We’ve all been on the receiving end of a sales pitch that was ineffective, for a multitude reasons. Whether the sales pitch was boring, the person wasn’t selling their own product, they used endless jargon, they were trying to mold you into the right fit, they were overly aggressive, or you just didn’t “get it,” the result was the same- the sales pitch was failure.
However, not every sales pitch has to result in a sale in order for it to be successful. People who are purely sales-focused will scoff at that last sentence, but there is value, even future monetary value and potential revenue, in sales pitches that don’t immediately result in the “ka-ching” money stage. As long as the sales prospect (the receiver of the pitch) is not offended or turned off, there is still an opportunity for a relationship. More so if they leave the pitch with better knowledge of the product or service and a respect for the company and presenter, even if they don’t make a purchase right away.
So how do you create a sales pitch that succeeds even if it doesn’t turn into an immediate sale? It starts with respect and a few simple tips.
1. Be Prepared
Not all of your clients or potential prospects are in the same business, unless you’ve founded the most narrow niche accounting firm. Your clients likely come from many different industries, with some groups of similar clients such as restaurants or service providers. If the new prospect that you’re pitching to is in an industry similar to other clients you already serve, it should be relatively easy to brush up on your industry knowledge and find more information on the specific prospect you’ll be pitching.
If they are in an industry you haven’t frequently served, do your homework and learn- even if it means asking one of your accounting buddies at another firm for some advice. Knowing the general operations of businesses in an industry is critical to understand how your firm’s services can fit.
2. Be Flexible
It’s also important to know that every prospect is going to have different personalities and conversational styles. If you try to handle each sales meeting in the exact same way, most of them will have less than satisfactory results. Your pitch needs to be able to change for each prospect based on the information you learned from your pre-pitch homework and what they have told you in the first few minutes of your discussion.
3. Don't Talk Only About Your Firm
It’s your sales pitch and, especially if you’re the owner or a firm partner, you love your firm and enjoy talking about it. It’s great to have found a career that you’re passionate about, but to some this can sound like an ego-trip or just not all that interesting. Talk to the other person about them, their company, and their needs. If you know your products, services, and company as well as you should, it will be simple for you to explain how your products and services will improve their circumstances. For accounting firms, there is also a strong trust component in the client relationship. Whether preparing taxes, financial statements, or helping create a business plan, your clients are turning to you for the assurance that comes with your expertise, not just the end product.
4. Ask Questions
The product and or service may be interchangeable, but to the person making the spending decision is the most important factor in the conversation. So ask them what they need, what their current service provider is lacking, what they would like to see done, or what they want to achieve. Since you will be advising them on their finances, it’s important to get an early understanding of their goals and whether they are risk-takers or conservative when it comes to finances. You’ll never find out if you’re just talking about your services and firm. And remember, a good conversation is not a series of yes or no questions; it’s open-ended and results in many tangential questions that help target their actual needs.
5. Understand Their Situation
If a sales prospect is truly in the market for your product or service, then something is wrong with the company/firm or product they are currently using. They could also be unhappy with the current company they are receiving service or goods from. You need to understand how that is affecting the prospect not only on the logistical day-to-day level, but also how it might be affecting other areas of their business. In order to achieve the ideal accounting firm/client relationship, the client has to trust your judgement, and to do so you need to understand their needs on a base level.
6. How Can Your Services Help?
Your firm offers services that can help small businesses. If your town has at least two stoplights, it probably has four accountants: so what makes your services any different than those at the other accounting firms? Are you more efficient because you’re completely in the cloud? Do you have more expertise in their specific area of expertise, such as real estate, legal or medical practices, or franchises? As an accountant, you don’t want to simply offer a lower price-point for your services, as that can be counterproductive. However, your prospects must be able to see that you offer greater expertise or productivity-boosting benefits in order for them to justify paying a higher price.
7. Be Ready for "But"
The client prospect is probably not convinced from the outset that your firm’s services are the best fit for them. If they were, you wouldn’t be thinking about how to pitch them. Whether their doubts are general, such as “I just don’t know if I want to change accountants right now,” or specific like “I don’t want to put my accounting records in the cloud,” you’ve got to be ready to address these concerns. For those wary of changing, come back with a value proposition they can’t ignore. For those concerned about cloud security, give them the layman version: “Everything is already in the cloud, and our system has security as good as the banks.”
If a prospect balks after you’ve discussed pricing of your services, you should also be ready to counter with a lower service option. There are many reasons a prospect may not be ready to hire your firm, but none of them are good reasons. Everyone is at least a little reluctant to change, but if you can help them see the benefits, whether it be cost or productivity, most will embrace the change.