Accounting Marketing: Why Buyers say No

Accounting Marketing: Why Buyers say No

By Patrick McLoughlin

This week’s blog comes hot on the heels of Dov Gordon’s guest blog of looking for a new accountant for his business.

I have come across a great piece of research in Mike Schultz & John E. Doerr’s book: ‘Professional Services Marketing,’ that backs Dov’s message up.  I want to share it with you because if you take the lesson onboard, and work at it, the payback will be enormous.

On the other hand, if it’s in one ear and out the other, you are doomed to miss out on some great  opportunities.  The research relates to a question asked to 231 buyers of professional services.

The buyers were asked about the problems they had encountered when selecting a service provider.  Here are the top 3 issues:

Did not listen to me:                                                              38% 

Did not understand my needs:                                            30% 

Did not respond to my requests in a timely manner:    30% 

As the research relates to all professional services, not just accountants, you might think accountants are better listeners than most.  Sadly, from my experience, that is not the case.  

One of my biggest challenges is getting clients to shut up and listen to prospects in the initial meeting.  My advice to just ask questions, and try to understand their issues is often ignored; they can’t help themselves.  The moment a prospect hints at a problem: BANG, they have the answer.

The reality of course is that they often don’t understand the situation surrounding the problem.  They don’t understand because they are sitting, waiting to pounce; desperate to demonstrate their knowledge.  As good sales people will tell you, listening and questioning are the toughest skills to master.

Accounting marketing path                                           Agendas help you explore and get back on track

You might think if you know what services they want, why do I need to know their life story?  The simple answer is nowadays clients expect their advisers to understand their businesses.  And, if they feel you don’t understand them, they won’t work with you.

Trust and Credibility 

Establishing trust and credibility is vital to winning new business.  You have little face-to-face time with the prospect, so try to use it well.  You can build rapport and understanding by getting under the skin of the business.

Try using a structured agenda.   Find out about the history of the business, and the owners’ involvement, all the way through to their exit strategies.

If they take the meeting off in a different direction fine, the agenda is like a path in the woods, hop back on it when you get lost.

Below are some issues you might want to understand about your potential clients:

  • Organisation and management structure?
  • Customer profile?
  • Average sale value?
  • Target market?
  • How reliant is your business on major clients?
  • Market share?  Competitors?
  • Changes in the marketplace?
  • New products / services.                           
  • Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities & Threats.
  • What are the business and the business owners’  objectives?  What are the timescales?
  • What do they need and expect from their Accountant? 
  • In an ideal world, how would their accountant support them? 

The bonus is, because so few firms even attempt to understand their prospects, it is easy to shine. Clients have said, after following the agenda: “the prospect told me I know his business better than the accountant he has worked with for the last 10 years!”

You then have all the details you need to go back, meet all the decision makers, and show them what you can do.  If you have taken the time to listen and understand them, they will even look forward to the meeting.