By Patrick McLoughlin
It doesn’t matter how much you spend on marketing. You might be generating great leads and meeting interested prospects. But if you are making any of the mistakes listed below you are wasting too many opportunities.
Selling Accounting Services - The Killer Mistakes
1) Boring, Boring, Boring
Here it is. Harsh but true: Nobody is interested in you or your practice.
They are only interested in what you can do for them. Don’t be the bore at the party and talk endlessly about your firm. Develop a clear, succinct summary focused on the difference you can make.
Don’t introduce yourself as a ‘Partner at a firm of Chartered Accountants’. Instead, focus on the benefits you offer ‘I help business owners to improve their profitability.’ Or ‘I help business owners (insert the benefit your expertise delivers).
This doesn’t just apply to face-to-face meetings. Look at the copy on your website. Study the proposals you send to prospective clients. Focus on what the prospects want, not what you want to tell them.
Listening and Questioning Skills are Key
I always ask potential accountancy clients to “Tell me about work completed that has made a real difference to a client’s business / finances, the work you are most proud of?” You would be surprised how often the question is met with silence.
You are going to struggle selling accounting services in 2012 if you can’t differentiate your service offer. If you offer a compliance only service, targeting all industry sectors, what can you do for clients that your competitors can’t?
A few years back, pre-agreed fees, free telephone support and guaranteed work completion dates were enough. Now they are the minimum standard. If you are not offering clear benefits, fees are the only issue. If that’s the case prepare yourself for a race to the bottom: cheapest fee wins.
3) Questions Not Answers
The last time I was looking to appoint a new accountant I met with three firms. Even though my core business is helping accountancy firms grow, not one of the firms showed any interest in ‘Accounting for Growth’. They asked no questions about the business, the challengers we face or our opportunities for growth.
All three firms billed themselves as business advisers. They all promoted their skills at helping clients improve their bottom line. They all wasted my time.
We all want to work with advisers that take a genuine interest in our work. Below are some of the areas you should want to explore:
- How did the business start?
- 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 and Threats.
- What are the business and the business owners’ objectives / timescales?
- What do they need and expect from their accountant?
- In an ideal world, how would their accountant support them?
Your conversations should unearth the issues that keep decision makers up at night. Make sure the initial meeting is about them. Don’t offer advice and don’t quote a fee. Make a second appointment before you leave to present your proposal.
4) Not Proving Your Worth
Until a client actually starts working with you, they don’t usually know what level of service they are going to get. Trust and credibility are key factors in appointing any important supplier.
There are only two ways you can prove your value before you are instructed:
i) Testimonials and Case Studies
Let your clients do the selling for you. They are more convincing because they have no vested interest.
Ask if you can build case studies around the benefits you have delivered. Ask them to recommend you in LinkedIn. Record brief video interviews and use them in your website.
ii) Free White Papers and Quality Content
One of my favourite marketing consultants: Ian Brodie, describes the process as ‘Value in Advance.'
Free website content addressing your ideal clients’ problems and opportunities demonstrates your expertise. It builds trust and establishes credibility leaving readers to reason ‘if they are giving this help away free, imagine the support I’ll get as a client.’.’
5) Leaving the Next Move to the Prospect
The biggest mistake you can make when selling accountancy services is to mail / email the proposal. You must do all you can to present the benefits, and answer their questions, face to face. (If they won’t agree to meet again at least try to arrange an online meeting, so you can talk through the details.)
Please never end a proposal with - “If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.” I know you don't want to come across as pushy. You might think the prospect will respect you for it.
The reality is it gives you no opportunity to even discuss the details. And if you are unsuccessful, you can’t learn why.
If you are looking to grow your client list have you considered a New Client Introductions service? Attending telephone made sales appointments is not right for everyone. But some of the fastest growing firms in the country owe their growth to telemarketing.
Download the guide below to help you find out if it's right for you