BY Gale Crosle Y
How one CPA changed her firm’s approach to big opportunities
This is one woman’s story of changing the
way she pursues larger opportunities — and
winning! A Long Island native, Geri Gregor
launched her career in the Big Eight, served
as a corporate chief financial officer, and now
leads Grassi’s consulting practice.
The story begins when Grassi partner Rick
Gavin, who teaches a construction-related
course at Columbia University, received a request for proposal for a $500,000 billing consultation contract related to construction of
a university biomedical research center. The
partner group had just completed a workshop that discussed large opportunity pursuit
principles. Gregor was tapped to head the
The long Island-based firm of Grassi & Co. has had much success over the years. But like many firms seeking to drive market share in a constrained economy, they knew that developing
larger opportunities is a different game in these days of heavy
competition and price wars.
and talking less
helped Gregor es-
tablish a relationship
of trust. She learned about
the priorities of the university and the goals
of the project. These included not being over-
billed for construction services and ensuring
ongoing monitoring of construction costs.
selling process extended Grassi’s opportunity
window and added more time for uncovering
needs, understanding context and develop-
ing compelling value propositions.
Based on their learnings, the Grassi team
crafted a proposed approach that addressed
the need for a proactive pre-construction ap-
proach to billing strategy and solid methods
for price monitoring. The methodology
was a direct reflection of the intelli-
gence gained during interviews.
Grassi’s competitive differen-
tiation was the centerpiece of
the proposal. It delivered more
data-driven solutions and very
few accolades about the firm.
This was a muscular action plan,
not a publicity vehicle. As such, it
would stand apart from the competitors’
cision-maker goals, and other contextual
information, Gregor positioned herself as
a problem-solver with an intimate understanding of the project
— someone who could
offer uniquely relevant solutions.
MARKETING & SALES ROLES
WHITE PAPER RELEASED
A new white paper explaining marketing and sales roles in accounting firms
has been released by the Association for
Accounting Marketing and consulting
firm ConvergenceCoaching. “Marketing
and Sales Roles in Accounting” intends
to answer the question, “What marketing
and sales roles do we need and when?”
and provide guidance regarding the various marketing and sales roles a firm may
have, how these roles may be measured
and the timing considered when adding
these positions within a firm. AAM plans
to expand the scope of the white paper
in the future by including compensation
considerations from an upcoming survey.
Download the white paper for free at
In the past, Gregor, like many CPAs, would
have assembled a collection of partners for
an introductory meeting. Her training taught
her to make the initial contact with the key
decision-maker on her own. Then she strategically selected and introduced partners
to meet individually with client decision-makers based upon several factors, including background, potential chemistry and
She presented her suggestions by saying,
“I have the perfect partner in mind for this
aspect of the project, but after you meet them
please let me know your thoughts.” In this
way team selection was a joint decision with
In her first meetings, Gregor asked lots of
questions, rather than trying to showcase her
firm’s excellence. By asking focused, data-yielding questions about the prospect, de-
Gale Crosley, CPA, is founder and principal
of Crosley + Co. ( www.crosleycompany.
com), providing revenue growth consulting
and coaching to CPA firms. Reach her at
A FEW TENSE MOMENTS
All was not smooth sailing as Gregor and her
team moved through the opportunity development stages. An important part of their
strategy was learning who else was in the
running. By asking the prospect point-blank
who was competing for the work — a nontraditional move — Gregor took a calculated
but important risk.
It paid off by moving the prospect beyond
his comfort level into a discussion of the relative merits of the various competitors — a
subject not usually broached with a firm in
contention for a large piece of business.
This also had the desired effect of positioning Grassi as somehow closer than the other
bidders — more intimate with the process
and therefore a better choice. And it provided essential strategic intelligence about the
Another bold and important step was to
suggest that the short time frame for developing a proposal was insufficient. Instead
of trying to bring the opportunity to quick
closure, she elongated the process by persuading the prospect that it was in their best
interest to meet several times. Elongating the
JUST ONE MORE THING …
Soon after the Grassi group made its oral presentation, Gregor got a call from her contact.
His team liked what they had seen, but now
they started raising questions about the cost.
Gregor had already discussed price at length
with the prospect and was taken aback that
it came up again. But she remembered that
being asked late in the cycle about price was
usually a good sign that the firm was being
In her response, Gregor emphatically reminded the prospect about all the value elements they’d discussed. And she verbalized
that there was too much value at stake to get
into a price war.
Grassi won the work.
And Gregor and her partners gained ex-
pertise in a focused approach to landing big
fish built on a few powerful principles:
Divide and conquer, carefully matching
specific partners to decision-makers in initial
Talk less and listen more, building trust
Uncover hidden personal and professional needs, which are the basis of value
propositions and competitive strategy.
Remember that it’s not about you, it’s
about them. AT
NEW BIZ DEV PROGRAM
AIMED AT NEW PARTNERS
Upstream Academy is launching a new
business development program specifically targeted at new partners and
senior managers. Spearheaded by Sam
Allred and Graham Wilson, the Academy
for Business Development will be an
18-month program that will allow each
participant to create a personal business
development plan; offer multiple levels
of accountability to ensure participants
stay on track; provide three one-day,
face-to-face, interactive workshops; host
monthly conference call presentations
by Allred and Wilson; and give mentoring and reinforcement by “guides”
from within the firm. For more, contact
Upstream Academy at (406) 495-1850.
MONEY WOULD BE GOOD
Cash is still king, apparently, when it
comes to recognizing your team’s hard
work. In a recent Accountemps survey,
46 percent of CFOs said that bonuses
were the most effective way of telling
their people they’ve done a good job.
Time off came in second at 21 percent.
“For those employees who have taken
on added responsibilities as a result of
staff cutbacks, offering some form of cash
recognition can go a long way in demonstrating these extra efforts are valued,”
said Accountemps chair Max Messmer.