As accounting firm partners and managers feel increasing pressure to bring in new clients, they often seek help, turning to the marketing professionals and rainmakers in their firm for support. With such a tight integration between marketing and business development, it’s no surprise that marketing professionals are stepping up to the role of growth coach, guiding partners with processes and best practices for winning new clients. For many marketers, this can feel like a big change from their other, more traditional marketing responsibilities. And while most of us know intuitively how to network, track down leads and make proposals for new work, we may not have experience as a coach. To help those marketers and rainmakers who are asked to step into this role, here are some tips for acting as a growth coach in your firm.
Build Like and Trust
You have probably already done this to some extent, but it takes another layer of trust to serve as a coach. A critical step is being visible—don’t hide in your office or behind a to-do list. It may mean meeting more frequently with your partners and managers. It may also mean learning to communicate based on personality type. Coaches also need to respect confidentiality. When people turn to coaches for help, they are often feeling vulnerable. Demonstrating that you can be trusted to react with respect and to protect confidential information is crucial to building the trust needed as a coach. Finally, trust is earned by asking permission for honest and open feedback. In many cases, you may have advice that can be hard to swallow for the person being coached. Be sure to ask permission to deliver this kind of honest, direct feedback, and hold back if you aren’t getting that permission either explicitly or inferred.
Be Educated, Be Confident
Trust is also built by knowing as much as you can about the work your partners and managers do. Take the time to know and understand your firm’s services, industries and growth strategy. Are there niches or specialized services? What is unique about your firm’s market or geography? Who are the ideal clients for your firm? By understanding your firm’s services and value, you can develop ideas for networking opportunities, conversation starters or other strategies for opening the door for your partners and managers to engage prospects and clients.
Not everyone will be open to coaching on how to develop business. It’s important to start with those who want the help. Start small, with one or two partners, particularly if they will have the influence to get others to work with you. Once you have success stories with those partners, they will serve as your champion, sharing those successes with others in the firm. Eventually, more will enlist your help. It is also important that leadership supports your role as a growth coach. Gain the support of your managing partner or another influencer in a leadership role, and ask for their guidance in defining your role as a growth coach. Finally, even coaches need coaches. Seek mentors outside of the firm who can share best practices and even act as a third-party endorser back to your firm. A good source for meeting outside mentors is the AAM Summit, co-located with the AICPA Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Orlando, Fla., in June.