Many venture into the world of selling only to promptly exit after their first rejection, concluding that their clients don’t want or need these additional services. After all, clients aren't requesting the services, even though they’re on the website!
Sales is a not a dirty word and today’s accountant must learn how to sell.
The Order Taker. The Order Taker sits back and waits for the sale to come. Selling accounting and tax services probably falls into this category.
The Product Pusher. The Product Pusher is unprincipled and will sell many products or services regardless of the customer’s needs.
The Over Seller. The Over Seller is untrustworthy and will say anything to get the sale, even if it isn’t true.
And last of all, The Problem Solver. The Problem Solver is proactive, identifies real problems and offers solutions.
Once we understand that selling is simply helping, we need to create opportunities to find out what help our clients need. The best way to find out is to meet with our clients more often and ask them:
As part of your sales mindset, it’s important to understand the three freedoms your clients want.
These are powerful tools you can use to sell advisory services that your clients need.
The formula for change can help you understand why a client may be so resistant to change and that we all have some degree of resistance.
It can also help you understand the key motivators for change, being dissatisfaction with the way things are right now AND having a vision of a positive future state. If your client is happy with how business is going, or if they can’t see a better way forward, it is unlikely they will make any changes in their business.
The first steps in the direction of the vision need to be easy, for example, making a business plan. That’s the reason for the ‘f’ being in lower case.
We need to understand our client’s level of resistance to change, drill down into the problems and challenges in the business, show them the potential for a better future state, AND help them to take the first, simple steps towards that better future. To listen to a video explaining the formula for change and how you can apply it in sales conversations, click here.
You don’t want to come across as a product pusher. You want to come across as someone who cares and genuinely wants to help their clients succeed. When you’re positioning business advisory services, it doesn’t work to tell them what to do in their business. They may have tried some of these things before and may have failed. To sell business advisory services, ironically you need to take off your ‘Advisor’ hat and put on your ‘Coach’ hat. You need to ask and not tell.
Start by asking simple questions about how the business is delivering to the owners what they need from the business, focusing on the Three Freedoms (more time away, less worry and stress, or more profit or cash). Keep asking thoughtful questions about how the current position could be improved. You’ll recognise the point of client engagement. That’s when you stop asking and start listening, because now, it’s your client who is asking the questions.
This is a very powerful mindset for accountants to grasp. As advisors, we are so used to telling, NOT asking! Check out our ‘Ask don’t tell Video’ here for a great example of how to pursue a line of questioning, to get the outcome you need. The key is to Stop listening to reply – listen to understand.
The OPPS mindset demonstrates how important it is to first identify the opportunity to add value (linking that value to one of more of the three freedoms), to resist the urge to give an off the cuff answer (which could be ill considered or even wrong), to then clearly articulate your value in ‘what they get’ terms (for example, increased profit of $ X), and finally, to state your price for the services you are offering, and promptly shut up!
Capture value in the words of your clients. You might ask them: ‘What will it mean to you if profitability increases by 20% and you can pay $50,000 off your overdraft?’
‘If you achieve 9 out of 10 actions you’ve committed to in your plan, how much do you think your profit will increase by?’
‘What will it mean to you and your family if you reduced your weekly working hours from 60 to 40 and achieve the same profit?’
Capture client responses as the value to be gained by working together. Remember the three freedoms when seeking to capture value:
1. Mind freedom - less stress, measured in value terms as better sleep at night, better relationships with loved ones or colleagues or the ability to innovate and come up with fresh ideas.
2. Financial freedom - more money, measured in value terms as giving you more choice to spend or invest as you want to (e.g. upgrading vehicle in 12 months, buying a boat or taking a family holiday or purchasing an investment property or new plant or machinery).
3. Time freedom - the ability to work smarter not harder, measured in value terms as more time choice (e.g. a weekend away with the family, a guilt free day off each month).
If the value is recurring, tell your client. For example, improving margin by 2%, based just on your current sales levels, will improve your profit by $ 36, 000 each year you own this business.
State your price and shut up!
Stating your response gently, commands a response. If that response is an objection, then the process continues. Go back to articulating your value, and make sure that the service options you’ve provided are relevant.
The CCR is the most successful way for our Gap member firms to sell business advisory services.
The CCR is a complimentary, ideally annual, 60-minute meeting, to help you establish:
As this meeting is designed for existing clients, the meeting process will encourage questions that go a little deeper to get to the heart of the issues. After all, you already have a trusted relationship and you’ve worked with them before.
The session is a very subtle sales process in which you ask questions within different categories, such as:
To take a peek at just one of our categories of CCR questions – ‘CCR Potential Questions – Long Term Goals’, click here. To view our entire CCR delivery process, book a demo here, or take a trial of The Gap.
And finally, a word on scope stretch. Don’t give away your value at the CCR session. Stop, pause, and price that extra job. Read our Guide to Minimising Scope Stretch here.
Covid-19 has created an ideal platform for accountants to deliver meaningful webinars to clients. Speaking on a webinar is the introverted presenter’s paradise! In fact, there has been a Sudden Shift to Education Marketing via the webinar.
Educational webinars (or in person seminars, where possible) are one of the smartest marketing and sales strategies for accountants today, because they:
The education possibilities are endless. Consider developing or subscribing to webinar content within the following business categories:
To increase your ROI from education marketing, make sure the content links to services you can offer. Then, present a call to action that makes it easy for clients to buy those services.
You don’t want to come across as being salesy, so offer 3 options. Offer a free option, for example, a free guide, so they can self-serve. Your second option could be the low cost option – a business review meeting where they do the pre-work themselves. The third option can be the full service option. Here’s an example of what we mean by a non salesy call to action, taken directly from one of our many webinar kits.
Plenty of clients will take the free service option. That’s good marketing. They’ll think highly of you, they’ll keep consuming your content and they’ll likely refer new business.
Every time you create an education piece you also create a marketing asset. They key is to repurpose those assets so that you get maximum outcome for minimum effort.
Here are six examples:
Always add lead capture forms to downloadable content, to maximise lead generation.
And remember – The best marketing is education. For comprehensive advice on managing webinars download our free Webinar Management Process Guide here.
If the outcome of a meeting is a proposal for services, you must gain conceptual agreement during the meeting. Gaining conceptual agreement before sending a proposal ensures your client or prospect understands:
Remember (after you’ve articulated your value) to state you price and shut up! Now listen in for any objections, such as ‘no time’ or ‘no need’ or ‘price’. These are the three most common objections. Dealing with objections before you send a proposal is critical to your sales success as it’s so much easier to rebut objections when you are face to face.
If you client says nothing and presents you with an awkward silence, be the coach and ask a simple question – ‘Is that OK?’, or ‘When can we start?’
Sending proposals without first gaining conceptual agreement will result in much lower acceptance rates.
Proposals are not sales engines. A proposal is not an exploration; it simply documents conceptual agreement.
The nine components of The Gap’s proposal system are:
Learn the details on how to write great proposals by downloading our How to Write Winning Proposals Guide here.
In a nutshell, there are seven stages in the sales process, as summarised in the below diagram.
Written by: Viv Brownrigg, FCA | Co-founder and Director of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships