When “selling” is mentioned at conference tables around the country, images of uncomfortable networking functions may emerge in professionals’ minds. An expression of fear may even be visible on many faces. Boring after-hour events full of intimidating strangers balancing cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, peering nervously around the room rarely elicit the excitement of young accountants. Unfortunately, this is what comes to mind for many accounting professionals. Others may imagine a scene of pushing their services on unsuspecting people and being rejected and embarrassed.
Help vs. sell
When professionals are asked to give the first word that comes to mind when they hear the word “selling,” for novice sellers, responses usually range from “painful” and “pushy” to “necessary.” Some do utter the words “fun” and “liberating.” This is much better. The phrase I am looking for is helping. Selling services to clients is helping them. So how do we get the fear-stricken masses to realize this?
Most professionals with experience will share that a top motivator for them is helping clients. This is the primary reason that many joined the accounting industry. When partners share stories of how they helped clients, their eyes light up with passion and excitement. They become animated, recounting stories of how their advice and relationships helped take their client’s businesses to the next level. I love to hear these stories because this is what the profession should be about, helping people. So when we talk about growing our practices, I would like to propose a paradigm shift for those in fear: stop selling and start helping.
Help your clients and spend your time wisely.
Most people enjoy helping others in need. We naturally enjoy solving problems and building relationships with other people, including clients. What if we, as an industry, could reduce our fear of rejection and embarrassment and focus solely on having meaningful conversations about how we can help others? Our lives would be full of more interesting discussions and, ultimately, more exciting clients each year. The good news is that you can. You must commit to getting out there and having the correct conversations.
While growing your practice would be much easier if referrals flooded in continuously, this is not a reality for everyone. Referrals are generally warm, qualified, and have less price resistance. This is the reason they are so wonderful. When you desire to build a client base in a new niche, in a new location, or with an unfamiliar company, you must rely on more creative ways to become known.
Attending events with a high likelihood of meeting potential clients is generally one good option. Because time is limited, it must be used most beneficially. For example, if you are building a niche in healthcare, seek out the best healthcare events where you are likely to come into contact with potential clients.
Change your mindset from sales-focused to helpful.
At networking events, the difference between appearing “pushy or salesy” and being friendly and interested in getting to know others is simply in your approach. Ensure you display positive behavior that is honest, open, and friendly, rather than sales-oriented, with a possible hidden agenda. Make sure you don’t appear pushy or sales-oriented, which could turn off potential clients and referrals.
Start with your intention. Change your mindset from selling services to being interested in helping those in need. Intend to meet new friends and learn about what they are doing and what they are up against. Ask about their background, discuss their challenges, and share success stories involving others with similar challenges. This will help you gain your client’s trust and advance the relationship to the next level. It will also provide valuable experience in dealing with different people and may uncover opportunities to help others. This friendly interaction is more enjoyable and rewarding than feeling like you are forcing your firm on them.
Prepare for these conversations by learning about your firm’s successes with clients in multiple engagements. Gather as many success stories as you can. Prepare a list of interesting questions to ask potential clients about their business experiences and struggles. People like to talk about their problems and are generally open to hearing solutions. Be prepared to talk about how other clients dealt with similar struggles.
While you may be tempted to demonstrate your capabilities on the spot and tell prospects how to solve their business issues, this is not advisable. The more you show your abilities early on, the more salesy you sound. Speaking to them about possible solutions is OK, but you should strive to build enough interest to set a follow-up meeting.
Once you are in front of your new friend in a follow-up meeting, you can feel more comfortable formulating solutions with them. At this point, you may have won an engagement. And the best part is you were busy helping and not selling. It’s a win-win situation for both the client and your firm. Both benefit from this newly established relationship based on trust and honesty.
To learn more about building a dynamic culture through relationships and how to position yourself as a Trusted Advisor, please get in touch with Us to schedule a complimentary phone consultation. The Rainmaker Companies can help you Grow Your Firm, Grow Your Practice, or Grow Your Self.