Unless you work in the industry, the world of accountancy isn’t necessarily a topic that enthuses interest and excitement.
For this reason, accountants must work extra hard to market their services to potential clients. Unfortunately many still make mistakes that are detrimental to their efforts to inspire confidence in their services. We reveal some DO’s and DON’Ts list for all accountants who may be looking to pitch their services to a potential client.
Ramble on about yourself and your firm.
Kicking off a conversation with a lengthy rant about your firm is the surest way to bore potential investors into never wanting to see or hear from you again. The fact of the matter is that while talking up your firm (and ultimately yourself) may seem like a good idea in theory, it is certainly not a good idea in practice because it does not showcase the specific qualities and services of your organisation. No client is interested in your firm’s milestone anniversary or placing in the industry, they want to know what you can do to help their business.
Provide a comprehensive rundown of your services!
The harsh truth, as Director of Accounting for Growth, Patrick McLoughlin puts it, is that “Nobody is interested in you or your practice. They are only interested in what you can do for them.” For this reason, it is crucial that you have a list of your services prepared to showcase. Listen to what the client needs, as they may require specialist accountancy professionals. For example, a retail business might be looking for commercial accountancy services, or a company that is looking to minimise business problems and capitalise on opportunities might be looking to contract a risk assessment specialist, so you need to match your services to their requirements. “Don’t be the bore at the party and talk endlessly about your firm. Develop a clear, succinct summary focused on the difference you can make,” Patrick advises.
Generalise your services.
Many newbie accountants make the mistake of providing very generalised information about their services, and this is certainly not the way to make your offer stick out against those of your competition.
Differentiate your services from the competition!
You need to provide detailed information on how your services give you an edge against your competition. “A few years back, pre-agreed fees, free telephone support and guaranteed work completion dates were enough. Now they are the minimum standard,” cautions Patrick. The reason for this is because it will ultimately lead to money being the only motivational factor to invest in services. Patrick continues, “If you are not offering clear benefits, fees are the only issue. If that’s the case prepare yourself for a race to the bottom: cheapest fee wins.” Even if you were to cut your price down to make your offer palatable, that is ultimately not what you want to achieve anyway.
Ignore the point of discussion by focusing on past achievements and skills
Because each case is different, potential clients will be less inclined to be sold on a monotonous rant about how you helped other businesses achieve positive results. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting to match specific services with their requirements.
Ask questions about their business
“Your conversations should unearth the issues that keep decision makers up at night. Make sure the initial meeting is about them,” says Patrick. Here is his list of recommended questions for accountants to ask potential clients:
- How did the business start?
- Organisation and management structure?
- Customer profile?
- Average sale value?
- Target market?
- How reliant is your business on major clients?
- Market share? Competitors?
- Changes in the marketplace?
- New products / services.
- Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats.
- What are the business and the business owners’ objectives / timescales?
- What do they need and expect from their accountant?
- In an ideal world, how would their accountant support them? These questions will allow the client to give you unique insight into their requirements, objectives and overall vision for their business, and you can then use this knowledge to your advantage.
These questions will allow the client to give you unique insight into their requirements, objectives and overall vision for their business, and you can then use this knowledge to your advantage.
Talk a big game with no credible evidence to support it.
Imagine that you’re scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, and you see a meme boldly proclaiming that green tea cures cancer. You scroll further down and find a medical journal with a study on how green tea could potentially increase the risk of contracting hepatitis. Now, which story would you believe, the one that states a claim as fact without supporting evidence, or the story supported by credible evidence? Naturally, common sense dictates that you should believe the latter. However, some accountants make the mistake of boasting about past achievements and expecting potential clients to believe such exploits at face value. The problem with this approach is that your potential client has never even met you before, so how can they possibly be expected to simply take your word without seeing credible evidence of your past achievements?
Offer a comprehensive track record of your achievements!
“Until a client actually starts working with you, they don’t usually know what level of service they are going to get. Trust and credibility are key factors in appointing any important supplier,” Patrick advises. He goes on to say that there are two ways that an accountant can prove their value, and the first is through testimonials and case studies. “Let your clients do the selling for you. They are more convincing because they have no vested interest,” he says. The second way is through white papers and quality content. Patrick observes, “Free website content addressing your ideal clients’ problems and opportunities demonstrates your expertise. It builds trust and establishes credibility leaving readers to reason ‘if they are giving this help away free, imagine the support I’ll get as a client.’”
In conclusion, accountants should strive to showcase the attractive qualities of their profession when pitching a proposal to potential clients. Although money matters may seem boring and unappealing to some, the reality is that the accountancy can actually be quite sexy!
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