By Allan S. Boress, CPA, CFE
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Over the last 20 years I have delivered customized sales training for over 500 CPA firms and have eight published books on selling professional services. Unfortunately, we were never taught in school how to bring in business. And most CPAs and consultants make these costly mistakes without realizing it…
Hidden Secret #5
I was attending a conference on Internet marketing recently. 60 individuals attended - all representing separate companies and with money to spend.
A CPA specializing in Internet-related issues was a guest speaker to discuss what he did to help people in Internet-based businesses. “Why do people need the services of an accountant who is an Internet specialist?” asked the seminar leader. He was asking “Joe” for his sales pitch.
“Joe” hemmed and hawed – and really could not verbalize what he did and why we needed it. What was to be a ten-minute presentation turned into a 25-minute painful interview as the seminar leader struggled to literally pull from Joe the information we needed to know to determine if we wanted to buy his service!
This is a regular occurrence – and has happened to all of us. Political candidates are attempting to tell us why we need to vote for them; how good of a job do they do?
I have seen accountants lose major client opportunities because they couldn’t explain why the client should hire them, beyond something called, “great service.”
And it happens to you when you are telling people how you can help them – or selling an idea.
Hidden Secret #5: Put yourself in the client’s shoes. Learn how to state your idea concisely – and quickly - in a manner people understand and see value in immediately.
Hidden Secret #4
Where do most sales interviews take place? Let’s pretend you get a call from someone referred to you for accounting or consulting services. It is a BIG client and an executive and in-house legal counsel want to know how you can help them.
Where will that interview take place? Chances are, in the client’s office.
Sometimes accountants have clients come to them, which is very good. But there are other important times when you are expected to leave the office and see the client, and that is usually a big opportunity.
There are many reasons to do go to the client’s office to sell:
- It’s convenient for the client
- The client feels comfortable and in control
- You get to take a look at their office and comment on the sailfish on the wall
- You might meet some of their people
- That’s where their records and information are
- It shows you are anxious for their business
Yet all of these will work against you and cause you to lose cases and opportunities.
Hidden Secret #4: NEVER conduct the initial sales interview on the client’s turf.
Don’t even dream of arguing with me on this one. I have helped CPAs generate millions of dollars in fees, and drastically improve their closing percentage just from applying this strategy. You too will experience wonderful new sales interviews – meetings that flow beautifully and the client either tells you how you can help them…or they show that they were just on a fishing expedition. Here’s why important sales interviews on the client’s turf don’t work:
- The client is in control. You must always be in control of the selling situation, or bad things are guaranteed to happen
- Ever try selling into DISTRACTIONS? Wouldn’t you know it – at the single most important point of the interview the phone rings…the secretary comes in. It’s too hard to sell into distractions!
- The “walls have ears.” People are more likely to tell you the truth and be more open, outside of their office where someone might overhear them
- Your appointment is at one o’clock, things are flowing great, and the secretary comes in at one fifty-nine and says, “Your two o’clock appointment is here!” You can’t close that sale! You lose – the client gets distracted after you leave and the emotional swing goes against you.
You must get the client out of their environment, preferably to a private dining room in a club or restaurant where you can turn the “sale” into an interview, with much less pressure on you – and on them.
Hidden Secret #3: You are TOTALLY prepared to sell and close the deal.
There are two elements to this secret. The first is being completely prepared.
I am always amazed when people come to me and ask me why they lost the sale. I have a couple of standard questions I ask. The first is always, “Were did the sale take place?” (See Secret #4). The second is, “What kind of preparation did you do?”
Inevitably the response is some form of “Huh?”
Even in situations where MILLIONS OF DOLLARS of fees are on the table, many CPAs venture out on first interviews giving little thought as to what is going to happen…because they think they are naturally prepared due to years of experience, knowledge, degrees, yada yada…
You must create a complete questioning strategy before you go – just like preparing to interview a witness on the stand.
Unfortunately, most CPAs and consultants think that the purpose of a sales call is to show the buyer How Smart They Are.
Time and time again, I have seen them launch into some kind of boring history of their firm, and themselves, “Our firm was founded in 586 BC, in Mesopotamia…”
Then they say some form of “What would you like to know?” And the sales interview turns into a free seminar. That’s not selling – that’s giving away your ideas, boring people to death, and never finding out if the people you are talking to are real potential clients!
Hidden Secret #3: There are two elements to this secret: the second is excellent listening skills. You must learn to listen to the client without interruption, without interjecting your brilliant ideas at the wrong time, by not using unexplained terms of law, and being so open that they are open with you.
Hidden Secret #2
A CPA called me up and wanted to know why a specific niche endeavor wasn’t working. It seemed like a perfect match to the kind of work they currently did for a huge client base.
Okay – “Where does the sale take place (See Secret #4)? What preparation do you do for each interview (See #3)?
And, how OFTEN do you approach and market to these clients (Secret #2)?
People are always in a buying-cycle, stretching from “not interested” over to “I gotta have it now!”
Here’s an example. You had an arraignment first thing in the morning and skipped breakfast. You stop in a restaurant. It’s eleven a.m. by the time you get in. At noon, one of your colleagues asks, “Want to go to lunch?” And you say no. That’s because you are in the “not interested” portion of the buying cycle.
Your colleague may think that you don’t like them…and never ask again.
Same thing happens with selling. We often approach companies or individuals when they are in the “not interested” stage, and then go away. Then something happens to catch their attention, and they buy it from someone else!
Hidden Secret 2: There must be enough marketing and contact to catch the potential client at the right time in the buying cycle.
Hidden Secret #1
A client invited me to a “free seminar” about some kind of organization she belonged to. The session started at 7 pm, and by 7:14 pm I had decided to do it. I wanted to do the seminar series they were selling.
But they wouldn’t let me. They kept on talking, and explaining, and showing and telling and were only set up to allow people to sign up after three hours of this torture. Not me – I left after an hour and a half. And they blew it.
Ever talk yourself out of a sale? Have you walked out of a selling situation thinking you had a new client, but nothing ever transpired? Who hasn't? Here's the single biggest HIDDEN and terminal mistake professionals make in the selling situation:
Hidden Secret #1: The Top Closers know exactly when the sale is made...and they know when the sale CAN’T be made.
Folks, that’s profound. Many CPAs either neglect to secure a decision from the client, or they keep gabbing and wind up talking themselves out of a sale. And now you know why you’ve lost sales in the past – the buyer was sold, but you kept going.
The buyer can make the decision to buy in 10 minutes, or in six months. If the buyer has decided to buy after 10 minutes, and you don’t close them then, you will lose the sale.
The need to follow a specific systematic sequence and to control the steps through this process is vital to your success in acquiring new clients and getting more business from existing ones.
Selling is a matter of timing. Prospective clients have to be "closed," that is, agreements have to be finalized when the prospective clients are positive and most inclined to do so. If the engagement is not secured, even by a handshake, when the prospective client is positive, there is only one way they can swing when you leave: negative.
Hidden Secret #1: Utilizing a systematic approach to conducting a sales examination is critical. It will tell you where you are in the sales process, and inform you if and when to close the sale or secure commitments.
The I-Hate-Selling Training Program answers all of these problems and is the most complete, holistic system for selling consulting and accounting services and ideas ever created. Over 200,000 professionals trained since 1980.
Allan Boress, CPA, CFE is the published author of 11 books on marketing and selling professional services, including a best-seller, The “I-Hate-Selling” Book now in its seventh printing and published in 7 languages. He has twice been named one of the Top 100 People in the Accounting Profession. He has trained over 200,000 people in the art of selling and personal marketing worldwide. Visit www.allanboress.com for all sorts of articles and ideas. Email [email protected] Call me today at 352-455-9690 to discuss your firm and to set a date for training.