I recently posted two blogs, “Why Selling Skills are Important for Accounting Professionals” and “How Accounting Professionals Can Become Better at Selling Their Services” that were the basis for a podcast I presented to the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs.
The moderator, Bill Hayes, asked me to discuss three steps firms should take to encourage their staff to improve their sales skills. In my last blog, I encouraged senior members of the firm to bring along younger members to “shadow” the older members and pick up on their sales techniques. Apart from that, I think firms can also do the following:
- Firms need to educate staff on the “ideal” client. Not every prospect or referral will be good for the firm; for example, the prospect could be in farming and ranching, but the firm neither has a niche in this area nor anyone skilled in the firm to handle particular tax and accounting issues. Of course, referral sources need to learn about the ideal client as well, but it’s imperative for staff to know that, too. If a younger member has never really sold professional services, you can’t assume he or she knows this concept even exists.
- Firms can incorporate an evaluation on selling into annual or quarterly reviews, with specific goals in terms of percentage increases or number of new clients. However, be careful; the danger here is a firm may be setting up one of the staff members to fail if they don’t have it in them to sell. This is definitely the case with many staff members. Sure, selling skills can be learned, but no one wants to evaluated on something that isn’t attainable.
- Use social media to connect with prospects and referral sources. Social media is more popular than ever and I’m seeing huge engagement in all generations, not just millennials. And remember, if you don’t let your staff spend time on social media, they’ll find a way to do it, anyway. Instead of scrutinizing their time, encourage them to focus a certain number of minutes a day on, for example, LinkedIn, then report periodically on their progress. LinkedIn is great for networking connections, but it’s also a great place to publish content because everything is searchable, as well as a good place to participate in group discussions.
This blog does it for my series on selling skills; I hope it’s shed some light on the topic. More than anything else, remember two things: It’s everyone’s job to sell and you must anticipate your clients’ needs.