Making Partner is Easy (easier than I thought)

An article for the aspiring auditor.

The track to partner: one of the most intimidating and exciting prospects of becoming an auditor.

You’ve probably been as inspired as I have after hearing stories of these accountants: people who busted their butts and made partner in 10 years, becoming rainmakers, doing high-level work with CEOs and CFOs of top-notch companies around the world, and perhaps quadrupling their compensation along the way.

“Could I ever do THAT??”

you might well ask. A daunting question, but thankfully one with a satisfactory answer. See, I have a problem. The thing that excites me most about public accounting is “bringing in the business” — attracting and signing clients, then delivering excellent service. But that’s also the thing that terrifies me, as I’m an introvert and not a particularly brilliant salesman. That’s why I was so relieved to hear a certain partner’s words.

I’m currently finishing the last quarter of my Masters in Professional Accounting at the University of Washington **yikes, what a mouthful**. We’ve had an incredible set of guest speakers, including several Big 4 partners who seem to love sharing the craziest stories. I thoroughly enjoy these stories and enjoy it even more when they open the floor to questions. I asked a partner from Deloitte (one of those partner-in-10-years types),

“How early in your career did you start to develop your ‘sales mindset’?”

His response, that was at once reassuring and inspiring for me, was on-point, and went something like this (the reader will forgive my embellishment):

“You should always have a sales mindset. The secret to bringing in business isn’t about having a perfect elevator-pitch. Rather it’s about getting to know as many people as possible, developing relationships with them and letting them know what you do. Be genuinely curious about what they do, and they will appreciate that more than you know.”

Part of me had always been under the illusion that the partners knew some secret formula, or were just incredibly confident and charismatic people who won clients over with their charm. This Deloitte partner’s words helped to dispel that illusion. And I see the truth of it around me — just recently I heard about an associate who brought in a substantial client, someone she knew from her carpool to work, who just happened to be looking for an auditor!

I’m not saying it happens every day, but it does happen, and the best way to increase its likelihood is to meet more people, and get to know your existing connections better. Sow your seeds and the rain will come. So, how am I changing my life to develop this sales mindset? My goal is to get coffee with 1 new acquaintance each week, learning about what they do and telling them what I do. I’ve also begun to track all of my contacts on a spreadsheet, so that I can remember names, occupations, interests, etc., and contact them when I see something that would be helpful for them.

On that note, what do you do to develop your sales mindset? I’m always looking for new ideas and would love to hear from you.

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