7 Secrets of Converting Prospect Meetings
By Patrick McLoughlin
Accountancy Marketing, for most firms, has one aim: arrange appointments with potential new clients. Yet most partners attending prospect meetings have little or no training on what to do, or say, once they are in front of the prospect.
Below are seven, non-salesy, steps to establishing rapport, trust and above all understanding:
1) Let them know what to expect
This is especially important if you have asked for the meeting. Your prospect/s will expect you to take control with a clear structure.
Explain precisely what you would like to cover and what you want to achieve. We all fear the endless meeting so take your watch off, put on the table and tell them when the meeting will end.
Whilst it is important that they know what you are doing, you also need them to reassure them that the meeting is for their benefit. So explain that if they have any particular issues they want to discuss there is plenty of time for that too.
Why you set the meeting up.
What you would like to cover.
What you want to achieve (for them).
Explain how long the meeting will take
2) Use an Agenda.
I know many people don’t like to use agendas. They fear that they destroy the flow of the meeting and can make their discussions seem, well almost scripted.
Yet if you have ever tried to write a post-meeting proposal and realised you don’t have the information you need, you can see the benefit. Agendas help you to cover all the vital details needed to put you in a position to help.
If the prospect goes off on a tangent, don’t worry; you don’t have to follow the agenda religiously. They will probably tell you about the issues that are important to them. Look at the agenda as a path in the forest: you don’t have to stick to it, but if you get start to get lost, hop back on it.
3) Understand their Past Experiences.
If your prospects don’t feel that you understand them and their businesses, you are going to struggle to get them onboard as clients. Sure, you will win some business, probably on cost, but even those clients will be less secure.
Put yourself in their shoes. A business owner’s relationship with their accountant is one of the most important relationships in their business life. The better quality the client, the more important this relationship is.
How can they depend on you to help them reach their potential if you know nothing about why they set the business up in the first place?
Understand the past, present and future
4) Understand where they want to be.
Tust builds through understanding. How can anyone take your business advice seriously if you don’t understand their endgame?
During the time I have been in business, I must hired 4 or 5 accountancy firms. I have probably met with at least twice that number to quote for my work. Yet I have never been asked why I went into business or what I hoped to achieve.
Try to get an understanding on two levels: the facts and figures, and the emotion, the feel of where they want to be.
5) Where are they Today?
To get a true understanding of the business you need to understand more than just the figures. The accounts only tell half the story. Consider their current position in light of where they want to be and what they want to achieve. Listen to the words they use and emphasise.
The day-to-day running of the business distracts most business owners from their goals. As the saying goes, they are working in the business, not on it.
You have an opportunity to help them rise above the routine issues and focus on the business of their dreams, the business they envisaged.
Even if you have approached them to make the appointment, they still agreed to meet with you. Try to find out why they were open to a meeting.
6) Road blocks to Success
The purpose here is not just for you to understand their obstacles, but to help them to as well. If you can bring some clarity to their problems, you can help them overcome them, or at least come to terms with them.
Obstacles tend to be fuzzy and blurred in the eyes of the beholder. A fresh perspective can often help lift the fog. Some problems can be overcome by better planning and reporting, offering you great opportunities to help.
Though don’t expect to be able solve everyone’s problems. Some obstacles are immovable; or the action needed is so unpalatable that you just have to work around them. You will find that some people just aren’t ready to confront the issues.
Try to find out what they would do if they could overcome them.
7) Your Offer
Let your first meeting with the prospect be all about them, their business their issues. If they push you for advice or a quote tell them you need to give it some thought; you don’t want to rush into it.
Make an appointment at the end of the initial meeting to come back and discuss how you can help. Make sure that everyone involved in the decision will attend the meeting.
When you meet again discuss your proposed action in relation to their situation. Use the terminology they used. Demonstrate that you understand their situation and your proposal is built around their interests and their goals.
Now you know how to get the most out of prospect meetings think about how you can get yourself in front of business owners.
Download the guide below to see if telemarketing is right for you.
Does Telemarketing for Accountants Still Work?
By Patrick McLoughlin
If you wanted to grow an accountancy practice twenty years ago, your options were limited. Although you had a range of tools at hand, with the exception of ‘The Yellow Pages’ they all involved us, the seller, reaching out to the buyer: Outbound Marketing.
Today the internet allows business owners to search and research accountancy firms before deciding which to talk to, never mind work with. At the same time, burgeoning suppression databases, like TPS (the Telephone Preference Service) and the growing popularity of Voice Mail make it harder to talk one-to-one.
If you read the occasional article on marketing you have probably heard that the more traditional or ‘Outbound’ forms of marketing no longer work. Even some of my favourite marketing gurus have blogged about old-fashioned ‘interruption’ marketing being expensive and ineffective.
Telemarketing can still deliver growth for Accountants
Inbound Vs Outbound Marketing
In 2013, the marketing industry’s focus is on Inbound Marketing: attracting visitors, leads and clients from your website using a combination of email, social media and educational content: guides and blogs etc.
Inbound Marketing has been hugely successful for my business. The opportunities it offers for accountants are enormous and largely untapped. Yet I still run accountancy telemarketing campaigns for clients.
Depending on your target market and the services you offer and excel at, telemarketing can still deliver a stunning Return On Investment. But telemarketing, just like every other form of marketing, is not right for everyone. I have turned work down, for particular firms in certain areas, where I believe the potential return in client fees doesn’t justify our marketing fees.
Although some telemarketing campaigns are less effective today than 20 years ago, it doesn’t mean telemarketing for accountants no longer works. It just doesn’t work for everyone.
When Not To Use Telemarketing
If you are based in central London, target small businesses and lack specific expertise, you should probably avoid telemarketing. Competition is so intense that the time and fees involved in arranging appointments can outweigh the return.
We can call 150+ accountants in a day and end up talking to less than 10 decision makers. If you target clients are professional partnerships, think lawyers, doctors, dentists etc you are likely to struggle too. (Following-up an introduction written by a professional copywriter can tip the balance in your favour)
Even when your offer is a perfect match to your target market, telemarketing will not work for certain firms and certain people. Download the free guide: Is Telemarketing right for my Practice to find out if you are one of them.
Where Telemarketing for Accountants Works Best
You do not need to be a great talker or presenter to succeed with telemarketing, quite the opposite. Good listeners with a genuine interest in the people and business they meet usually get the best results.
Rural practices tend to attract high conversion rates.
If you specialise and can demonstrate your value to specific sectors, telemarketing can work a treat: the better the match the better the return.
Despite many experts’ advice, or prejudice, it is not a question of Inbound Vs Outbound marketing. Telemarketing doesn’t just deliver you sales appointments and clients, it is a fantastic way to build your prospect email list.
If you are using telemarketing and you write a blog or newsletter make sure you offer business owners the chance to receive a regular copy. If you run telemarketing alongside your Inbound Marketing campaign, you will generate far greater returns.
Bad Telemarketing Never Works
If you are attending appointments with business owners that have no interest in your offer you are onto a hiding to nothing. Beware bad practice. Most sales calls I take, no doubt just like you, are atrocious.
The passage below arrived in an email from one of the UK’s largest sales training companies. The writer has products for sale in the UK’s largest bookshops. His advice is practiced by firms offering accountants telemarketing:
"When calling for an appointment-just sell the appointment-just sell the meeting. They are happy, so what? You are not asking them to drop their supplier and give you the business. All you are looking for is a meeting."
On hearing that the buyer is happy with his supplier, he recommends the sales person says something like this:
"Great! I'm glad to hear that Mr. Prospect and if you were NOT happy with your supplier, then I would have to wonder how you were running your business. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not asking you to change suppliers or to even THINK about doing something like that. In fact, I have not yet EARNED the right even to ask you. The purpose of my call is to introduce myself and ABC Company and simply to update you of the options, which I am certain that as a savvy business man, you always want to stay informed of."
Imagine your success rate attending appointments made like that! At the very least, all your appointments should be qualified by asking the business owner: “If you like the proposal all we ask is that you will seriously consider working with us?” If they cannot give you a straight ‘Yes’, steer well clear.
Finally, if you are curious about telemarketing for your practice make sure you campaign targets a clear and specific Return On Investment. It is not as difficult as it seems.
An experienced, specialist, marketing agency should be able to pre-agree a target conversion rate (number of appointments you attend to win 1 client) and target average fee. You can work the revenue target out from there. If they can’t pre-agree a target return on your campaign talk to an agency that will.
To find out if telemarketing can work for you? Just click on the link below to find out