What are you selling?

Are you selling Accounting services or are you selling that fact that you’re helping people achieve their goals in life? If I look at your website or listen to one of your sales meetings my guess is that you’re (80/20 rule generalising here) selling Accounting services. My guess is your website has ‘drop down’ categories…

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…

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.

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.

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

In my office there is a bell. A big ships galley bell. It’s a sacred bell. It only rings if someone has made a sale. It is sacrosanct. You are not allowed to ring the bell unless there is ‘irrevocable ink’ or ‘money’. Everyone knows the significance of the bell. When it rings there always a clap or a loud ‘woohoo’ from the team. It is in the middle of the office so everyone gets to hear it. When the bell rings the team want to know what is going on, who the client was and what the details are.

When we have visiting clients and the bell rings they always ask what’s going on. We tell them and many love it.

It is very exciting. As the CEO I often ask ‘how many bells today’. I know the average sale value so I can work out how the day was. You’ve heard of ‘management by walking around’ – this is ‘bell management’.

Do you need a bell? I think so. It’s a form of celebration. Give the bell a reason for being. It could be a sales bell, a workflow bell, a debtors bell, a new enquiry bell. And don’t buy a little tea bell – buy a thumping BIG bell that makes a lot of noise. Bunches of accounting firms now have bells – I was in a office today and their bell was 100% bigger than mine. Hmmm

Prediction # 7 – Business coaches & consultants will aggressively pursue SME’s

Business coaches or consultants have primarily offered leadership, management, marketing, sales and human resource services to the business community. They too are in business and are looking to expand. With the correct tools they can expand into the accountant’s space quite easily. There are many financial analysis software tools available that are relatively inexpensive.

If a current coach or consultant wanted to skill and equip themselves they could quite easily offer budget, cashflow, financial analysis, planning and monitoring services. When they do, it will erode away the revenue that the accounting firm should have.

On my travels I often have an ‘in room’ massage. Not THAT kind of massage – a therapeutic one!

On my last trip to the UK Nat & I had 2 ladies in the room massage us each for 1 hour. Cost £95 each. Or in Australian dollars about $180 or so for the hour. I have paid up to A$225 for a 1 hour massage before.

Anyway, whilst I was laying 0n the massage bed being pummeled I started thinking about Accountants. Yes very sad I know. Why I was thinking about you?

The masseur was earning $180 as an ‘average hourly rate’ for work completed and I know heaps of Accounting firms who are not even close to earning an AHR of $180. Most Accounting firms I get to meet (before we start working with them) are earning $125 – $175 AHR – after write offs.

The work of the Masseur lasts about 24 hours. The work of an Accountant sometimes last a lifetime. Why do you charge by the hour? Why do you charge so little?