The problems that accountants solve are quite complex. The solutions you offer address some problems (or some parts of a large problem) better than others. No solution is perfect, and it would be unrealistic for you to present your solution as such.
Example: The problem of a too-small credit line could be caused by a questionable personal credit history of the owner, concern over creditworthiness of the prospect’s customers, concern over the long-range viability of the prospect’s industry, and so forth, as well as inadequate financial reporting. You could solve a few facets of this problem, but not all of them.
Aim your response at the prospect’s reality.
Specifically deal with those items you and the prospect mutually agree are their needs and wants. You want to convince the prospect that you can provide him or her with what he or she needs. Match the prospect’s Explicit Needs with what you can realistically provide.
As assistant buyer you must translate benefits of your services to the prospect into words the prospect understands and concepts with which he or she feels comfortable.
Key Point: If you cannot provide a perfect solution, pointing out how well you can solve the problem could be dangerous for you, because it invites the prospect to make an issue of the parts you cannot solve.
Thus, getting the prospect to tell you how your solution would help prevents him or her from raising objections.
Payoff questions get the prospect to tell you which facets of the problem your solution will handle.
Key Point: When the prospect explains the payoff, he or she finds the solution more acceptable.
Here is an outline for the four-step process of explaining what you have to say:
- State your understanding of the key issues (the prospect’s Explicit Needs)
- Describe the benefits to the prospect which your firm can provide. Discuss your firm’s capability to deal with these issues for the client’s benefit, stressing your perceived quality superiority. Refer directly back to the responses the prospect gave you to your Payoff questions
- Provide evidence to demonstrate or prove the benefit
- Confirm the benefits with the prospect.
If you think you do not have enough facts to do the above, ask more questions!
STATE YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE ISSUE
People decide to buy on the basis of satisfaction of their needs and wants. They have both economic and emotional needs. Sometimes prospects do not know all their needs. Your Problem, Implication, and Payoff questions should have made the prospect aware of their major needs or issues. Do not waste your time addressing needs which prospects do not see. Remember: Reality is what you (and they) can perceive clearly. First you must make that particular need real to them before they can see the value of addressing it. That is your job as problem solver and “assistant buyer.”
In stating your understanding of the issue explain your assessment of the situation tactfully.
Confirm that the prospect agrees with your understanding of the main issue; otherwise, you are not communicating about the same thing.
You may even avoid the word problem unless the client uses it comfortably. Instead, use situation, issue, challenge, or opportunity. After all, every problem is really only an opportunity in disguise.
Scenario: The prospect’s purchase ledger system is bottle-necked because the prospect insists on approving all invoices before payments are authorised. He is frequently out of the office, he ignores chasing emails and phone calls, and accounts are paid late, costing them lost discounts and supplier goodwill.
How can you state your understanding of the issue in a tactful manner?
You should have asked “What do you think causes this?” so he or she sees the answer for themselves.
DESCRIBE YOUR FIRM’S ABILITY TO HELP
Now that you and the prospect have agreed on the key issues or problems, you can describe your capabilities to handle that situation. This is where you must communicate benefits, not features, and not advantages. It is more difficult to demonstrate benefits for services, which are intangible, than for products, which are tangible. That is why the Payoff questions are so valuable; they tell you what the clients wants.
Caution: Be careful when stating benefits. Do not get carried away and overstate what you can do for the prospect. Over-promising eventually disappoints the client.
You must be able to deliver all promised benefits.
EVIDENCE PROVES THE VALUE OR BENEFIT
If you have accurately and clearly completed the first two steps, most prospects should be convinced that you can help them. But sometimes they may wonder “Is this too good to be true?” They may be convinced but not persuaded.
Telling war stories and giving illustrations breathes life into your capability descriptions. You can provide evidence by telling how you produced a similar benefit for another client. “Mary, we installed a similar accounting system for another client. If I remember correctly, we saved her one staff person in the first year. And the total cost was relatively minimal.”
References provide excellent evidence. You can mention to several of your happy clients that you would like to use them for references. If you have done a good job, they will be happy to accommodate you.
You do not have to provide evidence of every benefit.
CONFIRM THE BENEFITS WITH THE PROSPECT
Get confirmation from the prospect that the benefits you have just outlined are important. This step makes sure you are on target and gets the prospect saying yes and agreeing with you. This makes it easier to get into the close where you suggest the next step.
The actual confirmation statement or question is usually only one sentence.
Example: “Does this sound like what you had in mind when you said ____________.
Do not overdo the confirmation by using it after every point. Use it periodically, particularly to see if you are still on target or if you want the prospect to acknowledge that they need a specific benefit that will really help them.
GUIDELINES FOR THE RESPONDING PRESENTATION
- Build the response from the research you did before the meeting and the data you gathered during the investigation phase of the interview. If this is a one-shot meeting and you have not done advance research or interviewing, you must build this step during the questioning period early in the meeting
- Select only those problems or interest areas that prospects have told you are most important
- Do not overwhelm people with too many issues
- Be enthusiastic when you present your firm’s capabilities
- Watch for clues as to whether prospects are following you. If they look puzzled, you may say something like, “I’ll bet I said something that was confusing, didn’t I?” Never say “Do you understand?” “Have I made that clear?” or “Do you follow me?” because that implies that the prospect is not too sharp. The responsibility for clarity is on you, the seller
- Use the prospect’s name when appropriate. Do not overuse their name. Also use you and your
- If you use visual aids like schedules, lists, etc., show them only when you refer to them. Put them away when you finish so they do not become a distraction
- Try to complete the four steps uninterrupted by outside forces such as telephone calls, breaks, or recesses. Certainly, you want and encourage dialogue and feedback from the prospect as you proceed. But keep on track
- Pause after completing each step to allow the prospect to digest what you have said or to ask questions or make comments.