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Sales Success

I have been fortunate to be a sales professional for 28 years. I continue to attend sales training programs but more importantly I am selling every single day. I love sales and I think I am REALLY good sales professional.

Here is my bullet point list of what I think are the most important keys to sales success:

  • Planning – pre-planning, research, questionnaires, incoming data
  • Results – conversation rate monitoring, sales skills, disciplined approach
  • Organised – doing the right things, tracking, pipeline management, follow up everything
  • Activity – calls & meetings numbers each week based on sales capacity
  • Confidence – self esteem, dress sense, health, story telling, case studies
  • Tonality – language, style, authority
  • Industry – knowledge of the industry selling to
  • Value – reasons to buy, product value, what’s in it for me
  • Empathy – listening, asking lots of questions, understanding the now and the where

It spells Proactive! Good selling to you.

Clients buying value added services from you

Once you have clients on cloud accounting you have an amazing opportunity to add value to the numbers. On the old system (hard drive based systems) you might not get the clients financial data until 6, 12 or 18 months after the fact. It’s very hard to offer real value when the data is so old.

With cloud accounting that all changes. You can have access to the data whenever you want. That means if you have the data then you can offer (real time) management accounting, budgeting, cash flow management and profit improvement help. The services are not going to sell themselves however. You need to approach the client, highlight the opportunity and show the client how you can help.

I have a belief system that every client in an Accounting firm should be buying every service they need that helps them achieve their goals. Anything less is doing your clients a gross dis-service.

To find out what their goals are you need to meet with them. For the meeting to be a success you should not ‘wing it’ but follow a structured approach. If you follow my proven 12 step meeting approach (for any value added service for any client) you will make a lot of new value added sales:

Step 1. Make sure all of the decision makers are at the meeting. Absolutely crucial that this happens. If you are making recommendations then all the decision makers need to be in attendance.

Step 2. Set the scene why you are having the meeting. Your client is wondering why they are there. You need to tell the client that there is nothing to worry about and you are here to help.

Step 3. Frame the meeting purpose and time frame of the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to dig deeper into the current situation and offer some solutions on how you can help improve profit, cashflow, revenue & tax minimization. You need to tell the client how long the meeting will last and make sure they are good for that timeframe.

Step 4. Understand the ‘now’ by asking a series of background related questions. Have their data on the screen (bigger screen the better) in our PANalytics product (which consolidates data from cloud products) showing the business performance review. Dig deep with probing questions to understand the current reality.

Step 5. Understand what the clients’ goals and objectives are. You need to transition from the past to the future by asking what they want to achieve in the next 3-5 years. Emphasize with them and reassure them that you can help them achieve the objectives. Write down all the objectives.

Step 6. Ask how they would know if they have achieved their objectives. Again another transition from the future back to how they would know if you have helped them. You’re looking for tangible measures of progress.

Step 7. Ask what it would mean to them if we helped them achieve their objectives. You’re looking for feelings so the project plan becomes emotional above logical.

Step 8. Ask what their current plans are to achieve their objectives. Some clients may have a great plan that may just work. You need to find out if they do. Most will not have a plan of any sort. You need to reiterate that you can help them (you may need to build the plane as you fly it in some cases) and you’re excited by the potential in their business.

Step 9. Ask what the consequences are of not doing something different. If they don’t have a plan you need to ask them the consequences of not doing something different. Let them talk.

Step 10. Ask timing related questions. You’ll need to ask them if this is a sooner rather than later project and what else they have going on that may prevent them from getting started right away. Let them know that you’re going to look at a suitable start date in your workflow system.

Step 11. Tell the client the next steps. It is crazy to offer a price and proposed implementation plan on the spot. Tell the client you’re going to write an implementation plan and send it to them. In it will be some options the client can take. Each option will have a fixed fee and each option will help them achieve their objectives.

Step 12. Book the next steps. Tell the client you will send the implementation plan on X date and you’ll need to meet again to answer questions and work out which option is best for the client to take. Set the follow up meeting date.

The follow up meeting is all about re-aligning your client with their objectives and asking which option do they think is the best one now to help them achieve their objectives.

The 12 step meeting process is a small but important part of my new full day seminar ‘Capitalising on the Cloud’. I am visiting 14 locations throughout Australasia starting next week on March 14 in Newcastle and then around Australia and New Zealand ending on April 16. For details and booking information go to

Revenue Profit & Cash in an Accounting firm – video # 9 – Conversion rate

We teach a 12 step (sales) meeting process to Accountants. If followed to the letter then a conversion rate (enquiry to sale ratio) will be around 80% – in a short time period (say less than 60 days).

Before we teach this tried and tested method we hear things like:

“I had a great meeting – they will definitely be a client”
“I met this potential client and I get the feeling they want to be a client of ours”
“I met the general manager of this business and they want to switch to us”
“I am so pumped – this prospective client is worth at least $50K per year to the firm”
“I met this person at a networking function and they moaned about their current Accountant – they are ready to join us”

It’s all rubbish. Unless you have a proper ‘pipeline management’ system and structured meeting system you are simply going on gut feel. Not good enough for forecasting new revenue!

If you have all the buyers in the meeting, you purposely develop a relationship, you understand the background of the situation, you find out their clear objectives, you attach measurement milestones to achieving them and you understand the value you bring to the table then you might just have a chance of winning the business and accurately projecting your conversion rate.

First you need to monitor what it is now. Based on an enquiry received (by whatever means), what percentage do you close in a reasonable time frame?

If you have a high conversion rate now based on limited sales skills or process then you are probably not charging enough.

If you charge appropriately based on value and you follow our meeting process then you should be at 75% or more.

I have written an extensive report on Accounting firm performance. You can download the full report here.

Enjoy video # 9.

Running out of work?

Recently a number of accounting firms have been telling us that they will run out of work this year. This is a good thing. So that you can fill the capacity you should do this with every client on every job – every year.

When you are doing the work for the client have your Accountants (or you) answer these 5 questions about the job they are working on:

1. What ideas do you have to help this client grow revenue or wealth?

2. What ideas do you have to help this client increase their profit?

3. What ideas do you have to help this client understand and improve their cashflow?

4. What ideas do you have to help this client protect their assets?

5. What ides do you have to help this client with succession planning or selling their business?

Add these 5 questions to your reveiw process, train your accountants what to look for, come up with some ideas and then take the ideas to every client. I did this exercise last week with a group of accountants (they brought 15 random client files to the training) and everyone of them (teams of 3) came up with ideas that once implemented would:

A) Get a great result for the client

B) Increase the average fee per client by about 50%

Think about your clients when doing the work – and then take the ideas to the client.

If that fails then ask every existing client for a referral.

Sales training for Accountants

I have just wrapped up 2 x 2 day workshops in Sydney and Auckland. Around 120 Accountants in a sales training program. Most came in with pre-conceived ideas what selling is about. Over the course of the 2 days I de-mystified sales and they all realised the importance of sales and how they can all be great sales people.

Many of them were shocked at how good they actually were once they were trained in questioning techniques, listening and most importantly the order of which questions to ask and when.

Here is some of the feedback:

“The workshop gave us re-affirmation of what should be done. Great to hear the success stories.” Myf Rigby, Partner, Insight Business & ‘Financial Services, Goondiwindi, Queensland, Australia.

“The workshop gave us practical help in regards to interviewing techniques, scripting of questions etc. It has reinvigorated the process and has been good to hear from others in the industry who have had success using the value pricing model.” Alethea Robinson, Snelleman Tom, Toowong, Queensland, Australia.

“I enjoyed the quality of information and input from experienced participants. It has inspired and motivated us.” Nick Ciccocioppo, Hattam McCarthy Reeves Pty Ltd, Parkside, South Australia.

“This workshop has highlighted some very real opportunities. Implementation plans are going out that generate 6-figure fees.” Warwick Jackson, Partner, Berkmans, Wyong, New South Wales, Australia.

“I had a number of ‘ah ha’ moments regarding the proposal process. The workshop has given me practical advice on how to market and sell accountancy services.” Evan Bulmer, Sole Practitioner, Evan Bulmer & Associates, Seaton, South Australia.

“I liked the clarity of the material presented and the ‘hands on’ case studies and sharing experiences with other Accountants. The workshop has explained the concepts of marketing and sales for Accountants and instilled more confidence in implementing these concepts in our firm.” Antje Moore, Accountant, Collins Hume Accountants, Ballina, New South Wales, Australia.

“I liked the role-plays and scripts the most. I am walking away with practical skills that I can use tomorrow.” Kathryn Lynch, Accountant, Collins Hume Accountants, Ballina, New South Wales, Australia.

“I enjoyed learning new ideas and ways of working better.” Amy Holmes, Enright Tax Accountants, Ballina, New South Wales, Australia.

“I really enjoyed the sales mindset and hearing other peoples responses to the case studies – there were some great ideas. This workshop has inspired me to help my clients more!” Naomi Rogers, Elliotts Accounting, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

“We now have the tools to use in everyday client meetings.” Tami Simpson, Elliotts Accounting, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

“The workshop was worthwhile as it provided more information and confidence to start selling business advisory services.” Felice Male, Partner, Illingworth David, Geelong, Victoria, Australia.

“This workshop was an eye-opener for what we can do and offer for our existing clients.” Naomi Harkness, Berkmans, Wyong, New South Wales, Australia.

“The scripts we got will help with conducting client interviews. The workshop has emphasized the need to concentrate on extracting information from our clients.” Kim Steber, Berkmans, Wyong, New South Wales, Australia.

“Lots of practical information. This workshop has highlighted some of the pitfalls on interviewing and implementation plans that I was struggling with so I’ll watch out for these now.” Sue Dobinson, Client Manager, OBT Accounting & Tax, Gatton, Queensland, Australia.

“I will now be focusing my energies back on my A-class clients and booking more meetings now rather than later!” Jarrod Fletcher, Senior Accountant, May Partners Pty Ltd, Kerang, Victoria, Australia.

“I enjoyed learning the skills to capture the client’s needs and translate that into sales. I learnt a lot about sales and marketing and I have changed my mindset and will focus on servicing my clients better.” Matt Danvers, Doyle Partners, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.

“I liked the scripting and the step-by-step plans for each area. It will make it easier to look at later. The workshop has given me the right approach to market and sell services.” Matthew Lee, Director, Lee & Alexander, North Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia.

“All content was excellent. Both days were extremely beneficial. It has highlighted the importance of running structured client meetings which will allow for endless opportunities for additional work.” Luke Atkins, P P Atkins & Co, Taren Point, New South Wales, Australia.

“I liked the ‘nuts and bolts’ practical solutions. The workshop has clarified a lot of the finer details that sometimes make all the difference between a successful or non-successful sale.” Damian McGrath, HAS Business Solutions, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.

“The workshop has given me a lot of ideas to take back with me to improve current processes.” Lisa Blakely, Senior Accountant, HAS Business Solutions, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.

“I liked learning about how to structure client meetings and asking the right questions. It has given me the courage to take my business to the next level and the tools to make it work.” Adam Griffiths, Adam Griffiths & Associates, Fullarton, South Australia.

“It was good to get a solid feel for the work I have to do with my team to bring them up to speed. I have assumed too much (in relation to their abilities).” Craig Devlin, Partner, Devlin & Co, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia.

“The workshop has inspired me and made me excited to be in this profession.” Joy Batra, HLB Mann Judd Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

“The workshop has re-focused me to concentrate on the formula for sales and growing the business, the implementation plan process, and common mistakes to learn from.” John Drakakis, Senior Financial Planner, Snelleman Tom Pty Ltd, Toowong, Queensland, Australia.

“The case studies and role-playing was difficult, but very beneficial. The skills I have learned can be applied to the job from day 1. See you next year.” James Dunn, Affinity Accounting Plus, Brisbane Market, Queensland, Australia.

“I really liked going through how people thought they went after the role-plays and learning where we needed to improve. I will be taking a lot of ideas back to share with my Partners to start growing the business.” Tania Zunic, Partner, Wilson Porter & Associates Pty Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

“The questions section was extremely helpful. I now have the skills to conduct a well-structured client interview.” Michael Mitchell, Director, MKM Accounting, Albury, New South Wales, Australia.

“Rob 38:43 – It’s a bible like philosophy! But one that needs action not belief. Sales is a key part of what we do and revisiting the good habits is vital in keeping the bad habits at bay.” Nick Rundle, Insight Business & Financial Services, Goondiwindi, Queensland, Australia.

“I enjoyed learning new material and Rob’s ability to make every scenario simple and straight forward forcing attendees to leave the ‘fluff’ out of servicing clients at the door. Love Rob’s ‘take no crap’ approach!” Kelli Willmer, Hern Financial Services, Fullarton, South Australia.

“The role plays were very helpful and that’s what I learnt the most from. I also met up with other firms that will be valuable for sharing ideas with.” James Harty, MBR Group, Brunswick, Victoria, Australia.

“Turned theoretical ideas on selling & value pricing into real live workable material that I can use tomorrow. Every, and I mean every, accounting partner / director needs to go to this and everyone who thinks they want to be a key player in their accounting business” Philippa O’Mara, Engine Room CA, Pukekohe NZ

“Rob has given me the tools and knowledge to grow myself and the business. Thanks” Hamish Pryde, Coombe Smith, Palmerston North NZ

“Our team now has better selling skills & buy in into the value of client meetings and value added proposals” Lesley Patchell, Quay Accountants, Whakatane, NZ

“As I am not an accountant it was good to see that you do not need to know how to – but just to question, question, question” Gina Webster, Quay Accountants, Whakatane, NZ