I know I’ve told my accounting professional friends before, but it bares repeating: Having a sales system in place is imperative in order to experience the success you dream of in your accounting practice and in your life.
But just because I say it doesn’t mean you understand the WHY behind needing a sales system, right?
Have YOU ever wondered why you need a sales system?
The bottom-line is that a sales system allows you to determine the step-by-step process that you and your accounting firm team will follow when it comes to identifying whether someone is an ideal client, or whether they should be passed on as a referral to another firm who can better help them and is a better fit.
We’ve all been newbies when it comes to sales, and we think taking on each and every prospect is the best way to create a prospering business, but that’s not the case. The best way to create a prosperous business is by narrowing your focus, picking a niche and then staying laser-focused on ONLY that.
This will allow you to identify those individuals that you are best able to serve, charge your top-line premium prices and pass off the less than ideal clients to a firm who may be better suited for the prospect.
Are you curious as to what happens if you DON’T have a sales system in place? The answer is simple… Missed Opportunities!
If you’re not prepared with a system that functions and helps bring in your dream clients, you’re going to miss out on those opportunities. And who knows what is out there?!
There’s a video on YouTube that talks about selective attention, which is very similar to identifying your missed opportunities.
In this video, there are individuals passing a basketball back and forth and the narrator asks you to pay attention to the individuals in the white shirts, and count how many times they pass the ball back and forth.
While you watch the video you are SO focused on what the people in the white t-shirts are doing, that you don’t know what else is going on in the video. (If you want to watch it, you can do so here.)
This video perfectly shows how many clients we actually miss when we’re focused on the volume of work that we have in front of us. If we keep our heads down and we only pay attention to the prospects that are coming in and we don’t focus on the quality of those prospects we are likely to lose revenue.
In order to stop this vicious cycle of taking on the wrong clients and working for too little money, we need to remove some of the volume of our work, by taking on premium clients and providing only high-end services.
In the Beginning
A guest on The Abundant Accountant Podcast, Peter Freuler, shared how things worked when he first began his accounting firm.
In the beginning, if someone would call on Peter, he would work with them. There was no qualifications and definitely no sales system. It was great from a client acquisition standpoint, because he always had new clients coming in the door, but the problem was that only about 10% of the clients that they were bringing in were ideal.
The remaining 90% just took up space and time and some were even difficult to work with. Peter felt like he and his team were just running on a treadmill, not getting anywhere.
Initially this way of doing business is okay when you are focused on building your firm, building your revenue, and making sure you have money in the bank to pay your bills.
However, you’ll get burnt out if you keep on working this way!
It’s important to point out that Peter didn’t just work this way for a short time. It took him almost TEN YEARS to create the business he now has.
He had to fight through the resistance and fear of what would happen if he changed things and ultimately had to face losing clients. A lot of accountants live with a scarcity mindset, thinking that you can’t lose what you have, and that you should never turn down the “easy work.”
Unfortunately, the problem with this is that your firm starts to fill up with clients who are NOT ideal clients, and aren’t willing to pay top dollar for your services. Those “easy” jobs usually come from people who don’t value your expertise. They simply want bank reconciliation done (or whatever job fits for you). And a lot of times these clients end up taking up even more of your time that you never get paid for.
These are not the clients or services that will build your business into the 5 or 6 digits of top line revenue!
Start to Narrow Your Focus
When Peter finally realized that it was time to starting narrowing the focus of his firm so that they were working with ONLY ideal clients, he asked his team (and himself), “Who is it that we want to work with? Who fits us?”
The process didn’t happen overnight. It took Peter and his team approximately 3 years to go through and determine precisely which clients they wanted to work with.
It is not something you’re going to spend an afternoon on and then start doing it immediately. It is a revolving process that changes as your firm changes.
After you complete this process and determine your ideal clients and start working to get those types of clients, everything will come much more easily because people will know who to refer to you and ultimately you’ll be earning a higher revenue by making these shifts.
Why Turning Away Clients is a Good Thing
Let’s say you get a call from a prospect who is interested in working with you. You chat for a bit and then realize that they’re behind in filings, or they have an issue with the IRS that needs to be resolved.
If you end up bringing them on board, what is likely to happen is that no progress will be made. The client will hand off the information you need and then disappear.
From the client’s perspective, they chose a CPA, and now it’s your job to fix their problems.
From your perspective, you now have a client that won’t give you all of the information you need. They expect you to find all of the answers and when you don’t, they get upset because they’re not receiving the results they desired.
Now, if you had a sales process in place and this client went through your process, you would have known right away that they weren’t a good fit.
You could have turned them away before you even got started, saving you time, which is a resource you can never get back.
In place of taking this prospect on, you can create a list of other accounting firms who provide the services this individual needs. By referring them out, you build your “sales karma” and start receiving the ideal clients that you so desire in return.
Tips for the New Accounting Professionals
1. Focus on services that you can charge a premium for.
One of the best things you can do to build your revenue and service your clients at a high level is focus only on the services that you are excellent at. This will allow you to deliver great results AND charge a premium price for them.
There is nothing worse than being in a position where you are undercharging for your services or your potential.
However, in the beginning, I know it’s important to make enough money to keep the doors open. So, instead of trying to take on each and every prospect that walks through the door like Peter did, determine what you and your team do REALLY well. Then only offer those services and I can almost promise you that your revenue will grow.
2. Establish basic revenue expectations.
Take the time to figure out how much revenue you want from your practice, and then reverse engineer it, so that you know how you’re going to get there.
This will help you ensure that you’re bringing on the right staff to do the right job. You need the right staff that can deliver the right results for you, so by trying to over deliver you’re going to have a hard time finding staff members who can do everything really well.
3. Evaluate your pricing.
It’s so important to determine what you’re charging for each service. When you first start out and you’re just happy to have clients, you’ll take anyone who can pay you, but then you realize that you should not be working for less than market value, and need to start charging more.
If you evaluate your pricing NOW, you can keep that headache from affecting you down the road.
How to Identify Dream Clients
For the longest time, Peter didn’t really consider sales to be an integrated part of running an accounting practice.
Many accounting professionals tend to think in systems, workflow process, bookkeeping, etc. These things are designed to provide consistency in terms of quality of the output. They’re important.
If you don’t have a similar approach to your sales cycle and how you select the clients you want to work with, your overall outputs will suffer.
For Peter and his team, it came down to figuring out how they can work with clients who are okay with working remotely. They knew that they did not want to work with clients who wanted to hang out for hours, to review W2s and 1099s.
They wanted to figure out how they could train their clients to not call them every single time they had a question, and then expect that someone was just going to stop what they were doing, pick up the phone and talk for twenty minutes.
It doesn’t do any good you can’t get any actual work done during your work hours because you have a stream of interruptions.
Peter and his team decided to look at their sales process in terms of how to get started with a client, and trained them to utilize technology by having phone and video meetings to answer questions.
What they found was that if they brought a client through the sales process, defined how they will work together, and then remained consistent with that process, the client became comfortable with it and began to trust the work.
The Sales Process
When Peter initially gets a message from a prospect, they send an email back outlining the steps for coming onboard and learning more about Peter’s firm.
The interested individuals must then complete a five-question survey. From that survey Peter is able to identify:
1. What the prospect wants out of their CPA.
2. What their business is all about.
3. Whether they’re comfortable working with various members of the team.
4. Whether they’re okay working remotely.
5. Whether they’re looking for just advice or actual help.
If the answers to those questions are something they’re not comfortable with, Peter will stop the process or get clarification on some of the answers.
Doing this helps set up the expectation that Peter’s firm will not beg for the business. Even if he wants to work with someone, Peter has to make sure that it will work for both him and the client. He also wants to maintain control over the whole process, so by outlining the steps ahead of time, the prospect knows there’s a structure to everything and it isn’t just a never ending consultation.
How Having a Sales System Can Help
Peter and his team implemented a sales system back in May of 2018. At the time of my interview with him in August 2018 his firm had seen top-line growth around $65K.
Even more, what they found is that someone who goes through the on-boarding process doesn’t always become a client. This is CRITICAL because Peter and his team are now able to better understand their clients. This allows them to get to the root cause of the client’s problem faster, providing the client the results they’re looking for.
By having a sales system, you can provide the speciality services your clients need, which will help you hit your revenue numbers sooner.
Over the previous year, Peter’s firm is looking at close to a 20% top line growth, and that’s just fromoffering premium and specialized services to a handful of clients.
If Peter hadn’t had this system in place, he would have continued to take on transactional work and most likely none of the high-end services that Peter’s firm now specializes in.
Don’t wait seven to eight years like Peter did to make the changes to your business! If Peter had instituted a sales system years ago, his revenue would be close to double what he’s been doing for the last few years.
Take some time right now while this is all still fresh in your head and start answering the five questions that Peter asked his firm.
Who do you want to work with? What industries call to you? What is the personality of clients that you want to work with? Who do you want to let into your firm? Who do you want to keep out of your firm?
Don’t allow another opportunity pass you and your firm by!
P.S. Have you have ever felt like you give away too much information for free or are you tired of not being paid what you’re worth? Then you’re like many accountants who feel like they’re on the cashflow rollercoaster. We have a solution for you!
Join us for our Abundant Accountant Masterclass to learn how to communicate your value, collect higher fees with confidence and be paid what you’re worth so you can work less and make more money. Click here to sign-up for the Abundant Accountant Masterclass!