By Terri M. Sommella
Client service is a hot issue in firms around the globe. When partners think of client service, they hardly equate the subject with selling. Yet questioning and listening skills, which are the foundation of any good sales program, are also the skills needed to give better client service and strengthen our relationships.
During tax season, your contact with clients and prospects is at its peak. By applying the following 3 Tips for Tax Season, you will find that your value to clients and your firm’s book of business have increased along the way.
1. Use every client contact to probe for meaningful problems or industry issues that he or she cares about.
If you don’t know where to start, begin with an industry issue that is hot for the week. If you aren’t plugged into the client’s industry, there are a few great resources to get you there for little time and cost. First Research is an exceptional resource. By mentioning an issue the client cares about, you have been elevated to the status of an advisor who "knows" their industry.
2. Probe for the Imperative; the highest priority problem or opportunity that the client must do something about.
You come back from a meeting feeling good about a client’s interest in another firm service. Weeks go by and you’re wondering why you haven’t heard anything from the client who seemed so interested. “Interested” is the problem. Lots of things are worth talking about, but most subjects don’t require action, so they just fade away. Why?
3. Understand the question. Listen for the answer.
In his book, Power Up Your Profits, Troy Waugh accurately expresses that, "People buy for their reasons not yours." So the question is: What do they care enough about to fund action on today? Think about how executives prioritize. Of the thousands of things they are aware of, maybe fifty of them have their interest. Two dozen they care about, i.e. their emotions come into play. Six they’ll actually do something about. Three they’ll fund money to. Two or even one demand immediate attention. That is the answer…finding the one thing that must be done.
No executive has the time or money to do everything he or she would prefer to do, or maybe even should do. But they will make time and find money to make their biggest headache go away. Once we know what someone is already motivated to do, how difficult can it be to complete the sale for that service?
The CPAs who apply good questioning and listening skills will identify the highest priority problem plaguing each of their clients this tax season. The solutions then offered will position these CPAs as invaluable advisors; the problem solvers. The fact that they will also have sold additional firm services in the process will be no surprise at all.
About the Author: Terri M. Sommella, President, Sommella Market Strategies, provides Personal Planning for CPAs: individual marketing plans with sales training and coaching. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 410-252-6989. Web site: www.sommellamarketing.com