Selling….is it a dirty word?

As bookkeepers and accountants in practice, a lot of our time has been initially spent studying to obtain appropriate qualifications and understand and interpret technical information. We are experts in our field and sought after to help small businesses be more successful. Xero data shows that on average SMB’s are 23% more profitable when they engage with an advisor.

And that’s great! But one of the biggest roadblocks we have is learning how to tell our prospective clients how we can help; showcasing our value and level of expertise. It’s a tough topic to talk about, especially amongst our peers, and the last thing we want to do to come across as egotistical or arrogant.

As business owners wanting to build and scale our practice, we have to be able to wear more hats — and that’s where learning the skill of selling come into play. I know… I can hear you saying, “But I don’t like being sold to, or making the hard sell!” But selling isn’t all about the picture of the 1950s used-car salesman. It’s about two parties exchanging value.

And, as the party providing the product or service, we can chose to pitch in any way we want. The choice is ours.

It’s all about your mindset

Here’s a little exercise for you. Take a moment to close your eyes and think about the most pleasant, happy and successful transaction you’ve had as a buyer. Perhaps you were buying a car or a new house, or maybe it was something simpler, like buying a new dress or suit, or even a candle for your home. Think about what made it so good that you remembered it.

Holding that thought in your head, I’d suggest there were some key factors that contributed to your memorable experience. It’s likely that the salesperson engaged with you in at least one of the following ways:

  • They were genuine, personable and attentive
  • They had technical knowledge about their product or service
  • They explained options and pricing to you, and gave you choice (especially with big-ticket items)
  • They were #human.

Think about any relationship you engage in, whether business or personal. When someone else displays these qualities, it makes us feel good, recognised and happy. This is the mindset for a successful client transaction.

Think about the value-exchange process

Let’s breakdown the actual process we undertake when we engage in a buy/sell exchange:

  • Two parties engage with each other as they are each seeking something
  • They discover, after some discussion or written exchange, that they both have what each other requires
  • A negotiation takes place as to how they work together to meet each other’s requirements
  • After a series of exchanges, a decision is reached and the value exchange occurs.

Remember a successful negotiation is not always an exchange of goods or services, or even financial consideration. Sometimes it is a recognition that the exchange may not be beneficial to either one or both parties at this time.

This is the time to show your value and expertise.

Steps to a successful client engagement

The engagement or sales process consists of five main steps for a service professional, and they look something like this:

  1. Know your customer — you need to know who your ideal customer is and find out about their business. If you are specialising in a specific industry, find out all you can about it! This forms part of ‘establishing your brand’.
  2. Plan the engagement — every time you come into contact with an ideal client, you are always looking for an opportunity to connect with them to find out more about THEM. Remember, it’s ALWAYS about the client.
  3. Ask good questions — have a standard set of questions to ask your potential client that you use for every engagement. Remember this time is almost like an interview: you are working out whether the client is the right fit for you. Listening actively is the key component here. You are looking for the client’s pain points and to built trust and rapport. Be genuine.
  4. Provide a solution for their problem — once you have asked your questions, you are in a position to provide a solution to your client’s problem. Remember your positive sales experience? Wasn’t it great when that sales person was able to provide you with the exact solution? It made you feel recognised and valued.
  5. Offer the product — This is the time where we traditionally do what is called “closing the sale”, when you ask your client for a commitment on the value exchange of the transaction. As an example, in the accounting world we would produce an engagement letter that outlines the scope and pricing of deliverable services.

Retain the customer — build the relationship

Once you have “closed the sale” and on-boarded your new client, it’s all about retaining your client and maintaining the relationship. Schedule regular touch-points during the lifecycle of your service delivery, such as regular meetings or client events. You can also surprise and delight your clients on special events, such as a birthday, and send a small something to mark your annual advisor/client anniversary. All of this things build points in the relationship bank account and make you a trusted and valued advisor.

So, let’s debunk the myth that selling is a dirty word. Why not have a go and implement a new client engagement process and see the results for yourself.

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Mel… :-)