Accountants aren’t always good at sales, but most firms rely on their partners and managers to bring in new business. Oftentimes, accounting professionals are hesitant to engage in this part of growing the firm. So how do you encourage staff to break out of their comfort zones and promote your firm’s services more effectively? Try these five tips for selling accounting services:
Tip 1: Don’t overlook the introverts
Many accounting professionals think of themselves as introverts, and a frequent misconception about introverts is that they can’t sell. However, according to Alen Mayer of the National Association of Sales Professionals, introverts have many skills to offer clients. Composure, listening and relationship-building are all attributes that people appreciate in their accounting professional. Introverts can actually be more successful than extroverts at selling, especially in a field like accounting, where your clients may be suspicious of a fast-talking salesperson. Once your more introverted employees understand that you aren’t looking to change them into extroverts, they may feel more comfortable embracing their role as rainmakers, selling accounting services.
Tip 2: Practice, practice, practice
Your employees didn’t become accountants overnight, and they won’t become great sales people overnight either. Rita Keller, writing for Accounting Web tells budding rainmakers that they need to be patient and develop sales skills in the same way they develop any skills – through practice. The more opportunities you provide for your staff to practice a skill, the better they’ll get at it. So even though they may fail a few times in the process, it’s worth it to keep trying. Start early by letting new hires take part in rehearsals for marketing, networking and selling. Don’t try to shield them from this part of the business.
Tip #3: Understand how professional service sales is different from other kinds of sales
People don’t typically trust sales people, but your firm is built on the trust between you and your clients. Selling accounting services requires you to maintain that trust. How do you adopt a selling mentality without sacrificing trust? In the book The Trusted Advisor, the authors discuss how trust-based selling is different from traditional sales. Your work depends more on collaboration with your clients, defining and refining their problems to reduce uncertainty. Personal risk-reduction is more important as well. By learning trust-based selling as opposed to traditional selling, your staff will recognize that this mindset is actually part of the services they are already performing for clients.
Tip #4: Get to know your target demographic
Help your staff identify new prospects by teaching them who they should be looking for. Strategic Consultant Kacee Johnson, advises firms to create a client profile including demographics, buying patterns and psychographic factors. Take a look at your current clients to help you identify potential future clients. See if you can identify any under-served markets and develop a message that will resonate with them. Finally, when you understand who your target is and what motivates them, find out where they are – what publications do they read, what business events might they attend? When you arm your staff with this type of information, they will be more prepared to recognize sales opportunities and successfully convert them into new business.
Tip #5: Create networking opportunities
Like any skill, learning to sell is easier when you have a successful role model to follow. Marketing Consultant Scott Cytron, writing for the AICPA Young CPA Network says that taking a team approach to developing new business is one way to achieve success. Encourage mentoring relationships within your firm, and let younger staff attend prospect meetings to learn how to talk about the firm’s services. Look for ways to include younger staff in the professional associations or industry meetings your firm attends. Also, since younger staff are more likely to be familiar with social media channels, encourage them to use those channels to connect with people they don’t know and develop relationships that way.
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