For centuries, accounting was a male-dominated profession. That’s no longer true. Women currently outrank men at CPA firms, but they hold only 24 percent of partner and principal positions.
Bringing more dollars into the firm gets you noticed. Sales, however, isn’t taught in school. Either you figure this out on your own or find someone to teach you.
Because men and women think differently, they also sell differently. The traditional sales approach emphasizes pursuit rather than attraction. It’s simply not a good fit for most women.
Depending on your personality, you’re either a hunter or a nurturer. Both aspects, relationship building and enrolling new clients, are equally important.
Closing the sale is the transactional part. It’s a tangible, measurable outcome. When you’re a hunter, you love to close the deal and watch the dollars add up. You savor the conquest. The long-term relationship part bores you.
Nurturers, on the other hand, easily build meaningful relationships. If this is you, then you realize trust needs to be established before someone lets you deal with their money. Although this sales style takes longer, you gain long-term, loyal clients. Like many nurturers, you’re highly uncomfortable with discussing your fees and closing the sale.
Drop the Sales Pitch
If a doctor prescribed surgery before the exam, you’d question the doctor’s recommendation.
For that same reason, you don’t want to start a consultation by talking about your services. Rather, you need to earn the right to do that. Let’s discuss exactly what to do.
The Value Conversation
Turn your initial consultation into a value conversation. With this approach, you ask lots of questions about her situation. If you don’t like to pitch, brag or sell your services, then this is for you. This client-centered conversation naturally highlights the value you offer.
A value conversation reveals three critical factors:
Desires highlight long term goals a potential client yearns to achieve. You discover why pursuing this outcome matters to her.
A gap exists somewhere that’s impacting her business. View wants as something she lacks. Perhaps it is a particular service, reduced workload or the right technology. How does your service help achieve these things?
Needs focus on the basic necessities. Find out about the bare essentials required to remain operational.
A value conversation explores a potential client’s needs, wants and desires. As a trusted advisor, you emphasize the client’s best interests instead of your best interests.
Probe and Engage
Why chase when you can attract? Value conversations follow the 70/30 rule. If you talk more than 30 percent of the time, then you’re talking too much. You may wonder, “Usually, I’m doing most of the talking. How can I only talk 30 percent of the time?”
Simply ask great questions. Like a physician, assess the situation and intently listen to her concerns. Then discuss your recommendations and inform her about the various options available.
The Right Questions
The right questions get to the heart of the matter. As she shares her concerns, actively listen to her answers. This one strategic move positions you as a trusted advisor.
A value conversation includes three specific types of questions:
Quantitative: Quantitative questions assess the metrics. These questions address time and money issues.
What is the financial cost of not solving this problem? Where is there room for growth and increased revenue once this is resolved? How much time has gone by trying to deal with the issue?
Qualifying: Qualifying questions focus on the frustration of tolerating this problem. Accounting professionals wonder why it’s necessary to bring up frustrations. Especially, if the emotional side isn’t your strong suit.
Difficulties motivate people to take action. It’s more powerful than the desire to achieve something. As a result, hiring you is an emotional one that’s justified with logic.
What’s your top frustration? How has this interfered? How would things be different if you knew what to focus on and what to get rid of?
Qualitative: Qualitative questions explore how her business concerns seep over into her personal life. Problems which arise at work don’t always remain at the office. Sometimes they come home with her. Under those circumstances exercise routine, family dinners or social activities get sacrificed.
Likewise, difficulties at home or health issues may impact productivity and focus at work. These questions show you understand the unique challenges she faces as a business owner.
How does this impact your personal life? Are there activities you stopped doing because of your business?
Great questions grab her attention. Value conversations position you as an authority; a trusted advisor. Rather than selling your services, she’ll naturally want to know more. That is your cue to discuss what’s possible by hiring you and your process.
The questions reveal important details about her business. Her answers teach you about her specific needs. Now you can discuss your packages and price according to value, not time. This is the secret to success in sales.
Women Don’t Need to Chase
Since value creation eliminates the chase, it's ideal for women. You no longer need to prove yourself to a potential client. Instead, your questions have her wanting more. This naturally leads to her asking, “How does it work?”
The Value Conversation
If you don’t like selling, then switch to value conversations. Focusing on her needs quickly establishes a trust relationship. Trusted advisors discover the client’s needs, and assess if she’s a good fit for your firm, before suggesting various solutions.
Loren Fogelman, founder of Business Success Solution, is an expert in pricing strategy and sales for accounting professionals. Her passion is empowering firm owners to double revenues by working half the time through strategic pricing and effective sales...