Accountants and many other service professionals have tended to steer clear of actively marketing themselves for various reasons, including:
- Feeling this approach is beneath them in some way.
- Not having confidence in their own sales ability.
- Believing that it’s up to the client to ask for additional services.
Of course, these aren’t the only reasons, but they do appear to be the most common ones, so let’s look at them more closely.
What’s Wrong With Accountants Selling Their Services, Anyway?
Part of the issue here is that people interpret the term ‘sales’ differently. Some see it as an overt tactic to push a client into buying a something they don’t need or can’t really afford. (Think of the ‘used care salesman’ stereotype.) This approach is more about what the salesperson wants than what the client wants.
True, this does happen in many industries, but it’s not the only way to picture a sales transaction. If you’ve got an established accounting practice, you’re already selling anyway. You just might not use that term.
Accountants have been spoiled, in a way, because clients tend to seek them out based on factors like location and specialties. They already know they need an accountant for bookkeeping or compliance work before they walk in the door. You’ve just got to show them that you can do what they want in the timeframe they want, and you can save them money on tax in the process. If they agree to your terms and pay for your service, that’s still a sales transaction.
‘Selling is not a dirty word.’ In your own life, you’ve happily allowed people to sell and upsell to you countless times. When you bought your phone or your car, for example, you had an idea of what you wanted, but you were probably offered add-on features which you may or may not have taken up. At every McDonald’s store, you always get asked, “Do you want fries with that?” In all these examples, you wanted to buy something, and you were offered something extra in the process. And, you probably didn’t bat an eyelid, so there’s no reason why you can’t do the same in your business.
Even Accountants Can Sell
While it can be very useful for accountants to have some sort of formal sales training to learn how to pre-empt objections and promote features and benefits, you can still sell your services without training if you believe in your ability to sell in the first place.
If you’ve ever talked someone into hiring you then you already know how to sell. You articulated what you could offer, your employer explained what they were looking for, and, if you were both keen to work together, you got the job. In it’s simplest form, that’s all selling is – a clearly communicated transaction with a mutual goal.
If you want to upsell to existing clients, then you’ve already done most of the work. The trust is already there. They may not know how accountants can help in advisory roles, but they’ll trust that you will act in their best interests. For new clients, if you can get your advisory service marketing tools, such as your website, working effectively, then you’ll have warm leads coming to you. You won’t need to go out doorknocking for their business.
Sales Don’t Just Happen
Consulting services are generally not seen as essential to the daily running of a business – and many clients are unaware of what services are available. As the saying goes, “They don’t know what they don’t know”. So, how are they going to know about your services unless you tell them? By the same token, how are you going to find out what they need unless you ask questions?
Don’t pre-judge potential clients either. You may think they won’t be willing or able to spend the money on additional services, but you’re not a mind reader. Think of the famous scene in the movie, “Pretty Woman”, where Julia Roberts’ character walks into a high-end clothing store and is refused service because she doesn’t look rich, yet she has thousands of dollars to spend. Sometimes, the people you think won’t be interested can end up being your best clients.
The trick (if you want to call it that) is to create opportunities to have conversations face to face which your potential advisory clients. Talk to them, find out what they need and how they operate. You could say something like, “These are your potential pathways. I can help you navigate them and come out in front. Would you like to learn more?”
Look for areas that could use some help and explain how your consulting services can add value to their business. When you focus on value, there’s no need to add bells and whistles. Are you willing to give it a go?
Call To Action
The themes in this article came from Episode 43 Do Accountants Need To Sell? from the From the Trenches weekly podcast series presented by Paul Meissner and David Boyar. Paul & David are passionate CA's who care deeply about the accounting industry.
Paul quit his accounting day job seven years ago and now owns and runs the Melbourne-based firm, 5ways Group Chartered Accountants, and his online Freedom Accounting System firm which allows him to travel and work from anywhere.
For the last 4 years, David has worked as a Virtual CFO. At the start of 2016 he co-founded the Virtual CFO Association and in December 2016 his company, Sequel VCFO began franchising to mobilise the experienced work force of accountants in industry and bring their expertise to SMEs.
Together with their impressive list of guest presenters, Paul and David are the brave souls needed to fight through the noise and give accountants in practice the support and information they deserve.
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