With the way consumers' goods are advertised and sold, one might get the idea that success requires some kind of "overpowering" of the buyers' mind and thinking process. Yet the successful way is exactly opposite.
Marketing and sales are essentially EDUCATIONAL activities. You offer a good service - and once the prospect LEARNS (realizes) and understands those unique benefits, you usually get a new client.
The starting point in both is that the potential client doesn't KNOW enough about you or Accounting / Finance to be able to make a POSITIVE decision. "YES" is the hardest of all decisions to make. You need a lot of information and certainty to make a positive "go-ahead" decision.
The decision NOT TO CHANGE CPAs is much easier and can be made with very little information. And the DECISION NOT TO DECIDE – postponing the decision indefinitely – is easiest of all, as it requires no real decision-making at all. The true problem in selling Accounting services is in effecting a positive decision while keeping your potential client from deciding too soon - for if he does, it'll be a NO - and yet GETTING him to decide instead of it becoming a cycle with no end.
PLAN THE STEPS
As said previously, selling is like education - once sufficient understanding has been achieved, a positive decision is the likeliest one to be made.
In order to plan a system to create that necessary understanding, it's important to realize it requires a sales system consisting of several major phases, each of which are built from numerous smaller actions. Each action aims at creating a specific effect in the prospect.
The basic "mode" of a business owner is INACTION. He isn't looking for a new CPA, he isn't actively doing anything about it. This is caused by the fact that he doesn't KNOW how to evaluate & compare Accounting Professionals. Also, he has little understanding of the BENEFITS your service could offer.
May sound too simple to be true... but that's what the survey says - and that's what experience has time and again proven. Help the business owner to evaluate and compare CPAs and create a strong enough understanding of the benefits of YOUR services - and you almost always get a new client. That goal is achieved by small, consecutive steps.
Once the contact has been made and you HAVE a potential client, your goal is to GIVE HIM TOOLS to evaluate your services and you. It's a bit confusing, I know - but see, HE feels he is NOT able to evaluate and compare (since he isn't a pro) and that is why he won't CHANGE CPAs. Most business owners are afraid they'll make a mistake. It is the future of their business that we're basically talking about here, after all. It's hard to reach a positive decision to change.
So, YOU need to give him a way that allows HIM to reach certainty on you and your services.
Next, you need to ENLIGHTEN him about the BENEFITS that are available from Accounting services - those that he probably had NO IDEA of previously. You have to get HIM thinking how positively these would affect his business, lessen his workload and worries... and so on - you get the idea.
PUTTING A MARKETING SYSTEM TOGETHER
Each of these – marketing and sales – involves tens of separate, gradual steps that each are really educational processes on their own. These ARE steps because they each bring the potential client higher in understanding. Once he is sufficiently confident in HIS ABILITY TO CHOOSE an Accounting Professional and fully understands the BENEFITS available from your services, you have a sale. Changing CPAs or Accountants is, for most people, a BIG decision.
In creating a marketing system you must take this into consideration - it's a BIG decision for most business owners. The bigger the decision is, the more steps you need to get a positive decision.
It has been said that the ability of people to absorb information at one go is not very extensive. It sets definite limits to how much data you can give at one time - phone interview, meeting or other communication.
Imagine a staircase that you have to get the prospect to climb of his own will. He won't take the next step unless he understands the previous one. He can only take one step at a time after which he needs a break.
That's the way understanding is created in education. Only in marketing, the potential client hasn't paid a tuition fee - he has very little motivation to continue unless you manage to provide it. A good way to achieve that is by consulting his own willingness in a correct, step-by-step way.
The gradualness of this process is more extensive than generally believed. The more carefully each of these steps is planned ahead, the more tested and proven each step is to EFFECT the result desired... the better and more reliable your sales system is.
If no preplanned "staircase" and strategy exist, a CPA is often faced with the impossible task of trying to push home HUGE amounts of information at one meeting. It took years of study and experience to achieve your level of certainty and understanding on the principles and benefits of Accounting and financial management. It can be quite a challenge to drive home all that understanding to a nonprofessional in one meeting.
The ultimate problem in selling Accountancy services – as in any industry involving highly developed conceptual understanding – is the IMMENSE GAP IN UNDERSTANDING between the Accounting Professional and his or her client.
The consequences thereof are all too familiar.
It isn't hopeless – but without some major work in planning a workable SYSTEM that includes all those steps... well, it will definitely APPEAR totally impossible.
INSTALLING THE STEPS
The basic principle of presentation – be it to find prospective clients OR to present your services to those found – is to visualize the whole action as a CHAIN of actions. Then you just "uncalculate" it – sort of take the equation back to the factors, break it apart and analyze each part.
Divide your sales action into 5-10 major parts that seem sensible entities. These could be parts such as
- Finding the potential client
- Stabilizing the contact (so he won't just ask for the price and "get back to you")
- Getting information from the potential client (to qualify him, find out more about his business)
- Educating him on the benefits of using Accounting services and what these can offer (so he will KNOW what he is missing)
- Creating personal rapport with the potential client (so he will pick YOU as his CPA)
- Enlightening and helping your prospect to EVALUATE Accounting Professionals with relative (increased) certainty and SEE the benefits available for him and their positive effects on his finances
- Creating a UNIQUE service to offer him - something tailor-made for HIM - something nobody else can offer without specific information about your potential client
- Closing the deal and getting the client to sign onto your services.
These major parts are then analyzed EACH and broken into SMALLER actions of that one major part. If we take the example of # 1 above for instance, it could look something like this:
- Research the target audience to find out WHAT it is that they think, fear, need and want from Accounting services – and what they don't understand, what preconceptions they have, etc.
- Create a set of direct mailing letters that offer that which they WANT (using their own words and concepts of it) so that it communicates in a split second to those that are NOT satisfied with their current CPA or Accountant - a message that creates an instant strong interest, in other words.
- Create an interview to follow up your letters to ensure you find all those business owners that currently consider a change of CPAs or Accountants. Create a system to ensure most of these become interest in your services and want to continue discussion with you to find out more about your services (which would take you to part 2 of your marketing actions).
All right – as the above reveals, there are even SMALLER parts to consider in some of these... and so it goes.
ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING
Admittedly, it takes quite some doing. But look at it this way – once you HAVE it, it will be immensely valuable to you... it will bring PREDICTION and CERTAINTY into your marketing and sales functions.
In other words, you will know that you can get clients when you want them.
However, the developing your Marketing & Sales functions is definitely not a game of "all or nothing."
You do NOT need to have a perfect system to get results. It works with the same principle of gradients as Marketing and Sales themselves. ANY planning is better than no planning. The more you plan, the more you get to affect the outcome, in other words.
So even "dabbling" can be very worthwhile.
Marketing is fundamentally an equation and once you know all the factors, you can reach the correct solution. Taken as an interesting puzzle, a hobby-sort of challenge, it can be quite fun, too.
And it can pay off handsomely!
This article was submitted by Harry Kafka of CPA Marketing Tips