How would you like to comfortably engage in a conversation with an existing or prospective client and end up with a very profitable engagement without selling a thing? Seem like an unrealistic dream? Not only is it possible, but when you totally, completely drop the idea of selling, it can actually become quite easy.
The very word “sales” conjures up a cluster of unpleasant feelings, doesn’t it? To many accountants, selling means engaging in unprofessional behavior, perhaps being manipulative, or trying to convince or impress people so they’ll work with us. It’s no wonder accountants don’t like selling. You probably didn’t go into accounting because you loved sales, did you? This is why I say to you, my dear colleagues, never, ever, sell again!
Now, for a simple reality check, we do need to bring in business. The question is, how do we do that without selling? We start by completely, irrevocably, giving up any negative ideas and beliefs about what we think selling means. Whatever you might believe about selling represents only one point of view about it. Let go of the idea that you need to convince or impress people. All that does is demean your professionalism. Dropping our old ideas about selling frees us to choose a completely different view on how to win business.
We could choose to view a meeting with a prospective client as an opportunity to serve. Doing so requires that we let go of wanting to close the sale. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it’s actually quite effective. When we engage in a conversation with an intention to serve, rather than to sell, we’re building trust and rapport, and the person we’re meeting with feels that. Having an open, structured conversation with a client about their needs, and exploring ways we might help them, more often than not leads to a new engagement. It’s a much more comfortable process for you and the client, and is quite effective for winning business.
Here’s a simple, three-step process to engage in a very productive conversation with a prospective client:
- Ask questions to discover about their business, what they’re hoping to accomplish, and the issues or challenges they might be facing. This is how you start a meeting. Not by talking about your firm or your great accomplishments, but by learning about them. Once you find out what they need, if there’s a way you can help them, it will come to the surface.
- If you believe you can help them, explain what you would do and the impact you believe it would have. Rather than providing a laundry list of your firm services, you can describe your firm’s strengths, services and benefits in a way that is directly relevant to their needs. You can do this because you’ve taken the time to discover what’s important to them at the outset. Think about how good that feels to the client!
- Only if there is mutuality do you proceed to discuss engagement details, including the fee. Mutuality simply means that they see the value of what you can bring and want to engage, and you feel you can help them and you want them as a client. If either party says no, there’s no engagement. It’s the willingness to allow mutuality to drive the outcome, rather than the desire to control the client, that makes this process so powerful.
It’s important to make a short, simple opening statement at the beginning of the meeting to let them know exactly how the meeting will run. Let them know that you’re going to have a discussion to explore whether or not what your firm beings would be of value to them in their business. To do that, you’ll begin by asking some questions to discover their goals and issues. Then if you think you can help them, you’ll discuss some possible solutions. Then, if it makes sense to them, and it makes sense to you, you’ll discuss engagement details such as fee and so on. If either party doesn’t feel there’s a good fit, we can end the meeting.
With this approach there’s no sales pressure on you or the client. It’s just an open, comfortable conversation. I’ve taught this process to thousands of accountants around the world, and it works amazingly well. The reason it works so well, is because we are shifting our inner stance from wanting to control the other person, to wanting to serve the other person. People feel this shift and respond accordingly. Try it. I guarantee you’ll love it, and so will the people you meet with!
Never believe in anything that limits you!
About the Author
Rick Solomon, CPA has been a practice growth and profitability consultant for two decades. Rick has created and facilitates the two-day Accountants Reboot where professionals learn how to peel away those self-limiting views that are unnecessary obstacles to the practice or career of their dreams!