The Silent Deal Killer: The Image You Project

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Wendy Lyn Phillips is the best-selling author of Naked to Knockout: Beauty from the Inside Out (available on Amazon.com).

She is a professional speaker and seminar leader (wendylynonline.com). Wendy is my conscience when it comes to personal and business presentation.

She awakened me during a seminar I attended a few years ago. I knew intrinsically how important image was, and we were careful about ours, but she pointed out areas we missed or hadn’t been aware of.

“Image is the Silent Deal-Killer” as Wendy discusses in her workshops and speaking engagements. How many deals (sales) have your firm lost because you and others weren’t putting forth an image congruent with the kind of client and business you wanted?

We once consulted with a large firm in a major city. They were establishing a “Solid Gold” financial products practice to cater to their already existing very high net worth clients. The fellow heading it up didn’t impress me with his personal appearance or presence, but that wasn’t the deal-breaker. The oblivious partners had failed to notice, or care, that the wallpaper was peeling in several high-traffic locations in the office. Can you imagine someone coming in to discuss their $100 Million portfolio and seeing that?

Image comes in different flavors:

• Office
• Personal (you)
• People (others)
• Materials
• Auto
• Communication

Upgrading our image became our major marketing effort in 2010. We concentrated on our office first to put Wendy’s theories to the test. We hired a professional office efficiency expert (Linda Trimble) who brought in a business interior design specialist. We simultaneously went paperless, reorganized all of our processes, and dramatically upgraded our office environment. The end result was an office milieu that could stand up to any law firm or medical practice in our area.

Our Lake County, FL office is located in a plaza. Got the idea years ago from chiropractor clients who did huge numbers by being located near a Publix supermarket (upscale). I also picked up a physician client who had his rehab facilities in a similar plaza.

D’Oh! Why does a CPA firm have to buried in some office building isolated from potential clients and referral sources?

What has been amazing about this experience is the consistent foot traffic we generate, many of whom have turned into fabulous clients. We have had clients with millions in assets walk in on impulse while they were in the plaza and noticed us. As we are visible, all of our competitors are hidden. The CPA brand took away any possible negativity of being in a retail plaza (you could be on a barge, and if the CPA is tagged to your name you would still have credibility). We have had dozens of high fee clients walk in with their portfolios and tax work, right off the street.

When we redid our office, our fees increased dramatically. Our closing ratio improved. The office has paid for itself many times over in added profits, improved work atmosphere, higher morale and better client retention. Clients look forward to coming here. Since refurbishment, many folks have said, “You must be expensive.” I see no problem with that and have yet to lose a client to fees because of it.

We insist all new clients come to our office:
• For the positive impression of the facilities
• For the way they are greeted and treated
• For the way our people act and look
• It saves us loads of time rather than schlepping off to the client’s place of business
• It puts the client on neutral turf, and places us in control (a good thing - see The I-Hate-Selling Book on amazon.com)
• Our closing percentage is almost perfect in our office

When you arrive in our office you are greeted in a highly positive and urgent way, as we know your time (and ours) is valuable. You are offered something hot or cold to drink, fresh baked cookies to nosh on, and the client knows immediately that the proper person has been alerted to their arrival.

There isn’t any “stuff” lying around our office (due to the office policy of neatness, and being paperless). No cluttered areas, no messes on people’s desks.

All of the above leaves the client with a feeling of confidence. It is a deal-maker, not a deal-taker.

What (honest impression) do prospects, clients, and referral sources get from coming to your office and interacting with your people? How much has it hurt, or helped, you?

Allan S. Boress, CPA, FCPA is the author of 12 published books on marketing, selling and managing the business development process for CPAs. He has consulted with over 500 professional firms and trained over 200,000 professionals since 1980. The “I-Hate-Selling” methodology is available at www.ihateselling.com

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Allan, don't tell my competitors how to succeed!!