Business Dev/Sales

Tips for Coaching a Partner Through a Sale

By Katie Tolin, CPA Growth Guides


Accounting marketers and business developers often find themselves in situations where a partner needs some guidance to land the big fish he or she is pursuing, and it’s our job to help them be successful. Business developers have their own sales process, but may not know how to coach someone else. And coaching, let alone sales coaching, is foreign to most marketers. The skills needed to be a sales coach include a combination of coaching methodology as well as an understanding of the sales process.

The most recent episode of AAMplify, AAM’s podcast series, features an interview with Dennis MacGillivray, The Accountable Growth Coach™, Accountable Growth™, Inc. He shares valuable information from the role of coach to what people do right in sales meetings to meeting preparation.

He compares a coach to a guide, but says that coach should also have an understanding of the decision-making process.

“We’re in a professional services firm trying to sell our services,” said MacGillivray. “On the other side, you have a client trying to make a decision—How do I get this problem solved? What are the decision steps I should go though?”

This is where the coach needs to match the sales side to sales process. He or she then guides the partner through the  process while continually considering what we should do and what clients should do at various steps along the way. A coach makes sure the partner and the prospect go through the process in unison.

Other tips shared by MacGillivray include:

  • Fit Matters. Ask if a lead is a good fit for our firm. Make sure the prospect fits with existing clients and the work is something you can go. If you use this filter, you have the better odds of getting a long-term sustainable revenue stream.
  • Have Client-Focused Conversations. The biggest mistake partners make is going to a prospect meeting and talking about themselves; it’s called “show up and throw up.” When you do that, “you’re sunk before you start,” MacGillivray said.
  • Ask Questions. The most successful partners are those who will listen and ask open-ended questions to get to the issues the client is facing. MacGillivray shares four specific questions to ask to help uncover these issues.
  • Earn Credibility. When beginning in a sales role, MacGillivray positioned himself as a scribe for prospect meetings. In those meetings he was able to add one more question or shift a conversation with a question he asked. He focused on guiding others before he had the credibility to sell on his own.
  • Be Humble. Be Helpful. Be Hungry. These attributes will serve a business developer or marketer well, whether in front of a prospect, a partner or within their own team.
  • Sell Solutions, Not a Service. You aren’t selling a business valuation, you determining a value to help in the sale of the business.
  • Think Bigger Picture. Focus on the lifetime value you’ll get form a prospect—it’s not a $20,000 opportunity, it’s a million dollar one. That mindset puts things in perspective. Suddenly, the lead is worthy of your time to do the necessary prep to ensure you get it right.

MacGillivray is passionate about firms focusing on their next gen growth leaders. He has identified eight mindsets that we would all agree are critical for growth leaders to have. Team members take his Growth Leaders Mindset Scorecard, where they rate themselves in these areas. Those who want to move toward master of the areas are those that make the most sense for the firm to invest in.

“Self assessment is important,” MacGillivray says.”If they buy into the idea that they have to improve, then they will be more open to coaching, support and help along the way.”


About AAMplify!

Short, single-topic monthly interviews are conducted by the Association for Accounting Marketing as part of the AAMplify! podcast series. The focus of the series is to connecting listeners to subject-matter experts on a wide-range of growth topics. You can subscribe to the series via iTunes, Stitcher or YouTube.

About Katie Tolin

Katie Tolin is the president and chief growth guide at CPA Growth Guides. She’s a former in-house marketer having spent time at regional, super-regional and national accounting firms. Today she helps CPA firms drive top-line revenue and profitability through data-driven marketing strategies. She’s a past president of AAM, a former marketer of the year and was inducted into the Accounting Marketing Hall of Fame.

Welcome to CPA Growth Trends — your source for information, insights, tools and best practices to drive growth within an accounting firm.

Subscribe to our blog

* indicates required

This field is required.

Featured: Season 5 Episode 1

The Digital Lead Gen Process For Accounting Firms

with David Toth of Winding River Consulting

Explore expert strategies for digital marketing success with the latest insights on SEO, content strategy, lead generation and more.