As Brian says, lead generation can take time. He also says that nurturing the prospect is the only way to push them forward until they become a client.
This is especially true in the marketing of accounting services.
You’ve seen it, or heard it, and you’re probably guilty of it. Asking for the order during your first meeting with the prospect.
Or worse, being aloof and waiting for the prospect to ask you to become their accountant. Sort of like you da massa’ on da plantation, an’ dey jes gotta bow to your superior knowledge, ‘sperience, and most of all, your big shiny, hung on the wall for everyone to see, credential.
Dat, oops, excuse me, that, just ain’t gonna grow your practice.
Your prospects, your clients, and your market, have needs. And, you need to know what those needs are, and how to solve them. And, I’ll guarantee you dollars to doughnuts, their needs ain’t for your financial statement or your cash flow projections.
They’re most like for something like increased store traffic, lower employee turnover, less product theft or shrinkage, or any of the other day-to-day operating needs of your average small business owner.
And, a pretty financial statement just ain’t on that list.
You’ll come away from your meeting with your prospect with the ‘knowledge’ that they are not “ready to buy yet,” oblivious to what it would really take to move them along the process to the point where the two of you have decided to work together.
That’s not an easy process. Especially if you don’t have an intimate background in their industry, or are intimately familiar with their personal situation.
Step #1: For an accounting practitioner, the first step in marketing is to define and understand their target market.
I’m sure you’ve heard that line many times before. But, it needs to be more than a line, it needs to be a mantra, and you need to go beyond just reading the latest technical pronouncement from the AICPA about the recording of debits and credits for that industry or niche.
To understand your target market, you need to become as one with your target market. You need to read their publications, discover their uniqueness or even particpate in their work. You must learn and absorb what it takes to be in that industry. You must live the life and walk in their shoes.
For simple starters, if you have selected an industry niche, subscribe to their trade journals, join their associations and attend their gatherings. Read the articles in the trade journals and categorize their topics, and their questions or problems. Listen to what their peers are saying and doing, and whether they are having successes or not. Awhile at their gatherings, don’t just talk to members, meet other vendors and competitors. Hold meaningful conversations, always with an inquiring and open mind.
Learning about the industry, or niche, or the practice specialization you have chosen, will give you the opportunity to gather information about needs and solutions, and to start sharing it with your targeted prospects.
And, when I say targeted prospects, that is exactly what I mean. No longer will you just be targeting an industry or niche, you will be targeting industry leaders.
And, if you are going to target a specific prospect, you have to learn the specific and unique needs of that particular prospect.
And, guess what? It ain’t going to be for your beautifully crafted monthly financial statement, sources and uses of funds statement, or those well-thought out cash flow projections. It’s going to be for something like . . . Yeah, nothing has changed, see above. You know the drill.
Step #2: Next, if you’re working along this path, then you’ve got to get with the prospective client on a one-on-one basis.
Once you understand the generalized needs of the industry or niche, you’ve got to understand the specific needs of your prospect, and the only way you can do that is to ask, but without asking.
And, you must ask without selling, in any way.
What you do on your first meeting (and there are several techniques for getting to your first meeting, we’ll talk about them in a later post), is you ask and you listen. You gather information. You walk around, and get an understanding of how they operate, and how their staff responds.
The goal of this Practice Builder Call is to develop a relationship with your prospect, or, to improve and strengthen your relationship with your existing client. You do this by listening, and exploring. You do not do this by suggesting additional services or products. You open your heart and learn to empathize with your prospect or client. You want to help them. And, that can only be done after you have developed an answer to fulfilling their needs.
Step #3: Now you walk away and come back later.
Accountancy is a knowledge based industry. It’s not about the shiny new toys in your office, or the easy and efficient software you have, or can get. It’s about your brain, and using your brain when all the rest of the accountancy practitioners around you are wasting theirs.
And, you do that by walking away from this meeting or conversation with the prospect or client, and asking them if it’s okay if you go back to your office, where you can talk with your partners or staff, or get in touch with some experts, and then get back with them in about a week with a solution.
Again, you walk away. You do not sell.
After a week, you have a second meeting, and you bring solutions.
Your solutions can be in the form of a full blown presentation, a report, an associate or staff member, or any combination of these. Whatever you need to do to restate or present the problem in a way that shows your empathy and understanding.
Then, you describe your solution, and how it will be implemented.
You present solutions to the prospect’s or client’s needs, and how they can be implemented. You do not talk about your services, or how you will work with them as a client. You talk about their needs, and solutions to their needs.
As you talk about your proposed solution, you ask and listen. You listen to the clients feedback, and you discuss modifications to and improvements to your proposed solution. You do not sell.
Only after you and the prospect or client have jointly defined a solution to their needs do you deliver a customized presentation of your services, and only in the light of the prospect or client needs and the proposed solution.
Step #1: Oh, I guess now is a good time to ask for the order.
I’ll bet you never thought you were going to get this far, did you? Where you finally ask for the order?
Actually, there’s no point in asking for the order. If you have identified the prospect’s or client’s needs, and developed an empathetic solution, your prospect or client will be ready and willing to sign the engagement letter for your solution.
Note, I said solution, not services.
Your clients needs are never for your services. They are for solutions.
Step #5: What? You need an example?
How about this one?
A few years ago Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company decided to test whether cash or tangible goods were more successful in an effort to improve sales of a new line of Aquatred tires.
So, the client need was for increased sales, especially for the sales of their new line of Aquatred tires.
Maybe a solution would be to incentivize the sales force. But, incentives had not worked well before. How could they be improved?
How about A/B testing?
Their plan was simple and elegant: first they ranked their 60 retail districts according to previous sales, then divided them into two groups of equal performance and assigned one group to receive monetary incentives and the other to receive tangible incentives of a value equal to the first group.
The results were very interesting; it turned out that the tangible-reward group increased sales by 46% more than the monetary-reward group. They also improved in terms of the mix of products sold by 37%.
So, after you’ve guided the client through a test like this, how do you explain it to them and get them to accept the results as a long term solution.
One explanation, and which may be a fairly good one, is that people can visualize tangible rewards (imagine yourself on a Hawaiian beach), which creates an emotional response. Money, on the other hand, is not accompanied by images as often (aside from maybe Scrooge McDuck swimming in piles of it), and lacks the emotional pull that tangible rewards have, so they’re less effective in motivating employees. I guess it’s called “cold, hard cash” rather than “future beach vacation cash” for a reason.
This is a simple process, with an almost certain outcome, but all too often I see and hear accountants following one of the old style marketing models, where they either wait to be asked to take on a new client, going through an elaborate process judging whether the client is one that ‘deserves’ their services or not, or, or the other hand, going for the appointment and close method of telemarketing and high-pressure sales staff.
Only when you start looking at the clients needs, and finding a solution to those needs, will you reach the professional level of a million dollar practitioner, and will you be compensated fairly.
You’ll see this theme of filling the clients needs mentioned over and over again here on Practice Builder Publishing, and see it worked into the Rainmaker Marketing Process.
You can learn more about performing a ‘Client Needs Assessment’ as part of the ‘Absolute Beginners Guide To Starting And Building Your Own Accounting Practice When You Are Flat Broke’ training course. It’s only $27, composed of twelve weekly video lessons, plus worksheets and class assessments.
Enroll today by clicking on the button below.
I would love to see you become a part of the Practice Builder Publishing, and work with you personally to reach maximum profit potential this year! Nothing I teach or help you with damage your credibility. It will simply get you more clients and help you make more money.
Best to you and yours,
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