Whether you’re a sole practitioner or an accountant at a large firm, the need to generate new business is something that everyone encounters at some point in their career – if not on a regular basis. Here, Mark Platt, Founder of Incite Consulting looks at how accountants can be their own worst enemies by putting up unnecessary boundaries, when it comes to networking.

Let’s talk accounting, but in a different way

Oh no, I’m not very good at approaching people. Well, I can talk to people about what I do, but everyone thinks it’s boring. Surely there are enough accountants at networking events already; no-one will even notice me if I go.

Whatever your reason for not putting yourself in front of people who could one day become your client, or refer their many business contacts to become your client, I have probably already heard it.

In professional services firms, the professionals working there have slogged their guts out to get to where they are and all they want to do now is good work, which they are experts in. Nobody said anything about sales, or networking, or inviting people you don’t really know all that well out to dinner.

Another common trait of people who work in professional services firms is that whilst they see what they have to say from a professional point of view to be of great value, they often assume that everyday people will not find it interesting, unless it specifically applies to their business – and sometimes even then, it’s often assumed that clients just want their accountant to look after their issues for them and send them a bill. However, this is simply not true.

Being the type of person that I am, if anyone looks awkward or like they want to melt away into their cup of coffee at an event, they’re the ones I want to speak to, to bring them out of their shell. Countless times I have spoken to accountants who seem like they would rather be anywhere else than networking – it seems to just be a given that it doesn’t usually come naturally. Then, the impossible happens – they loosen up, laugh, smile and become a person that wants to talk, despite being nervous about whether people are interested in what they have to say.

What triggers the change? I talk about me.

See, the thing is – accountants know a lot about business. They know a lot about the commercial world. All I ever need to do is to talk about what stage my business is at, what challenges I’m facing or how the economy has impacted on my workload or cash flow and voila, we have a great conversation. Never, in my experience, has an accountant not known what to say – usually they’re brimming with extremely thought provoking opinions and very interesting advice.

In fact, telling them about me and my business usually means they open up about themselves. Gone is the ‘So, are you busy at the minute?’ and instead the anecdotes about how they helped clients overcome similar issues make me see how passionate they are about what they do. This is networking at its best, because even if I don’t need their help right now, I know so many other business people that when someone else has an issue, I’ll know just the right accountant to direct them to. All through them caring about what I have to say, about me.

So, next time you’re seeing networking as a drag, or even something to be apprehensive about, stop and think about who you could meet. Don’t talk about accounting by itself; or anything that you think someone would find boring – talk about what you find interesting about the people you meet and the businesses and industries they’re a part of. Before you know it, you’ll go to events wanting to talk to anyone and everyone, too – especially the people who are stood by themselves in a corner.

For more information about how Incite can help teach and develop sales skills to accountants and financial services professionals, either as an individual, or with group training, get in touch: mark@incite-consulting.co.uk