Sales tips for bookkeeping businesses
At one point in my bookkeeping business I created a checklist of things to ask when I was in a sales conversation, or a discovery meeting. However, I found it was distracting when I was in the conversation so I got rid of it.
What I do is I approach these conversations from a place of curiosity. I want to find out all about their business, and about how they currently do things.
I like to mind map the conversation, it gives me a good idea of the business. The way my mind works is that questions invariably come up as we talk.
Conversations are a bit like completing a jigsaw puzzle. As the conversation progresses, pieces of the puzzle are put into place. But it’s clear to me that there are pieces missing, and so I ask questions about those gaps so that I can gain clarity and fill in the pieces.
To reiterate, the intention is to get a really clear understanding of what the business does and how it operates.
Some things to consider
To help you with this, here is a non-exhaustive list of some things to consider when a bookkeeping business is talking with a prospective client.
- What the business does:
- What are they selling?
- Where does their revenue come from?
- Who do they sell to?
- What does their profitability look like?
- How the business operates:
- What are its systems?
- Who currently does what tasks?
- What does the current accounts process look like?
- How long does it currently take?
- Details such as GST basis etc.
- Who are the key staff and / or divisions of the business?
- What are the pain points
- What would they like to change?
- Why are they talking to you?
Focus on clarity and understanding
Focusing on clarity and understanding will help you to establish rapport because it means that you are listening to them, and everyone wants to feel listened to and understood. It will be important to them that you get the uniqueness of their business.
It also means that you will ask great questions as you seek to understand. The nature of your questions will go a long way to determining your credibility in their eyes.
This approach of seeking first to understand is crucial.
How does it fit?
With this focus you will be able to see where your bookkeeping business can fit in with their business – how you can best help them. There might be a couple of options that you give them to consider.
I would suggest that you always offer what you truly think is in their best interests in terms of how you help them, even if another option might be more profitable for you.
Bookkeepers: trusted advisers
Your position as bookkeeper should be one of trusted adviser, so start as you mean to continue. Give good advice and be on their side. It won’t go unnoticed.
You could, at this point, give them a couple of off-the-cuff examples of how you work with your clients. Talk about the difference that you’ve made for specific clients, what bringing you on board has meant for them (i.e. no missed IRD deadlines, a feeling of peace of mind, information when they need it, time with family etc.).
Then how you see it working with them – “So I would suggest that we do x y z on a __ basis, and that will free you to …
Leave the client feeling optimistic
I would usually leave the conversation thanking them for the information, and letting them know that I will get back to them within, say, 24 hours, to reiterate how we can proceed, along with an estimate or quote of cost, or a proposal.
If you have set packages, and feel confident with your ability to price well, then by all means let them know what the cost will be while they are there with you. You can then say something like, “so how does that sound?”
They should leave your conversation feeling heard and understood. They should also be feeling optimistic and hopeful, and confident in your ability to make their problems go away, to relieve their burden.
Follow up, Follow up, Follow up.
If the prospective client doesn’t get back to you in, say, a few days, then you must absolutely follow up with them. By phone. Don’t assume anything. Don’t make up reasons for them. Don’t feel embarrassed. Don’t apply meaning to their non-contact.
There are so many reasons why they may not have got back to you. The only way you will find out is by talking or emailing with them. It’s expected that you will.
If you don’t they may think that you don’t really want their business. If you can’t “be bothered” to take the time to follow up with them, then what kind of service could they expect from you if they accepted your proposal.
This is the way their thinking could easily go.
A good majority of these follow-ups will result in business, but even if they don’t, the feedback from those calls is invaluable. Make them a crucial part of your sales process.