Some years ago I was providing a Business Development Training workshop to an accounting firm on the East Coast of the United States. As is true for so many accounting firms, client loyalty is no longer what it once was, and they were losing clients, sometimes for no better reason than “That other guy said he could do my tax return cheaper!”
So, given this attrition, having a steady stream of new clients coming in became important. Otherwise, they would sacrifice the firm’s growth goals. I asked, “What do you have to offer that makes you different from all the other accounting firms in this area?”
And someone piped up, “I think we’ve got the best tax department in this city! And, you know, I’m tired of people coming to us after the new year gets started, when everything’s all over with, complaining about their taxes. We see some of these folks just once a year! And I’ve been thinking that, for most businesses of any size, we should go out and see them once a month, to do tax planning. We’ll offer suggestions that help them minimize their tax exposure as they’re doing business, so at the end of the year, their tax bill isn’t so high. What do you think, Lenann?”
I said, “Wow! What do the rest of you think?”
A lot of favorable comments and agreeable murmurs sounded throughout the room.
Then I said, “How does the average businessperson see you?”
They answered, “They think we’re CPAs—we’re bean counters.” “They think we’re boring.” Were this to happen now, post-Enron, I’m sure someone would say, “They think a lot of accountants are criminals.”
I said, “Anything else? How does the leader of a smaller business see you?” No new answers were forthcoming. I said, “As an expense! We have to have you in once a year, to do the tax return. But, oh no, now, instead of just getting one bill every year, now you want to come in monthly and generate 12 bills! Imagine my excitement!”
They were stunned. They hadn’t thought of themselves as their primary clients, small business owners, saw them—as helpful sometimes, but as an expense always. Imagine what their presentation to a prospect might have said: “Tax Planning, rah rah rah!” And in the meantime, the prospects might have thought, wow, you guys are getting greedy! And that’s their Reason to Reject.
I am not saying that no place exists in this world for tax planning. I’m saying that selling is done by inquiring about your prospect’s situation, understanding that, and understanding how, in his experience, the current situation is Painful. Listen hard to what’s bothering him, what’s hurting, what’s costing him time, money, energy, frustration, or his peace of mind.
Then talk about that, rather than stabbing in the dark by talking about things that sound good to you, that just might be your prospect’s Reason to Reject.