Accountancy is an industry that typically attracts people who feel most comfortable dealing with numbers and facts and figures.
While there are always exceptions, most accountants are people who are data-driven. Emotion does not factor into their job.
They are introverted, and they get straight to the point. Tax and feelings do not exactly go hand in hand.
This causes some issues when it comes to marketing. Accountants appreciate people who deliver their message in a no-nonsense way.
Does This Approach Work The Best?
Accountants often score ISTJ – Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging, on the Meyers-Briggs personality test, and that spills over into how they communicate with others.
That might work out if the accountant is trying to land a contract with another finance firm.
However, when marketing to other businesses it makes sense to communicate using the other firm’s language, not your own.
This is a common marketing pitfall for most businesses, not just accountancy. However, it is more common when it comes to the law and finance sector.
Your clients don’t want to hear you show off how good you are. They want to know what you can do for them.
If your marketing is working, then you should be able to convert around 50% of your enquiries. Referrals should convert at an even better rate, around 80%.
That means having a sales funnel that serves your customers properly. Let’s take a look at what goes into a good sales funnel.
Step 1 – Research
Let’s assume that your customer has emailed you with a general inquiry. Before you pick up the phone, it pays to do some research.
Treat your initial sales contact like a job interview, because it is. Take a moment to find out about the prospect. Who are they? What does their company do?
Try to keep an open mind, and don’t write off a freelancer assuming that they won’t be able to pay your bills.
Don’t assume that the company will operate in a certain way based on what you see on LinkedIn.
Treat every inquiry professionally, because you never know what the backstory is of the person that you might be speaking to.
Facebook, Linkedin, and Quora are good places to get an overview of a person and their profession.
Run through the conversation that you want to have in your head so that you can get an idea of what you want to say and have some answers prepared for likely questions.
Step 2 – Purpose Process Payoff (PPP)
A good sales call should prime the prospect early on. Set expectations and communicate clearly using the PPP method:
Purpose – Why you are calling them.
Process – What will happen during the call.
Payoff – The all-important question for the client: “What is in it for me?”
It is unlikely that you will seal the deal in those first few seconds.
Therefore, try something like communicating with the prospective customer that you are calling them because they filled out the contact form on your website.
From there, explain you would like to ask a few clarifying questions so that you can prepare a quote to better help their business.
This will make you look professional and it will give them a strong first impression.
If the decision maker that you called is busy at that moment in time, then the PPP structure will help them decide whether to take your call.
This means that they will be more receptive to a rescheduled call later if necessary because they know that you were not cold-calling them.
Cold calls rarely convert, but warm or hot leads from a contact form or referral should perform much better.
Step 3 – Business Analysis (BA)
For an accounting company, Business Analysis is a crucial element.
This is where many companies fall down because they try to sell features rather than selling the solution to a problem.
The local restaurant owner that called you does not care about your extensive program of CPD or your decades of experience.
They care that they have to file their accounts, have a huge tax bill and are worried about an audit because their accounting date changed last year thanks to some bad advice.
A good salesman figures out what problems a prospect has and then explains clearly how they can solve that problem.
This means asking questions to identify:
– Current Challenges
– The person or business’ goals
– Who their customers are
– Who their previous provider was (and why they are changing)
Ask those questions in a conversational way so that the prospect does not feel like they are being interrogated.
Build rapport, and use that to demonstrate why your accountancy company is the best one for the job.
As you attempt to build some rapport you may find that you encounter some objections from your prospect.
Overcoming objections is something that requires some sales skill and that is worthy of an entire guide all to itself.
As a general idea, when you identify an objection, agree and say that you totally understand where the prospect is coming from, then highlight ways that you can help with or work around that objection.
It is worth trying to overcome two objections to get to the core issue.
Sometimes that issue is that the prospect simply is not interested in what you have to say or that they are not in a position to work with you right now.
Sometimes, after overcoming those two objections you can progress to the sale.
Step 4 – The Value Proposition
Once you have identified the challenges that the prospect is facing, the next step is to build a value proposition around those challenges.
This is where the homework from Step 1 can come in useful.
If your company has had similar clients in the past then give some examples of success stories that are similar to the situation that the prospect is in.
Tread carefully when giving details. Ask some of your current clients if they are happy to be case studies and share only information that they have agreed can be shared.
This is one area where practising delivery is important.
You should be able to speak confidently on your case studies and your value proposition and answer any questions that people might have.
Consider doing role-play sessions with trusted peers or colleagues so that you are prepared to answer questions off-the-cuff.
You may feel that role-playing with colleagues is not realistic because they have insider knowledge and do not ask the same questions as prospective clients.
If that’s the case, then another option is to attend networking events and to get as much experience as possible with talking to people.
Many breakfast networking events are quite informal and you may find that you pick up prospects from attending them.
Even if you do not convert a lot of those contacts it does no harm to your brand to spend a little while meeting new people and building up a database of contacts.
You may meet a web designer or videographer that could help with your online marketing.
Another way is that you might benefit further down the line because attending that breakfast meeting means that people can put a face to your name in the future when they decide they are in need of an accountant.
Step 5 – Recommendations
After analyzing the business, you should present a solution that will help to resolve the issues the prospect is facing.
This could be a package that you already have, or it could be a bespoke solution. It may be that you need to arrange a callback or to put together a more detailed quote.
Make it clear what you are delivering, and that you will confirm the details in writing as well.
It’s at this stage that falling back into accountancy style ways of communicating can pay off.
You need to be clear, concise, and precise with your proposal to avoid disappointment and miscommunications.
Your proposal should lay out each of the pain points that the customer presented and then tackle them and explain how your solution can help.
You should also invite your prospect to ask questions, add other issues, or tweak what it is that they want.
Remember that accounting is one area where it is important to deliver what the customer needs, not what they think they want.
It may require some education to sell a customer on doing things the right way.
However, it is better to have a handful of quality customers that pay well and are happy than to try and win over difficult customers who are only likely to leave disappointed anyway.
Step 6 – The Proposal
A good company is unlikely to accept a proposal or contract you over the phone immediately.
They will want to have a written copy of the proposal and this should lay out everything that was discussed.
Your proposal should not include things that were not discussed over the phone.
To enable you to send out your proposal promptly, use a professional-looking template with customized sections which you can personalize and edit quickly.
To help track the proposals which you have sent out, use an online tool such as Proposable that will show the open rate and viewing time of each document.
This will give you an idea of how much consideration your proposals are getting.
The above structure is simply a guide and you do not need to follow it verbatim.
Using this kind of call flow, however, will give you the best chances of success when it comes to contacting new prospects and turning them into paying customers.
Just as accounting thrives on scalability, compliance, uniformity and accuracy, selling also benefits from a structure.
Yes, we are dealing with human beings and every call will be different. The psychology of selling is generally quite predictable, though, and is something that you should study if you want to grow your business.