7 Secrets of Converting Prospect Meetings: Accountancy Marketing
By Patrick McLoughlin
Accountancy Marketing, for most firms, has one aim: arrange appointments with potential new clients. Yet most partners attending prospect meetings have little or no training on what to do, or say, once they are in front of the prospect.
Below are seven, non-salesy, steps to establishing rapport, trust and above all understanding:
1) Let them know what to expect
This is especially important if you have asked for the meeting. Your prospect/s will expect you to take control with a clear structure.
Explain precisely what you would like to cover and what you want to achieve. We all fear the endless meeting so take your watch off, put on the table and tell them when the meeting will end.
Whilst it is important that they know what you are doing, you also need them to reassure them that the meeting is for their benefit. So explain that if they have any particular issues they want to discuss there is plenty of time for that too.
Why you set the meeting up.
What you would like to cover.
What you want to achieve (for them).
Explain how long the meeting will take
2) Use an Agenda
I know many people don’t like to use agendas. They fear that they destroy the flow of the meeting and can make their discussions seem, well almost scripted.
Yet if you have ever tried to write a post-meeting proposal and realised you don’t have the information you need, you can see the benefit. Agendas help you to cover all the vital details needed to put you in a position to help.
If the prospect goes off on a tangent, don’t worry; you don’t have to follow the agenda religiously. They will probably tell you about the issues that are important to them. Look at the agenda as a path in the forest: you don’t have to stick to it, but if you get start to get lost, hop back on it.
3) Understand their Past Experiences
If your prospects don’t feel that you understand them and their businesses, you are going to struggle to get them onboard as clients. Sure, you will win some business, probably on cost, but even those clients will be less secure.
Put yourself in their shoes. A business owner’s relationship with their accountant is one of the most important relationships in their business life. The better quality the client, the more important this relationship is.
How can they depend on you to help them reach their potential if you know nothing about why they set the business up in the first place?
Understand the past, present and future
4) Understand where they want to be
Trust builds through understanding. How can anyone take your business advice seriously if you don’t understand their endgame?
During the time I have been in business, I must hired 4 or 5 accountancy firms. I have probably met with at least twice that number to quote for my work. Yet I have never been asked why I went into business or what I hoped to achieve.
Try to get an understanding on two levels: the facts and figures, and the emotion, the feel of where they want to be.
5) Where are they Today?
To get a true understanding of the business you need to understand more than just the figures. The accounts only tell half the story. Consider their current position in light of where they want to be and what they want to achieve. Listen to the words they use and emphasise.
The day-to-day running of the business distracts most business owners from their goals. As the saying goes, they are working in the business, not on it.
You have an opportunity to help them rise above the routine issues and focus on the business of their dreams, the business they envisaged.
Even if you have approached them to make the appointment, they still agreed to meet with you. Try to find out why they were open to a meeting.
6) Road blocks to Success
The purpose here is not just for you to understand their obstacles, but to help them to as well. If you can bring some clarity to their problems, you can help them overcome them, or at least come to terms with them.
Obstacles tend to be fuzzy and blurred in the eyes of the beholder. A fresh perspective can often help lift the fog. Some problems can be overcome by better planning and reporting, offering you great opportunities to help.
Though don’t expect to be able solve everyone’s problems. Some obstacles are immovable; or the action needed is so unpalatable that you just have to work around them. You will find that some people just aren’t ready to confront the issues.
Try to find out what they would do if they could overcome them.
7) Your Offer
Let your first meeting with the prospect be all about them, their business their issues. If they push you for advice or a quote tell them you need to give it some thought; you don’t want to rush into it.
Make an appointment at the end of the initial meeting to come back and discuss how you can help. Make sure that everyone involved in the decision will attend the meeting.
When you meet again discuss your proposed action in relation to their situation. Use the terminology they used. Demonstrate that you understand their situation and your proposal is built around their interests and their goals.
Now you know how to get the most out of prospect meetings think about how you can get yourself in front of business owners.