firms are winning good clients by telemarketing, a technique frowned on by
much of the profession. Because switching accountants ousts the incumbent,
firms that telemarket are unpopular among peers. But as one marketer puts
it: "Clients stay loyal even to accountants that are killing
deputy director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Allen Blewitt,
believes referrals and direct approaches by partners generate a higher
class of long-lived business than cold calls, which often irritate
prospects. "Ethical telemarketing depends a lot on the coal-face
professionalism of the telemarketer," he says.
a prospect says he already has a good accountant, the marketer should
leave him alone, not harass. The institute defines how a new accountant
should take over, but how the client is won is more a grey area. Firms
should not hire the sort of telemarketers who go for the jugular every
Muir, a partner in the Melbourne firm Haines Muir Hill, says his firm
began telemarketing four years ago, after two Big-Six firms made heavy
approaches to its prized clients. Telemarketing has won about 25 clients,
including half a dozen big ones.
the fees won are $5000-15,000. The firm has six partners, 31 staff and
$3.3 million fees, with partners charging $190 an hour. Partner Peter Fry
obtained an initial database from the EastNet business association, and
hired Roy Martin of First Approach Marketing to make calls a couple of
days a week. Muir says, "We gained one $50,000 client and one $65,000
client, who came in after two years on our mail-list. One had changed
among six firms within nine years and was momentarily without a firm. It
has stuck with our firm for four years. The other had been unhappy with a
not enough pre-screening of targets was done and partners had a hard slog
with prospects grousing about a previous accountant's $1200 fee. Because
of obsolete databases, some meetings were set up with tiny businesses or
major corporations. Now the prospect is screened and warmed with an
advance phone call. Interviews are allocated among four partners. He says:
"We often wonder why bother, but we come away from some thinking,
well, there might a chance there. Many are at least interested in our
firm's affiliates in Newcastle, Perth, and Sydney are considering the use
of telemarketing; the Adelaide and Brisbane affiliates began it last year.
"The key is using a streetwise telemarketer who knows a bit about
accounting services, not just flower deliveries and mobile phones. A good
one will even chase the BHP audit. The weak ones get thrown by unscripted
questions," he says. The firm chose to pay an hourly rate of about
$28 for telemarketers rather than a commission rate on fees won.
database contains businesses with 10 to 100 employees, and turnover of
more than $500,000.
Partners, in central Brisbane, has been telemarketing for 12 months.
Partner Matthew Schlyder says it has cost about $9000 and generated an
extra $50-75,000 fees, more than 60% recurring. The firm, which has seven
partners, 34 staff and fees of about $3 million, bought high-quality lists
of up to 1000 small businesses from Dun & Bradstreet and others. The
businesses have at least $500,000 turnover and five employees, in any
industry in southern Brisbane. The firm hires phone workers for a day per
week through Roy Martin's group. They work from an outline of the firm's
services (not a script) and their target is to win an appointment.
get through up to 100 calls, of which about a third are follow-ups. Many
prospects say they are happy with their accountants, but a day's calls
generate three or four appointments with people wanting a change or help
with specific needs. From these, the firm wins about 10 new clients a
year. The per-client fees range from $3000 to $15,000. The firm has
rejected some marketers who were not up to scratch, he says.
have coupled their personal marketing with use of the Focus for Results
business-needs analysis program and offer a free one-hour interview. This
has led to fees of up to $15,000 from single clients. "We tell
prospects we want to be their accountants; we play off the front foot but
are very ethical about it," he says. Other wins merely involve
providing computer consultancy, business development, and pharmacy
consulting and valuations (the firm already has 40 pharmacy clients). The
firm describes itself as "business advisers", not accountants,
in its marketing of special services. Partners observe the ethical
procedures for changeovers of accountant.
says some partners worried about a car-salesman image, but successful
trials changed their attitude. Another Brisbane firm, Drake & Murphy,
uses the same telemarketer to prospect the northern Brisbane market.
Partner David Drake says the technique is "very powerful".
Money Guide week is
edited by Tony Thomas
Australia's Business Review Weekly
2000 BRW Media, January 14, 2000.