Getting Paid More than the Competition
Industry Experience and Value-Added Tips
In this article, the author discusses how one may go about distinguishing his or her firm from other competitors.
Do you find it difficult to get prospective clients to understand why your expertise may be more valuable than that of your competitors?
We have often heard that in order to do this, we must distinguish ourselves from the competition.Â But how can we make this distinction?
First, we must remember that we need to distinguish ourselves in the eyes of our prospective clients, and not in our own eyes.Â So, this brings up a question: How does a prospective client evaluate us?
My theory is that business owners evaluate financial consultants the same way that they evaluate candidates when hiring a Chief Financial Officer for their business. Â Of course, when looking for a CFO, they want fundamental factors such as integrity, work ethic, communication skills, and ability to get along with other people.Â But a big distinguishing factor among those on the short list will be industry experience.Â Business owners want to hire a CFO, and financial consultants, who have experience with businesses similar to their own.
Therefore, we may separate ourselves from competitors by being able to say how many similar companies we have worked with in recent years. Â To do this, we need to keep a list of our prior engagements for quick reference.Â It may be tempting to think that we will always remember each engagement, but it just does not work out that way.Â A simple word-searchable schedule can be very helpful when we need to know the exact number of projects we have had in a particular industry.
Psychologists say that specificity leads to credibility.Â That means that we appear to be more credible if we can tell the exact number of engagements we have had instead of making a general statement such as, â€śI have had a bunch of clients in your industry.â€ť
Even though we may have decades of experience, a prospect will want to know how much experience we have had in their industry within the last four to five years.Â That is because there have been so many recent changes within their industry.Â The changes may have been driven by new technology, government regulation, customer expectations, consolidation, globalization, or some combination of these.Â Whatever the reasons for the changes, business owners always want consultants who are up to speed on the latest developments affecting their businesses.
In addition, prospective clients may be facing a process with which they are not at all familiar.Â Perhaps the engagement will lead to the sale of a business, mediation, or some other complex transaction.Â For example, a business owner may not be familiar with the arbitration process and may not understand how to prepare, what to expect, or what risks he or she will be facing.Â Anticipating the unknown can be very stressful.Â Therefore, prospects may prefer advisors who can help them prepare for these events.Â A listing of previous engagements could, therefore, help explain our value in terms of our experience with the process that is causing so much stress for the prospect.
Imagine the impact of saying, â€śI have prepared valuation reports for seven companies similar to yours within the last five years and I have been to arbitration six times.â€ťÂ A specific, truthful statement to that effect could go a long way in distinguishing your expertise from that of your competitors.
Stephen D. Kirkland, CPA, CMC, CFF, is a compensation consultant for privately-owned companies and non-profit organizations. He serves as an expert witness in court cases involving potentially unreasonable compensation. He can be contacted and found through www.ReasonableComp.biz.
Mr. Kirkland can be contacted at (803) 724-1414 or by e-mail to Stephen.Kirkland@AECG.biz.