Accountants are problem solvers. This is the fundamental characteristic that makes us great at servicing our clients. It’s also one of the biggest reasons why accountants struggle to sell more value added work and get stuck doing compliance.
“Of course, there are important foundations you need to put in place to prepare your business for rapid growth. Like packaging your services in the right way and getting clear on your message. BUT if you want to enjoy the fruits of that labour, you must CHANGE your client conversations”, says Jenny.
COMPARISON OF OLD AND NEW CONVERSATIONS
Jen compares traditional styles of conversation with a new approach that repositions accountants as business advisors and communicates value to clients.
The “old” conversation
First, lets have a look at what your conversations are probably like right now.
- The client comes to you with a problem
- You ask them a few questions to clarify the problem
- You tell the client how you can fix the problem for them
- The client says it sounds good and asks you for a quote
- You spend time drafting up a scope and fee quote document and send it to your client
- You wait for a response and often your need to follow your client up
Does this sound familiar?
Problems with old approach
The old (and comfortable) approach gets us stuck and makes it very hard to position ourselves as providers of value added services. This is because:
- Your conversation is purely transactional – that is, you’ve learnt only about an immediate problem your client needs solved
- When you give the solution too soon, your client starts to focus on “price”
- You get the “fire fighter” experience –you feel you need to have all the right answers to your clients questions there and then
- Everyone else sells in this same way so your client sees you as a commodity instead of value-add
The new conversation
When I created the Licence to Bill 12 Step Sales Process, the objective was to help accountants:
- Communicate their value to clients;
- Position accountants as business advisers and move away from compliance-only practices; and
- Sell more without being perceived as “pushy sales people”
The sales process, which I’ll be teaching in detail at the upcoming Practice Growth Formula Workshop*, is based on a few key principles. I’ll share 3 of these with you now.
1. The person who asks the questions, drives the conversation
Your client will always attempt to direct the conversation into a transactional one. They want to know how you’re going to solve the problem and how much it’s going to cost. It’s not surprising, given that’s how they’ve been trained to interact with their advisers – that is, you’ve trained them to behave this way.
But this is what’s giving you the “fire fighter”experience.
If you want to change the conversation, YOU NEED TO GET BACK IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT by being the one asking the questions.
FIRST STEP TO TRY IN YOUR NEXT CONVERSATION:
Start noticing how often you feel like you need to have all the right answers in your next conversation. When you notice yourself jumping to answer a question your client’s asked, step back and get CURIOUS about why your client has asked that question. What is the underlying driver?
2. A sales conversation is not the same as giving advice
For many accountants, when our client asks us a question or tells us about a problem we know we have an easy solution to, we jump in to tell them. It may be that we want to demonstrate our expertise. Or it could be reflex reaction to being asked a question (that we need to answer it).
BUT did you know when you jump to giving your client advice and telling them about the solution you have actually short circuited your clients decision making process?
When your client buys from you, they don’t just make that single decision. There is a series of micro decisions they make about you leading up to the decision to engage you.
When you give advice in your sales conversation, you have jumped multiple steps in the decision making process and are basically asking your client to make the engagement decision before they’re ready.
FIRST STEP TO TRY IN YOUR NEXT CONVERSATION:
Avoid talking about your solution. Focus instead on what outcomes your solution could achieve for your client. This works because getting clear on the desired outcomes is one of the many micro decisions your client needs to make before they decide to engage you.
3. Value is only created by the purchaser not the seller
Many accountants (and people in general) think that they need to “communicate” value to clients. That is, the onus is on the accountant to have the right “elevator pitch” and to say the “right things”.
The thing is though, value is created by the purchaser not the seller.
For example, let’s say one of your unique selling points (I don’t really believe in USPs, but that’s a topic for another day) is that you have superior client service. One of the things you do to help clients is provide an online portal so they can easily pay their invoices and see their invoice history.
This may benefit many of your clients. Particularly those who don’t have an internal invoice management system or their own internal accountant. Or they just use you for ad-hoc services.
But this may not be so valuable to a client who wants to engage you on a retainer basis and prefers to set up direct debits with their own bank.
It’s up to your client, the purchaser to come up with the value of your services. Not up to you to try to communicate it to them.
FIRST STEP TO TRY IN YOUR NEXT CONVERSATION
Ask your clients these two questions:
- What would you like? (Let them tell you what they’re seeking)
- What would this outcome achieve for you/your business/product/service? (Understand how it fits in)
THE JOURNEY FROM COMPLIANCE TO BUSINESS ADVISORY
Re-positioning your practice from compliance to business advisory is an evolutionary process. Taking these three principles into your next client conversation will not only ensure that you are heading in the right direction, but will begin make it.
DEPLOYING THIS ‘NEW’ CONVERSATION HAS THE POWER TO INSTANTLY INCREASE YOUR AVERAGE FEES
I’ve included this ‘must read’ article because changing the conversations I had with my clients was crucial to the success of our firm’s growth. Re-positioning.
THE NEXT STEP IN GROWING YOUR PRACTICE
This content is covered in the Practice Growth Formula Training.
You can join me and other like-minded partners at a 3 day practical workshop that will:
- Give you an aerial view of your firm’s current model and how to transition to the Growth model,
- Show you exactly what you need to change in order to grow,
- Give you plan for the next 12 months of your firm’s growth; and
- Allow you to walk away with a process that has your clients buying without hard selling.
If you are reading this after the deadline, you can still book in for a 10 minute chat where we examine your current practice model and pinpoint crucial areas of potential for revenue growth. This is a free assessment for practice partners who are serious about increasing average client fees, growing revenue and building business advisory practices from compliance models.
You can book yourself straight into my calendar by accessing the link below, choosing a suitable time and registering your details. You’ll get a reminder, and I’ll call you at your requested time.