Simplify the Sales Process to Identify Advisory Needs
Everybody loves a quick win, right? Nothing boosts one’s confidence like getting a meeting with a prospect and finding out that not only do they have a need for your services, but they also have budget and the timing is perfect. This leads to a quick close. The problem is that it seems more and more rare that the stars align perfectly like this to get quick wins.
As those responsible for business development aim to increase their win rate, conversation often turns to whether selling advisory services differs from selling compliance services and what strategy to use to go deeper with a client to identify additional solutions. There are so many different theories and strategies out there to help accountants sell that they sometimes create confusion. That shouldn’t be the case.
Be Inquisitive to Uncover Needs
When looking for questions to ask while having an advisory conversation or for an approach to identify advisory needs for a prospect, don’t overanalyze the process. When you aim to get super granular, you are overcomplicating a simple process.
Selling is simply uncovering a need your client or prospective client has and then providing a service that is valuable to address that important need. So instead of thinking about how to approach meetings differently depending on what you’re selling, step back and simplify the process altogether.
In every sales interaction, whether with a client or a prospect, it’s important to approach the conversation with a genuinely inquisitive mindset. Grab a piece of paper, and draw a face with huge ears and a tiny mouth. This is how you should envision a great salesperson. You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk when selling. The emphasis on the ears should drive home the point that selling isn’t about how much you say, it’s about how much you hear!
Six Steps to Effective Advisory Selling
To help you implement this type of sales approach, here are five strategies to follow. They work for clients and prospective clients alike.
- Do your homework. No one wants to go into a meeting with a sales person and have to tell them information that was readily available on the company website, a LinkedIn profile, or otherwise easily accessible online. It’s a waste of time. Research the person and business you are meeting with and jot down some questions that go deeper or will allow the client or prospect to elaborate on what you found online. For those of you who might say, “Well, what’s online isn’t always current or accurate,” you are right. But it’s better to ask a confirmation question like, “I noticed on your website that you focus in these three areas; are there any others?” That gives them the opportunity to update you and provide the full picture.
- Make a plan. Don’t go into any interaction and “wing it.” There are people out there who are good on the fly. If you are one of them, realize how much better you can be after giving thought in advance to questions that will get the other person to really open up. It also shows you care about the meeting. Something as simple as, “I noticed you just acquired X company. Congrats! How has that transition been going so far?” can go a long way to building trust. It tells your client or prospective client that you care enough to learn more before the meeting.
- Set a goal. One of the worst things a business developer can do is go into a meeting with the goal of “finding out more information” or “learning about the other person.” That’s not a good use of anyone’s time, and there’s really no good way to know if you accomplished your goal. A better goal would be to determine if the prospect is a good fit for X product. Or maybe to see if the person is really able to make or influence a decision. Setting a goal gives you clear direction and allows you to focus your questions.
- Ask as many questions as you can without running an inquisition. When you are talking to a prospective or current client and are trying to find an opportunity to sell or cross-sell services, ask as many open-ended questions as you can. Don’t run down a long list of questions. No one wants to feel like they are involved in a game of 20 questions. When you approach the conversation with genuine curiosity, the questions come naturally.
- Make “tell me more” your friend. One of the biggest mistakes people make when selling is not going deep enough in the conversation or needs discovery. Most people hear a trigger and think, “Oh! I’ve got this, I am going to sell him X or Y,” and then jump into selling. That’s a mistake. Typically, the first thing that comes up isn’t always the biggest need or the reason they will buy. When you think you are on to something, throw in a few “tell me mores.” That’s how you will get to a real pain point that will help you sell.
Find a Need for the Win
Too often professionals offer a bunch of different options to see what the client or prospective client wants. That’s the kiss of death. If you have a strong conversation following the steps above, you should land on one (or maybe two) needs or pain points. At this point, selling is simply offering a solution to address that need.
Think about it: you didn’t buy your car because of all of its 700 features. You bought it because it had a third row (or whatever that one big feature was for you) to address your greatest need. Some people buy cars because of a brand and others buy based on bells and whistles. These are all good reasons, but it usually only takes one thing that helps with your greatest need for you to make the buying decision.
When you approach every interaction with an inquisitive mindset, listening at least twice as much as you talk in order to find the biggest pain point, you will sell more. Find your client’s or prospective client’s greatest need, whether that is compliance or advisory, and offer a good solution. That’s how you’ll get the easy win.
About Ty Hendrickson
Ty Hendrickson is a consultant with Inovautus Consulting. A sales evangelist, she helps accounting firms grow by integrating sales principles that distinguish accountants as trusted advisors. She has more than 10 years of experience leading sales teams and delivering training programs that she uses to empower firms to think outside the box when it comes to growth. She can be reached at THendrickson@inovautus.com.
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