blog for a while, you know that there is an imperative that you identify the prospect’s issues, concerns, needs and then provide spot-on, workable solutions. To do this you rely initially upon information the prospect gives you (ideally, that includes some current financial data) and then what comes up during the discussion. During the conversation when you are setting the appointment to meet, you say, e.g. “Pete, I have access to a proprietary database that can provide you with some really good input. If I can get your (tell them what you want) data I can prepare a report for you. It will really add value to our discussion.” They’ll almost always give you the data.

Then, when you meet, you leverage off the report to engage the prospect. You then leave the report with them at the meeting’s conclusion. It, of course, has your and your firm’s name prominently placed. They’ll read it later because, after all, it's all about their own business.

What does this process gain for you? First of all, it adds clout to your presentation. Secondly, it provides differentiation because the odds greatly favor that you will be the only one offering this benefit. Third, it empowers you to point out and focus upon areas the prospect should be talking about (they might not even know their pretax margin or debt-to-asset ratio is below average). Fourth, it gives validity to the courses of action you recommended. Taken together, this is an almost insurmountable advantage for a competing accountant to overcome.

There are other benefits and advantages I don’t have space to cover here, but as a final thought I want to point out that the use of Snapshot in the business development process gives your prospect an objective reason to pick you ... you were the most prepared, you offered solid data, you have positioned yourself a cut above any competitors, you proposed courses of action that the report agrees will be impactful, and you have demonstrated a high level of client service. Other things being reasonably equal, you will be their choice.

Here are links to check it out: Home page: www.sageworksinc.com
Specific information about Snapshot and other reports:
https://www.profitcents.com/USEN/runreport/allproducts.aspx?GUID=afb0e04a-d75d-4b36-a44b-4104bfe6afe9

8 comments:

Hal said...

Craig,

This is incredibly helpful, and I agree completely. I've used ProfitCents (Snapshot) for a little over a year now. I don't necessarily have the data to back it up, but I would ascertain my partner and I have picked up no less than seven clients by using the reports. The insight is on point, and even better I can edit it to add my own perspective and make it more personal. I have also found my clients are more interested in sitting down and discussing budgets. Who would've thought?!

Craig said...

Thanks for your comment, Hal. It is amazing. When I first saw ProfitCents a couple of years ago I couldn't believe the business development advantage it gives to its subscribers. I'm glad you are leveraging it so successfully.
Rgds,
Craig

Business Development Services said...

Such a nice post on business development services..........

Darcy said...

Wow, what an amazing tool! I could consider using that, too. Using software to help you in your business is a good idea because it helps you focus on the other important stuff. I use a business related software, too. In my case, I'm using a software for my accounting needs. It's a software by Sage called Peachtree Quantum.

I've been using the Peachtree since its first release. My accounting has never been easier than ever. Now, I'm thinking if I should buy the new version, Peachtree Quantum 2011. I know that it's not free, but at least you're sure that it's really going to help your business, right?

John said...

Thanks for sharing something about business software. I think I'll try your suggestion, so that I'll be able to focus on the other stuff. I hope that this is going to help me in my business financing. Well, as the reviews have said, I really do think that it's going to help me. I've been reading a lot of good reviews about it, too. Now I'll have something that will help me sort out all the unsecured financing, payday, cash advance, and other loans I'm currently paying.

Carlene Schnitzer said...

I've been looking for a software that can help me in taking care of the accounting side of my business. The availability of accounting software like the Sage MAS 200 has made it easier for anyone to do their own business accounting. Thank you for your suggestion, by the way. I might consider using it along with one of the Peachtree Complete Accounting series of software I'm using right now.

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