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How to run a “they ask you answer” workshop in your accountancy firm

Jun 29, 2018

Accounting firm workshopI’m so proud of all the accountants lately who are not only reading “They Ask You Answer”, but are implementing it in their accounting firms.

The core principle (if you haven’t read the book yet) is that your marketing isn’t focused on you. On your services. On the things you offer.

It’s focused on the questions and issues and problems that your clients face.

(If you haven’t read the book yet, here’s a post about why it’s so amazing.)

When you approach your marketing with this attitude, a few things happen:

  • You realise marketing isn’t as complicated as you thought it might be
  • You’re encouraged at how many ideas and topics you’ve got when it comes to marketing
  • And…
  • Your whole team can be involved in marketing, because all of them deal with clients every day.

That last one is the kicker.

You can do as much marketing as you want on your own, or hire someone to do it for you. But until you involve your entire accountancy firm team (whether that’s one part time person or two hundred people), you’re limiting your marketing.

When you involve the whole team, you get a much broader perspective on the issues and problems your clients are facing. You might even be surprised at some of the questions that are still being asked of your team on a daily basis!

But it can be hard to get the team involved. The objections run rampant. “I’m just an accountant”, they think. “I’m simply here to do the bookkeeping – marketing isn’t my job.” They might say, “I don’t know how to write a blog”, or “I’m not comfortable being on video.”

All of those objections do make sense. Many of your team members joined your accounting firm with a certain expectation of the type of work they would do – and it didn’t include writing blogs, recording video, posting on social media, or anything related to marketing.

And all of the skills that make them great accountants can lead to their resisting marketing actions. They want to sit quietly, crunch numbers, figure out balance sheet issues, sort out payroll, meet with a few clients they like. They didn’t sign up for this, and they are resistant at best and antagonistic at worst.

One of the ways to begin involving the team – and opening their eyes to the power that involvement can have on their job, as well as in the firm as a whole – is to run a “They ask you answer” workshop.

You can start with something small, before you move to a longer-session workshop. Amy Larman from Farnell Clarke set up a marketing group chat to ask the accountants in the firm for the questions clients ask. “In the first 30 minutes, I got 18 questions from the team,” said Amy. “And more were coming in every few minutes! Now my only problem is writing all of this great content!”

Regardless of where your firm is at, anyone can run a “They ask you answer” workshop. Here’s how:

1. Explain to the team about “They Ask You Answer”, and why it helps them.

It’s an easy concept, which everyone can grasp. Your marketing is focused not on your firm and your services, but on the questions and issues your clients face.

The goal of TAYA is to teach, problem solve, and build trust. Oh, and the double benefit is that the more you do it, the less time is required from the team to answer all the piddly little questions clients ask on a daily basis. So it’s a win for them.

2. Buy the book for everyone on the team.

I know this is bold, and you might be thinking about the £13.87 price tag multiplied by however many team members you have. I guarantee you that (as long as they actually read it) this will be one of the single best marketing spends you make in years.

Here’s the link (and it’s not an affiliate one – we don’t make anything from it).

3. Book a workshop time in your offices, or another location.

I’d suggest blocking out 15-45 minutes to start, depending on the size of your team. You could even do 15 minutes, if you want. Length of time is not the important part: it’s the start, the commitment to this concept.

Hold the session in a place where people will not be distracted, and which encourages creative thinking. Bright, open, spacious, with good snacks and things to play with. (Go to the pound shop or dollar store and get a bunch of stupid toys for people to play with while they’re thinking. It stimulates brain activity. Plus it’s fun.)

4. Start a list before the workshop is held.

The best way to get the questions flowing is to have some that you can put out there right at the beginning. Talk about the answers, or why so many people have that question. It will stimulate more questions.

Create a Gsheet, and share it with everyone in the firm. That way you’re all contributing to one list. (Slack works too, if your firm uses that.)

5. Hold the workshop.

This doesn’t have to be formal in any way. Just tell everyone about the book and the TAYA concept. Help them understand how this will help them be more efficient and save time and help clients.

If you have any stories about content you’ve written yourself, and the positive response from clients or prospects, tell those. (If you don’t have any stories yet, borrow some from me or from another accountant. There are good ones in our PF Marketing Community.)

Then open the floor. If no one has anything to say, pull out a list of clients and start asking individual people. “Hey Jane, I know you were working on bookkeeping for XYZ Company this week. What questions did they ask about their receipts?”

6. Set up a way for the team to contribute questions on a daily basis.

Workshops are great – but even better are noting down the questions clients ask as soon as they ask them.

Your Gsheet will work well for this – or Slack, or a Whatsapp group, or anything. I don’t care what system you use. Keep it simple, make it accessible by anyone, and make it your priority to add at least one question per day yourself. Show a good example!

If things get quiet, go talk to the team and ask them for a few questions, and then have them enter those onto the list. It will spur people on again.

7. Show a good example, and share your own stories.

This will only work if you are leading the way. Come up with at least one new question per day yourself. Write blogs, record video or Facebook lives, share social posts. You can push yourself further than they are at this point, because you’ve learned a bit more and you’re the leader.

And whenever you have a great story – a prospect who says “I watched all your videos” or “that blog post helped me a lot” – tell the team! Make sure they see the value of the They Ask You Answer concept, and how it helps everyone.