A selling accountant. Oxymoron, right? Or is it?
If you think about any professional services firm, not just accounting, how do they stay in business? How do they grow? The answer is simple. They get clients, keep clients, rinse and repeat. And as simple as this sounds, it's not easy.
If you were to ask any business, "how do you win clients and keep them," the answer would be multi-dimensional. But if you had to boil it down to one skill set that is crucial for any successful business, it's sales. If you think about it nothing happens until something is sold. No matter the industry. You don't make widgets unless someone is buying them. You don't hire people to service clients, unless you have the clients to serve.
Three and a half years ago I walked into the doors of my new home away from home, Brixey & Meyer. I was their newest hire and unlike all my colleagues, I wasn't an accountant. My entire professional life had been in sales, so what was I doing at an accounting firm?
Brixey & Meyer was growing quickly. Our partners were knee deep in managing the business, ensuring that the recent acquisitions were going smoothly, and continuing to service many of our top clients. They recognized that they didn't have the time to devote to sales like they used to.
What got them here, wouldn't get them where they wanted to go.
After assessing the business' goals and current structure, it was decided that they needed a person who was 100% dedicated to building strategic relationships, spreading brand awareness, and leaning in to business development activities that could drive new revenue growth. This is where I came into the picture.
Three and a half years later my role entails all of those things, however now I am also focused on developing our team to leverage their relationships and understand how learning to sell, can help them improve the success of our clients and the success of our firm. Notice that I started with the success of our clients. This was the first topic we discussed as a team. Their fear of the word 'sales' and their fear of being 'in sales' had to be squashed.
Step 1. We Are All In Sales!
We first spent time unveiling that we have all been in sales our entire lives. For example, they sold their parents on going to their first rated-R movie or staying out past curfew. They sell their friends on their belief systems, like choosing a certain workout or taking a great vacation. They sold their significant other on their first date, then to their second. They sold their current boss on why they were the one for the job. They sell their kids on eating their veggies and putting down their iPhones. They also sell their current clients on meeting deadlines, following processes, and making wise financial decisions. It's true, we are all in sales.
Step 2. Define Our Process
Once we got past the idea that selling 'wasn't for them,' it was important that I spoke their language. Many accountants are pragmatic and like a good process to work through. Luckily, we had an identifiable loose process we followed and great tools to help guide us. We broke down our current process and tightened it up. Then we created a checklist in our customer relationship management (CRM) tool that the team could follow. This helped our team to visualize the customers journey and understand the importance of each step that helped to build trust in the relationship.
Step 3. Become Better Communicators
Our team is dynamic in the fact that we love to talk to our clients. In this industry transactional relationships and short-infrequent conversations are the norm. We, on the other hand, hire team members that love to engage and learn as much as they can about their clients family, business, lifestyle and goals. This helps us to have a more strategic relationship. Engaging in further training that help us ask better questions and listen more intently will help us better understand how we can assist with challenges and growth opportunities in the future.
When we first set out to teach our accountants how to sell, they were intimidated by the word 'sales' and thought they had to make a magical transformation into a sales person. After a few training sessions, the walls came down, the team realized that they are already selling and they see the benefit of further developing their skills. As a team, we are all excited to continue investing in sales training so we can improve our communication skills and better follow a clearly defined process that improves our buyers journey. This is a definite win-win for everyone!
If acquiring new clients, growing your current clients base, or maintaining your client base is essential to sustaining the success of your firm, we highly encourage you to implement a sales training of your own.
Want to learn more about our internal sales training and processes? Have a great suggestion on how you've implemented sales processes in your organization? We'd love to know more. Email me to setup a conversation, I'd love to talk!