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Interesting. A firm shared with me this morning the following series of events.
- Prospective client telephones the firm. She asks to speak with the Principal of the firm. She was referred by a friend.
- The Principal is away at a conference. The receptionist emails the Principal regarding the enquiry.
- He emails the receptionist back and asks her to set up an appointment with another accountant (in his absence), plus the firm’s in-house financial planner.
- The receptionist calls the prospective client back to make that appointment.
- The prospective client backs out, letting the receptionist know that “she didn’t like the assumption she wanted to meet with a Financial Planner as she just wanted to get her tax done and she felt we were trying to sell her something”
- The receptionist then offered an appointment with just the accountant, and the prospective client replied that if she wanted that option (the financial planning services) she would have asked for it and she is still thinking about what course of action she wants to take.
So much of marketing and selling is about ‘gradient’. We hammer this concept repeatedly to members of the Modern Marketing Academy as we teach them how to market and how to sell.
There is an art and a science to it. It’s all founded on psychology. Break the princples, and your sales process breaks down.
This prospective client in the above real-world scenario:
- Felt like she was being sold to
- Felt like she was railroaded into something she didn’t ask for
- Felt like it was all too much, too soon
- Felt unheard
Key take home points here:
- Your firm needs a defined sales process.
- The first conversation over the telephone with a prospective client is crucial. It’s not just about ‘making an appointment’. It’s about selling the sales process. That’s ‘the sale’ that needs to be made on that call.
- The person handling the first enquiry does not need to be an accountant or advisor. In fact, it is best if they are not. A mature receptionist, Client Services Coordinator or Marketing Coordinator is ideal.
- The person handling the first enquiry must be trained in the objective and the structure of the call. That is, it is to explain the evaluation process and the next two steps in the process. Making the appointment is just a detail, not the main objective.
- The person handling the call needs prompts (a ‘cheat sheet’) to put on the wall in front of them as a reminder during the calls, and they need a training script for practising how to handle these calls.
We advise that the ‘evaluation process’ of getting to know each other (that is, the firm’s sales process) is explained to a prospective client as a 3-step process:
- Step 1, they will read the information that they’ll be sent after the call. That way they arrive at the meeting up-to-speed with what the firm is about and what it can provide, which makes for a much more productive meeting that can focus on answering questions, not just conveying ‘brochure information’;
- Step 2, the prospective client will meet with the appropriate advisor—based on what was discussed during the call—and we’ll explore what the client wants and whether there’s a fit with what the firm provides; and
- Step 3, the firm will then provide them with an Agreed Price (a.k.a. fixed price) ‘no surprises’ proposal outlining their options.
In the course of this first call, the following is also achieved:
- The reason for them wanting to change accountants or advisors is discovered (and noted in the firm’s CRM)
- What the prospective client is looking for in a new accountant or advisor is clarified
- The prospective client is screened regarding their pricing/fee expectations. The person handling the call explains that the firm is not the cheapest in town, and nor is it the most expensive, and that if low price is the main objective, then there’s probably not a fit and that other firms are probably more suitable (i.e. price sensitive tyre kickers are screened out)
- The advisor that the prospective client will be meeting with is edified and their credibility is established (which is easier for someone else to do, rather than an advisor ‘talk themselves up’.)
- The prospective client learns that the firm charges by the end result, not by a ‘ticking clock’ where the firm would be rewarded for being slow and inefficient, as most firms are.
- The prospective client is educated in a crystal clear way, what the 3 steps will be, and that the meeting with the advisor is not one where advice will be given, but rather where the scope and the fit is established.
At the end of the call, the prospective client is totally impressed by the professionalism of the call and is looking forward to their meeting with the advisor.
They have felt listened to and cared for.
And they are enthusiastic about your firm.
They have not at all felt ‘sold to’.
But they have loved the process. (We all love to buy!)
In the Modern Marketing Academy we go into depth with a procedure, script, checklist and other supporting systems to enable you to develop a finely tuned ‘sales system’. One that works for you and for your prospective new clients.
The front-end of your sales process–that initial telephone or email enquiry–is so crucial to setting up the meeting and pre-selling the proposal.
- Does your firm have a defined sales process?
- Do you have non-advisors trained in handling the front end of the process?
- Have all your advisors been formally trained in how to sell? (After all, being an advisor is simply selling courses of action.)
If you answered ‘No’ to any of those question, your firm is missing out.
So are your clients.
Why? Because you’re probably stuck doing mainly tax and compliance work with your clients which, whilst important, is viewed as a necessary evil.
Your optional, future-focused, planning-related services, however, will change your clients’ lives for the better.
But note the word ‘optional’.
They are optional.
Which means they need to be sold.
But … do you buy that?
If you don’t, your clients never will.
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