Selling Skills for Accountants – Part 2

This is my second article on selling skills. There are many books written on selling skills as there are also on pricing. The two are inextricably linked. While ultimately your prospect seeks to be assured that you can deliver the required service, price will also be uppermost in their mind.

In our first article we looked at some introductory aspects of selling including differentiating between suspects and prospects and the importance of the Agreement Letter alongside your formal Letter of Engagement. We concluded by looking at what I call the “Rule of Fee Flexibility” which indicates parameters around what realistically a client might be prepared to consider paying for additional services. Missed this first article? You can find this here –


While you may have a good relationship with the client, they will nevertheless regard professional accountancy services as being a cost, a necessity, as opposed to an investment. They are probably also not accustomed to paying you for advisory services when you have previously offered these on a gratuitous or ad hoc basis alongside the current service delivery.


Benchmarking surveys of accountancy businesses indicate that unless there is a dedicated value-added services team delivering specialist services such as wealth management, technology, client accounting and so on, the revenues from non-compliance services is generally not greater than 5 per cent of total firm revenues.

Why is this? As already mentioned in my first article, advice is often given freely ‘across the meeting table’. Maybe the accountant is aware of the risk that if the client is not happy with a structured advisory service, they make take their compliance business elsewhere. Maybe the skillset to deliver these services is not available or robust enough to justify a sale. Maybe the client fails to implement – where then is the value to them?

The risk and opportunity. There is a further risk which many accountants recognise. That is with technology companies having an increasing large footprint in the compliance marketplace our compliance revenues are under threat and maybe falling. All of this aided and abetted by government seeking to require filing on time. Fail to do so and often a penalty and interest cost ensues.


Your potential revenue budget? This article is about selling, which must include selling to existing clients. In order to sweeten the ‘sales’ language I usually refer to cross selling as ‘cross serving.’ This language might encourage those partners that don’t see themselves in sales to introduce other service opportunities to clients. After all, we are all required to serve, aren’t we? So, while others deliver 5%, the potential is maybe somewhere between 40-100% – what is your target? 

This potential revenue needs planning, managing and accountability in order for it to be evidenced in your revenue statement. 

I do not have the scope here to help you plan this any further. BUT, the online IGNITE Practice Management platform has a wide range of courses (start here – Developing Your Business Advisory Services) that will help you plan and deliver a wider range of service opportunities.

Key Recommends: Visit and enrol for the following courses:

Dynamics and Rewards of Outstanding Client Service,

Driving to Prime with Dr Gerry Faust (USA)

Each course comes complete with a comprehensive manual and all of Mark’ courses have high impact free downloadable files, templates etc.

Risk Free Training Investment: All courses have a money back if not satisfied guarantee.

Getting Naked

I ended my first article by promising to look at the Naked Service Sales Technique so here goes. 

Patrick Lencioni has written a number of excellent books. His style is consistent. Each book relates a fable, and then he draws a number of lessons from each fable. The first book of his I read is entitled “Getting Naked” and I have recommended it a many of my seminars as a great introduction to series of interesting sales techniques.

The story and one lesson – briefly.


Businesspeople are supposed to be confident and self-assured, so most try to project that image. They work to hide their mistakes and imperfections. However, when you let people see you for who you really are, you can make real connections and build trust. In the service industries, showing your vulnerability, or “getting naked,” is particularly effective in fostering closer client relationships. Most people resist showing vulnerability, but if you overcome this fear, you will build stronger relationships, receive more referrals and spend less time haggling over fees.


Jack Bauer (not he of 24) was a rising star at the management consulting firm Kendrick and Black in San Francisco. As head of sales in the strategy division, he often lost competitions for new business to a small consultancy named Lighthouse. Jack was relieved when he heard that Lighthouse founder Michael Casey was leaving the firm to “spend more time with his family,” usually a euphemism for being eased out after making a big mistake. Jack’s euphoria dwindled when K&B’s founder, Jim Kendrick, told him the firm had bought Lighthouse and Jack was now in charge of the merger. Uneasy, Jack discussed his new duties with his boss, Marty Shine, who admitted that he saw Casey as “self-righteous” and “phony.” Marty viewed Lighthouse as a “country club” where no one worked nights or weekends. He said Lighthouse people wouldn’t last at K&B. “More than anything else,” Marty said, “we just have two completely different cultures.”

KEY LESSON: “Once a client trusts you and really understands that you care more about them than about yourself, they usually stop worrying about micromanaging the cost or seeing if they can take advantage of you.”

People avoid vulnerability due to three primary fears that ‘naked’ service providers address by following certain practices:


When you act in your own interests, such as protecting your business, you are putting your client second. However, when you worry more about what your client needs, you will strengthen your relationship. To confront this fear, follow these tenets:

  • Always consult instead of sell– Don’t tell potential clients what you can do for them. Show them. Use each meeting to help your clients, not to sell yourself
  • Give away the business– By consulting instead of selling, you may be providing your service before you have a contract. Some people will take advantage of you, but most will appreciate your willingness to dive in and help. Don’t haggle over fee disputes
  • Giving your clients/customers the benefit of the doubt will pay off in the end
  • Tell the kind truth– It’s tough to tell people things they don’t want to hear, but telling the truth is part of the job. Just try to tell it with tact, empathy and kindness
  • Enter the danger– Don’t avoid the “elephant in the room.” If everyone is dodging an unpleasant discussion or task, you might have to handle it. Just walk right up to it. 


Putting yourself out there is hard, but when you stop worrying about looking foolish, you can give your clients more help. If you ask obvious questions, make suggestions and admit when you’re wrong, clients will trust you. To handle this fear, use these rules:

  • Ask dumb questions– Don’t worry about questions that expose your ignorance. People forget the dumb questions and remember the ones that moved matters forward
  • Make dumb suggestions– Throw ideas out even if they seem obvious. If you edit yourself before you even open your mouth, you might miss presenting a great idea
  • Celebrate your mistakes– Being wrong is part of being human. Clients expect honesty, not perfection. Admit your mistakes, accept responsibility and keep moving.


Of course, you want people to respect and admire you, but when you are providing a service, you are not the focus of attention. Put the spotlight on your client even if your ego takes a hit. To obviate this fear, adhere to these precepts:

  • Take a bullet for the client– Service providers can’t focus on placing blame. You might have to accept responsibility for a problem you didn’t create just to take the burden off your client. By doing so, you can build exceptional trust and allegiance
  • Make everything about the client– If your client doesn’t succeed, you fail
  • Honour the client’s work – Have an honest interest in your clients’ life work. If you can’t respect how they make their livelihood, don’t take them as clients
  • Do the dirty work– Show your dedication by doing what your client needs done
  • Admit your weaknesses and limitations– Don’t cover up; be yourself, do your best.