Tuesday, May 1, 2001
Visit the AccountingWEB Workshop Calendar for upcoming sessions.
Participants learned how to successfully present their services in face-to-face meetings with prospects.
This session included information about the basic fundamentals to making a sale and how to close the sale professionally. Most accountants have never received training in this vital area. Specific topics included:
- Make a friend, make a sale
- Effectively probe the prospective client to determine needs, wants, problems, and fears
- Understand the difference between features & benefits and how to create value by stressing benefits
- Closing skills â Effective, but not pushy
You can read the complete transcript of this workshop.
May 1, 2001 Session Sponsored by New Clients, Inc.
Session Moderator: Welcome everyone and thank you for joining us today! We are happy to present Bruce Clark, who will be presenting a workshop on The Anatomy of a Sale - Successfully Present Your Services. Bruce Clark is the founder and CEO of New Clients, Inc. New Clients, Inc., is a national marketing and consulting firm to accountants. Over the past 16 years, NCI has trained over 1700 accounting firms throughout the U.S. and Canada. Many of these firms have achieved hundreds of thousands of dollars in annualized billing with NCI's marketing programs.
Welcome Bruce! The floor is yours!
Bruce Clark: Thank you good afternoon everyone and welcome to the presentation on the "Anatomy of the Sale". I am the CEO and founder of New Clients, Inc. Today we are going to discuss the fundamental aspects of delivering a face-to-face presentation to a prospective client having given hundreds of sales presentations and securing hundreds of clients, I know for a fact the following steps work extremely well. The anatomy of the sale is as follows:
1. The warm up
2. The discussion
3. The presentation
4. The close
Let's start with the warm up. The purpose of which is to establish rapport and make a friend. Studies have shown that most people prefer to buy from someone they like. So be likeable. Look for common ground in which to talk about. Study the office or store and look for things you may have in common to talk about. Pictures of children, sports, hobbies, etc. Some people will open up better than others. If you sense your prospect doesn't want to engage in small talk, then move along to the next phase of the meeting, but remember this important point, people tend to like people who are like themselves.
You usually do not find jet fighter pilots hanging around with priests, although, considering their occupation, maybe they should! Try to adopt some of the aspects of your prospect's personality. If you are presenting to someone who speaks loudly, talking real soft to him or her may not be good. Instead crank up the volume a notch or two and become a little more like them. This segment of the meeting should focus on uncovering the following issues: Needs, wants, problems and fears. In what we call the conversation or the probe, your job is to find out why the prospect has agreed to meet with you. The best probe sounds like a friendly chat, not an interrogation. Start out by saying, "Well Mr. Prospect, before I tell you how my firm can assist you, can you tell me a little about your business".
Remember, people like talking about themselves, so give them a stage and the microphone. Be sure to make any important notations as the prospect tells you about their company. Once they are finished, now is the time to start asking questions, questions such as, how long have you been in business? Have you ever managed a new business before?
How many employees do you have? How are you currently keeping your records? Do you have any sub-contractors? Are you current on all state and federal taxes? How many checks do you write each month? If they presently are using another accounting firm, then answers to the following questions will be helpful. Does your present accountant provide you a monthly or quarterly statement? How do you get your records to them? What would you change about your present accounting service and what are you presently paying for this service?
Your goal in the probe is to find out what they need and or fear or feel as though they're presently not receiving. This part of the presentation is critical to obtaining the client. If you can find out what the problem is and then present solutions to solving it, you will be on your way to making the sale. Good selling is often confused with someone who is a good talker. While being a good talker helps, being a good listener is even better. So pay attention to what is being said and take notes.
Now that you established some rapport (The warm up) and have gotten answers to important questions (The probe), now it is time to present solutions to their problems (The Presentation). First it's important to distinguish the difference between a feature of your service and a benefit.
Features tell the prospect what you will do. Example, a feature may be that you will provide an operating statement each month. While that is important, what's more important is to explain to the prospect how that will help them, or the benefit of using that service. Some of the benefits of an operating statement are:
- Helps them manage their business better
- Helps us as your accountant plan for the future
- Allows them to spot trends in their business
- Allows them to track company goals
- Benefits, not features are what motivate people to buy. For each feature of the service you provide you should write out at least three or four benefits.
During the presentation state the feature and then explain the benefits to the prospect. A good acronym to help you remember this is WIFM, standing for "What's in it for me" the prospect. NCI's standard sales presentation as we teach it at our three day Practice Development Seminar is as follows:
BENEFITS OF OUR SERVICE
- Bookkeeping - Feature
- Record Keeping Accurately - Benefit
- Communicate in Simple Terms - Benefit
- Income & Expense Statement Only)
- Save Time - Benefit
- (Trial Close)
- Peace of Mind - Benefit
- Timely - Benefit
- (Trial Close)
- Form Filing To All Tax Authorities - Feature
- Save Money - No Penalties - "Have you ever paid penalties?" - Benefit
- Peace of Mind - Correct and On Time - Benefit
- Save Client Time - Benefit
- Pick up and Delivery - Convenience, saves time, make sure forms are filed on time - Benefit
- Unlimited Consultation - Feature
- Experience at Their Disposal - Anytime - Benefit
- Answer to Questions they have at No Additional Cost - Benefit
- Help them to Understand and Manage their Business Better - Benefit
- Save Money - by not making Improper Decisions - Benefit (Trial Close)
- Implement Tax Savings Strategies - Benefit
- Tax Planning and Preparation - Feature
- Done Correctly - Security - Benefit
- Maximize Deductions - Benefit
- Save Money - "It's Not Only What You Make, It's What You Get To Keep." - Benefit
- Remember W.I.F.M. - WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME
Your service may be vastly different from this package. This does not change the importance of features and benefits as just discussed. Thus far we covered the warm up, the probe, the presentation and now you should be ready to close the sale. Prior to closing and just after the presentation you will need to give your prospect a quote on fee. If you don't, then you cannot close effectively. Assuming the prospect has not objected to your fee quote, you can now continue to the close.
What is the close? Simply stated. "The act of asking for a commitment." A good way to enter the closing segment is to sum up by saying; "Well Mr. Prospect, as you can see my firm is going to provide you with a vast array of services and support, now all I need to get started "is", then state whatever you want them to do i.e., sign an engagement letter and give you a retainer fee.
It is very important to really close the sale to get something signed and to have money exchange hands. Now let's discuss a couple of different closing techniques. The silent close called such because as you get to the end of your presentation and ask for a signature and retainer you stop talking. There will be a great tendency to want to say more DON'T! Wait for your prospect to make the next move. They will do one of two things. Either sign the engagement letter or voice an objection, should they do the latter, try to answer the objection, then ask again for the signature and retainer.
Sales studies have shown it usually takes at least two requests to get the order, so ask, and then ask again. If by the second request they are still uncommitted, then get a date for a call back and follow up. Many, many sales are made on follow up calls. The next closing technique is one of my favorites. I like it because it allows the prospect to try the service, but still have an out should they decide it is not for them. Here's how it works.
WEST COAST CLOSE - The purpose of this close is to overcome the T.I.O. objection,
Method of application of West Coast Close:
a. Client: "I would like to think it over!"
b. CSR: "May I ask what is it you would like to think over?"
c. Client "I just need some time before I make a decision."
d. CSR "Well, Mr. Client, do you think three days will be enough time to consider our services?"
e. Client "Oh yes. That will be plenty of time."
f. CSR "Okay. Good. But let me suggest this; I would like you to take 90 days to consider our services and while you are considering it, you can be benefiting from the service.
If at the end of 3 months you are not completely satisfied with our work and professional input, we will refund 100% of the monthly fees you paid us. No questions asked! Of course, it is my job to see that this scenario never happens. We work very hard to make sure you are happy with us. All I need to get started is a check for $150 plus the first month's fee." As you can see, this closing technique accomplishes several things. It first and foremost allows you to close and get a retainer and signed agreement. Next it allows the prospect time to really test your service to make sure they like it. Many companies employ similar strategies to get people to commit.
One fear usually voiced by the accountant at our seminar on this close is "What if they take me up on this offer?" Our experience has demonstrated that as long as what was promised was delivered, people rarely change their decision. One final note, this close should not be used in connection with large amounts of back work, as here the potential for abuse does exist.
To view our services go to [email protected]
Bruce Clark is the founder and CEO of New Clients, Inc. New Clients, Inc., is a national marketing and consulting firm to accountants. Over the past 16 years, NCI has trained over 1700 accounting firms throughout the U.S. and Canada. Many of these firms have achieved hundreds of thousands of dollars in annualized billing with NCI's marketing programs.