When it comes to sales, many Accountants cringe and feel uncomfortable, and that was also my experience. Since sales is a vital function of growth and fundamental to better profitability, we not only need to change this feeling to a positive one, but we need to find a way to sell that is more natural to our professional advisor status.
Warning: The approach I recommend is not a quick fix. It is a holistic approach, which is true to our strengths as solutions providers, positions us as expert advisors and dispenses with the need to pressure clients or upsell them.
UPSELLING IS NOT THE ONLY WAY
First, let me talk about the most common, and I believe most ineffective approach to sales.
Many Accountants mistakenly believe that the only way to sell is through up selling or using pressure techniques (the take it or leave it approach). These approaches are not only untrue for our profession, but they leave a bad taste in the mouths of both the Accountant, and their clients.
In sales terms, upselling is an ‘Ascension Model’. What I advocate, and use myself, is a ‘descension model’ where we match a client’s needs to one of our premium products.
Let me show you how this works.
One of my clients had been (unsuccessfully) trying to sell a service that allowed clients complete control over their key financial results and a solution to inconsistencies in cash flow and profitability.
His approach had been to focus on cash flow shortages, meaning that he was constantly being called in to fix specific problems. Specific problems called for individual projects for each client. Each project was a unique response to the unique factors in the business. (See my TA48 – Death by Projects for more on why projects destroy profitability and how to turn that around). Basically the client had no choice but to use him to fix their problem and pay the fees involved. It was a reactive situation.
HOW WE IMPLEMENTED THE DESCENSION MODEL
Our aim was simple – buy back time, increase profitability and dispense with hard selling.
This is what we did.
- First, we sat down and designed a product that delivered the desired goals for his clients – ie. control over financials, regardless of timing.
- Second, we reviewed several client files to come up with a list of issues that clients had when their financials were out of control.
- Then we scripted questions (based on the issues identified) and methodology for approaching clients. (See TA46 on Meaningful Engagement)
The resulting questions and approach highlighted the issues, which resulted in clients asking him how could he help them, instead of having to sell to them (they effectively asked to buy his service).
In this case, the more effective strategy demanded more preparation and a considered approach, and the immediate return was additional fees from clients.
The real benefits of this holistic approach are… client trust, clarity in delivery of product & solution and a resultant growth in profitability across the entire practice.