Improving Your Sales Skills – The Anatomy of a Sale

As a professional ‘salesperson’, you actually must make several different sales:

1. First you must sell yourself. You must develop a relationship of trust and confidence with the prospect. Clients cannot separate the accountant from their services. Even if you represent a large firm, prospects buy people who will serve them. The larger the buying decision, the harder it is to separate the seller and the service. In fact, as the quantum of the sale grows larger, the more emphasis prospects place on the salesperson as a factor in their buying decision.

Key Point: People will not buy the message until they buy the messenger

2. After selling yourself, you sell an appointment to discuss the prospect’s business needs. It costs your prospect their time and (potentially) aggravation to have appointment with you. You must convince them that it is worth the effort.

3. Next you sell your firm as being qualified to help the prospect. The prospect must see that they have a problem and that you are qualified to solve it.

4. Finally you sell your services. You persuade the prospect that the value of what you offer is worth more than the monetary and other costs of doing business with you.

This means that you should have the best ethical, moral, and human qualifications. Your role as a salesperson is to serve as an assistant buyer. This essential feature underlies all professional selling. It impacts every point made in this course. It must pervade your entire relationship with every prospective client. This means that your primary function is to gather information about the prospect’s needs, see if you can help them, and then provide the information they need about your firm so they can make the best decision.

Key Point: People do not buy your services; they buy what your services will do for them. 

Essentially, people will buy only two things: (1) good feelings and/or (2) solutions to problems.

The sales process has four distinct phases:

1. Preliminaries. These are warm-ups before the actual selling begins. The better the relationship you have developed with the prospect, the less time this takes.

2. Interviewing, Understanding and Diagnosing. Every sale involves asking questions to discover the prospect’s problems. This interview meeting is the most important part of the sales process.

3. Demonstrating capability or prescribing your solution or responding to needs. You are selling solutions to problems and good feelings. In this stage you show the prospect that you have a valuable solution and that they will have confidence in doing business with you.

4. Obtaining commitment. Often you will face a hierarchy of commitments to obtain from the prospect before you actually close the sale or reach the engagement letter stage. These commitments are called advances because they advance the relationship closer to the ultimate engagement. Some advances might be for the prospect to visit your office, attend a firm seminar, or maybe even arrange a meeting with another partner. These lower-level commitments do not constitute an engagement of your services by the client, yet you must segue through these steps. The larger the engagement, the more intermediate steps you may have to accomplish. Each step advances the prospect’s commitment toward the final buying decision — the engagement.

Key Point: The commitment stage is where classic closing techniques and other traditional selling tools work against you by being perceived as high pressure.

While most sales presentations contain all four stages, the diagnosis stage should consume the most time because you must find out a great deal about the prospect’s needs before you can determine whether you have a basis for a mutually beneficial relationship. Unfortunately, many accountants rush this stage.


You have three distinct marketing opportunities:

  1. Retaining existing clients
  2. Selling additional services to existing clients; and
  3. Acquiring new clients.

The most important part of any marketing programme is to retain existing clients. This is done by rendering high quality service that clients perceive as valuable. The skills outlined in this course will also improve your ability to retain existing clients.

The second area of marketing is to improve and expand the services you offer to your existing clients. It is important to improve your ability to recognise situations where existing clients need additional services.

The last marketing area, acquiring new clients, is the most challenging opportunity of the three. You have to wrest them away from their current accountant, or else compete with other firms for the business, or both. Because of the challenges and the possibility of failure, selling new clients can provide the greatest personal satisfaction for the accountant in a selling role. You need not use any of the skills in this course to acquire new clients. If your comfort zone does not extend to that area of marketing, that is okay. You can help your firm and yourself by being good in the other two areas.

Join us for our live 90-minute workshop presented by IGNITE Practice Management and Capstone Marketing:

How to Upgrade Your Client Base to Optimize Profits

Thursday, 16 June 2022, 1500 BST