George Spalenka: Two Time Success as a CSR
This month’s interview was handled a little bit differently. George Spalenka was kind enough to take the questions I emailed to him and write up his responses to them, negating an actual interview. George has been a successful CSR twice over in two separate NCI programs. His newest role is within NCI as a Senior Account Executive, where he can utilize his extensive knowledge of the CSR position to help our future clients hire and train their own successful marketing teams.
Please tell me about your sales background prior to becoming a CSR.
My first sales job was with a small regional stock brokerage firm on the west coast. We had a NASD Correspondence relationship with Merrill Lynch – I was the director of training and recruiting for the San Diego branch office. They had a stockbroker training school that helped individuals pass the stockbroker exam and a program to help them develop their book of business. We grew to over 1,500 brokers in less than 7 years helping all sorts of individuals – Insurance agents, Realtors, and CPAs, become Registered Reps and launch their financial advisory business. I later went into investment banking working for a local hedge fund that specialized in high tech start-ups. I did due diligence on potential companies we had targeted as possibly funding opportunities for the firm. I worked with CFOs, controllers, and accountants that worked for the small companies.
How valuable was the training you received from NCI at the start of your employment as a CSR?
NCI actually uses a lot of the core elements we used in helping an individual initiate and grow their financial practice, except NCI has a very specialized discipline approach to bootstrap and expand an accounting practice. The training helped me focus and build off my experience and sales-skills-set.
What do you attribute your success in this position to?
I attribute my success to following the prescribed steps outlined in the program. The NCI program is a direct-marketing campaign that executes and implements the basic sales process cycle. The key is not to re-create the cycle, change, or cut corners but, rather, use it simply as a “best practice” model.
How long have you been working as a CSR and in that time roughly how much in annualized billings have you been able to add for the firm?
The first practice I started working for was in 2008. The first year we went from 0 to over $165,000 in billing. The practice was sold after being in business for just over a year for 1 times it’s gross value and with only one tax season under operation.
What is the largest monthly client you have been able to secure thus far through the marketing program?
The biggest client we had under the program was a high-profile hedge fund in Newport Beach. The monthly billings ranged from $2,000 to $3,000 a month, depending on what work and reports needed to be processed.
What is the largest back-work amount you have secured from an individual client through the marketing program?
There were several clients where we had to go back three to four years to get them caught up in order to file back taxes.
What is your most successful NCI closing technique?
I like to use the “Ben Franklin” close, where a simple chart is made up to illustrate the benefits of switching to our service from what they are currently receiving, because I generally like to bundle services together, such as bookkeeping, taxes, payroll, financial products, insurance. I show how much savings the prospective client will realize by having us provide all the various financial services as a one-stop shop for their financial needs. The typical small-business owner really appreciates when he only has one number to call for his financial and business needs. Plus this generates multiple revenue streams for the accountant and commands a higher valuation for the practice. Multiple migration paths are the key to unlocking the full potential value of any business model or practice in this case.
What advice do you have for other CSRs out in the field to help them sign up more clients?
Be sure to ask for referrals up front. Don’t wait to service the account over the course of several months, ask them right when you first sign them up for the service. I had a beauty salon in a strip mall which, over the course of our initial months working together; had referred most all the businesses in that shopping center.
What advice do you have for other accountants who are currently engaged in the NCImarketing program from a CSRs perspective?
Treat the relationship as a partnership or even a marriage – a “marriage of money” in this case – knowing that the CSR is the wheels of the bus. The more clients the CSR brings on board for you, the faster and farther the bus travels and the greater your revenue. Always keep an open and strategic mindset while looking for new areas of opportunity, knowing that your CSR is your eyes and ears out in the field.
What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
Initially it is finding a good appointment setter – finding someone who is dedicated and is a part of the team. This is not your typical career-path job. They have to be able to work independently while the CSR is out in the field selling.
What is your favorite thing about this job?
The most enjoyable aspect of this job for me is that I get to meet many of the new and future entrepreneurs of America. Not only meet them but offer advice and help them launch their business and realize their hopes, dreams, and ambitions. The CSR job really sits at the root of our free enterprise system, so many of our clients come from other countries and say they would never be able to have a business like they started here in America back in their country. This gives me a great sense of accomplishment and pride.
I’d like to thank George for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers. I would also like to welcome him to the NCI team, where all of his experience will serve our future clients exceptionally well.
Chris Clark is the oldest son of New Clients Inc. founder and CEO Bruce Clark. He has worked as a Senior Account Executive at NCI for the past four years. During that time he has presented at the Practice Development Seminar on Internet and E-mail marketing and he also plays the prospective client during the seminar role play sessions. Chris also edits and contributes to the NCI newsletter, New Client News.