Most accountants hate to sell. It can be uncomfortable, difficult, and against your nature. But selling is a step that must come—to some degree—before giving a client the help they need. And it ensures you get paid appropriately for the value you provide.
In this three-part series, I'll explore the seven things that must happen to make an accounting and bookkeeping sales consultation successful.
By the end of it, you’ll know:
Why sales consultations are the most personal way to make a sale next to meeting in person
The flow that lets any bookkeeper or accountant deliver a successful consultation if they follow it
How to turn a “no” into a loyal customer who sends you consistent referrals
What “the money objection” actually means
Ways you may sabotage the sale (and how to avoid them)
There are several common misunderstandings that make successful sales consultations hard. Do you:
Adjust your price the moment you think your client might not buy?
Make sales, but they’re to clients who take a lot of emotional energy?
Worry and change your offer if a client hints that money isn’t where they want it right now?
Make promises you aren’t clear your team can deliver, and you know in your mind you’re going outside of scope creep and your team is going to be annoyed.
If so, you’re not alone. But when I look at that list, I see a bunch of common misunderstandings that make converting during a consultation hard.
Here are my three promises:
If you’re not already doing consultations, you’ll see why they are a must.
If you’re already doing strategy sessions, that’s great. If you’re not closing at least one in three and feeling solid with your prices, then you’re going to see how to double, triple, or even quadruple your income as a result of implementing these techniques.
If you’re breezing through your consultations, consistently making conversions, loving the income, and enjoying a booked calendar, congratulations! This article will show you how to leverage your time by showing someone else how to successfully do your consultations for you.
The initial consultation is the pre-first meeting or strategy session you have with prospective clients who are actually looking to work with you.
Two important points to remember:
It’s not free advice or a free consultation.
You must distinguish between a sales consultation and free advice in your mind—you have to set up beforehand what will happen on that call in order to give yourself the space to make the offer.
It takes as much effort to serve a $1000 client as a $10,000 client.
Ask for the level of pricing that’s in alignment with their values.
A higher commitment usually comes with higher pricing. That translates to clients who tend to be more open to real results in their business.
If you reach a point in the conversation where they say, “It costs too much,” you have to change the way you hear that statement. Hear it as, “I just haven’t seen the value yet,” or, “I haven’t yet seen the value in such a way that I’m inspired to take a new course of action.”
People get stuck in their own rut—they see the value in your program, but not how it can be of value for them.
The #1 mistake is to take the, “it’s too expensive,” statement at face value, and offer a discount. When you do that, you add weight to the entire transaction on both ends and reasons to not value your services. It stops both parties and the conversation ends.
It’s easy to get in your own way, but remember, these people will spend the money with another firm if they don’t spend it with you.
Do you make assumptions in your head before you make the offer?
If your prospect says, “my last bookkeeper was so expensive,” do you automatically assume they have no money? Do you lower the value, your pricing, and the services you offer because of your assumption? Even if they need your highest level package? Do you make excuses for them or do you let them decide what they need and can afford?
You need to remember that they can come up with the money and they need your services to help them increase their income!
What’s the cost to them if they do not have your services?
When you connect the cost of you not figuring out your business vs personal relationship, the cost is astronomical—you can lose your business, your marriage, your health.
You have to be very connected to this in the phone call. It keeps you from making excuses for them and assumptions that they can’t pay.
If someone gets on the phone or a consultation with you, they need help and they want to buy! Your job is to show them this in such a way that they’re inspired to take action.
You must be clear on both the intangible and tangible results during the consultation. Will they:
Make more money?
Have less stress?
Feel relief of knowing where they stand financially?
All of these ricochet into other areas of life, such as family, health and personal.
Are you comfortable on the call? Do you know them well enough to challenge their assumptions?
In the 60 to 90 minutes you spend with them, you can connect in such a way that you have an obligation to call our the audacity of them not being able to afford it—as long as you follow these steps and truly connect with the person.
“Really? You just told me if you don’t do this it’s going to cost you your marriage and company.”
You have to create the relationship so that you are the go-to person for your service and their needs. You’re the expert and you become the person they trust and call when they have questions around numbers, bookkeeping and accounting.
You need to be able to call them in 6 months and feel like you’re calling a new friend who you know they remember—you’ll gain a raving fan whether or not they become a client.
Practice delivering your offer to your team, and make sure it’s very, very clear. Focus 80% of your offer on results and 20% on how your process works.
“You’ll… feel at peace, feel at ease, be able go to go on vacation and know that your books are being handled, and make buying decisions without fear of not making payroll.”
How your client gets those results should be mentioned, but it’s not the focus. Mention enough so that they get it, but leave off extraneous details. People seldom want a high level of detail, otherwise the process overwhelms them and they think they can’t handle it or that they don’t have the time to make it work. You have to make it simple.
This might be particularly difficult. Chances are you’re a detailed person, but most business owners are big-picture thinkers, if you plague them with details they will get overwhelmed and confused.
Did your prospect actually ask you for the offer or did you bring it up and are trying to sell it to them? Those scenarios deliver two very different energies.
If they’re asking, prospects say things like, "What are the next steps? What happens now?"
They’re pulling for you to make them an offer.
But most of the time, they say something that indicates they have a problem you can solve.
“You have this problem? Let me tell you how I can help you. I/we can do this...that...and the other…”
When you practically pounce on a prospect by starting with selling them something they didn’t ask for, they’ll want to get away from the surprise “attack”.
It’s far more powerful (and easier!) if you make the sale or proposal when a prospect asks how you can work together. Make the call so powerful that they're asking you for help.
You can sell a ton of services at a lower price point, but when you change the price point or your service, you’ll suddenly be doing an entirely different thing—and typically, it’s not something you enjoy.
Selling your own stuff is different, mentally, to selling someone else’s stuff.
Continue reading part 2 for the full blueprint that outlines exactly how to do this.
Chief Marketing Officer, Envolta Cloud Accounting
Ashley has consulted for Fortune 500 companies and leads a team at Envolta—one of North America’s fastest-growing accounting firms.
Envolta leverages technology, software, advisory accounting and customer service that keeps their clients' businesses moving forward. They were on Ottawa’s fastest-growing company list in 2018 and 2019, and a Canada top 500 growth company in 2019.