Interested in improving your sales skills?
I know many accountants who tell me that when in front of a prospect they ‘close the sale’ every time. I know others that would never contemplate thinking that they were in a business where they are required to sell. But we all do – whether we admit it or not. I am going to introduce you to a few thoughts, ideas and strategies to help you improve your selling skills.
As ever, I am not sure how many articles I will write, but let’s start and see how this all develops.
Everyone has a certain amount of personal selling skills. The purpose of this article is to help you improve your existing skills and perhaps develop some new skills.
People hate to be sold, but they love to buyAnonymous
Marketing accounting services is the effective execution of all the activities necessary to increase the accounting firm’s opportunities to attract new business. Marketing brings prospects to the point where they will talk about buying — usually at a face-to-face meeting. The efforts that precede that meeting are marketing. The meeting itself is selling.
Key Point: Marketing brings the prospect to the point where and when he or she wants to talk about buying. Marketing puts you in a position where you can sell your services.
The marketing process may require many contacts spread over months.
YES, YOU CAN SELL
Some years back I was listening to a marketing lecture when the presenter asked this question, “How many of you are married?” Most hands went up. The presenter then told his audience, “Well, there you are you have already proved you can sell.
The presenter was, I think, seeking to dispel the myth that we are in an industry that readily recognises there is an active and necessary sales function. We prefer maybe to our activity as marketing. So, let us explore simply the difference between marketing and sales.
Marketing comprises all the activities in which you engage that are intended to convert suspects into prospects.
Suspects are those people and business owner that you believe would be appropriate clients for your accountancy business. They might be on a database of suspects – some refer to such lists as prospects – but strictly they are not. They are just suspects.
Your marketing activities converts suspects into prospects. In other words, a connection has been made whether it is through them responding to the Contact on your website, a request for further information following an e-shot, a one-on-one meeting at a networking event, attending a seminar and so on.
Selling then seeks to convert your prospects into clients. In the interim period marketing may well continue – that is the process of keeping prospects warm. Developing their interest in seeking your services. There are many reasons why they may remain a prospect for a while. The timing might not be right is one common reason for marketing to continue.
But selling is not just the final closure meeting. You may well continue to keep in contact with your prospect understanding where they are in their journey toward appointing you as their accountant.
When agreement is reached there are a number of formalities before you can report the winning of a new client.
AGREEMENT ON THE SERVICES TO BE PERFORMED
- Understanding regarding what you require from the new client in order for you to perform your work.
- Agreement concerning price (today, a much more appropriate term than fee) and what the client has to do for the price to be the price. This is usually included in the Agreement Letter.
The Agreement Letter. This includes details of who the client will be in contact with. Your modus operandi for the range of services it has been agreed that you will perform. This is in addition to the Engagement Letter which is required by Institutes and is much more formal. And a letter that, I dare say, is not read through in detail by the client. Historically the quantum of costs would be mentioned. Today, it is much more common to refer the client to the aforementioned Agreement Letter.
TWO KEY EARLY INTRODUCTION LESSONS
Introduction Lesson 1 Upselling to Existing Clients – AKA Delivering Value Added Services
In 1996 I was a member of the ICAEW (English Institute) Committee looking at the future of the profession (Added Value professionals – Chartered Accountants in 2005). I have also served on the two succeeding Committees subsequently formed to provide ‘insider intelligence’ on how accountancy business owners might prepare for a world where compliance services wither on the vine.
The overriding conclusion of the first two reports (the second was The Profitable and Sustainable Practice published in 2003) was that the way forward was for accountants to develop a range of value added services. That remains the case today, possibly more so than ever before.
THE RULE OF FEE FLEXIBILITY
It is important to recognise (for possibility the majority of small and medium accountancy firms) that possibly as high as 95% of the services we render are to meet compliance and regulatory demands. These are by their very nature of an historical nature and involve us reporting or compiling reports and statements on past events. Often one of the end results is informing a client of their tax obligation to government.
The cost of delivering these services establishes a financial boundary. Let’s come up with an example. The cost of the preparation of accounts, tax computations and personal tax returns comes to £2,000.
The rule of fee flexibility establishes some kind of financial ceiling regarding the limit to which the client expects to pay for your services. In other words if they pay you £x for compliance services it would be a stretch to pay you 2x no matter what the service. Importantly, the rule further develops to suggest that the client does have the capacity to pay additional monies up to 100% of the compliance costs. Exceeding that limit takes you into a cost realm that most likely is outside of the client’s financial boundary unless there is a major event such as a purchase or sale of a business.
Next time we will look at a number of lessons including the sales technique I call the NAKED SERVICE TECHNIQUE. See you shortly.