Tracy Crevar Warren
Tracy Crevar Warren

What Clients Want to Know Before Saying 'You're Hired'

Use these 10 tips to avoid critical mistakes on your next sales call.

August 10, 2009
by Tracy Crevar Warren

Ever been in a sales meeting when the person sitting across the table from you seemed to be saying anything they could to win the sale, but their words were focused primarily on themselves? Their inward focus lacked a sincere interest in understanding what the prospect actually needed to help them succeed. You are not alone. It's one of the biggest mistakes that occur during the sales process, and it generally leads to disaster.

As you prepare for your next sales call? Here are 10 tips that potential clients want to learn from you before saying "you're hired:"

  1. Can they trust you to deliver what you promised?
  2. Do you truly care about helping them and their business succeed?
  3. Do you understand their business and their industry?
  4. Do you understand their current situation — including their issues and goals?
  5. How have you helped clients overcome similar problems or achieve similar goals?
  6. Will you be proactive in the relationship?
  7. Will you provide ongoing new insight or strictly a commodity-type service?
  8. How often will they see the team's leader?
  9. Who will actually be doing the work?
  10. Will the service team change frequently?

It All Begins With Trust

Gaining a potential client's trust is perhaps the most essential element of the sales process. If they don't trust you, it does not matter how much experience you have. Unfortunately, most CPAs jump right into facts and numbers when trying to establish a new business relationship. Sounds logical, but it doesn't generally work. Prospects want to know things like: Will you deliver on your promises? Will they be embarrassed for their decision to hire you? Will you actually be able to help them solve their problems or achieve their goals?

When this step is overlooked, it spells trouble. Until you help them understand who you are, they will not be interested in hearing what else you have to say. To get things started, share something more personal from your past that they may not gain from your bio. Let them know about the first time you really knew you had gone into the right profession or a situation that allowed you to showcase your passion for helping a client.

It's also important to let your prospective clients know why you are there. For example, you want to explore the opportunity of doing business together since you specialize in their industry and have helped similar clients achieve their goals.

Ask Questions to Address Potential Issues

Your prospects will want to know whether you are focused on their best interest. Do you really care about helping them and their business succeed? Unfortunately CPAs are often so focused on winning the sale, they come across as uncaring to their prospective clientele. Ask questions or make probing statements about your prospective client's business and their situation is one of the best ways to demonstrate your empathy. For example, you can ask questions and pose comments, such as: How has the recent economic downturn affected your business? Tell me a little about the goals you are working toward. Help me understand some of the challenges you are facing and how you are working to overcome them.

Ask specific questions that demonstrate your knowledge of their business and industry. Plan these questions before you arrive. This will allow you to concentrate on their responses.

Use Stories to Help Clients Understand

Using real-life examples or stories is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate how you have worked with similar clients to address these critical issues. A story enables a prospective client to walk right into a situation and understand what you do for your clients. Narratives can be extremely powerful in relaying complex concepts that bullet points and PowerPoint presentations simply can't. Stories enable them to see the situation from their point of view. What's more, your prospective clients will be able to see that there is a solution to their issues and problems and you can help them find it.

Tell stories about how you helped a client solve a similar problem. Unveil a time when your team was proactive in helping clients consider new ideas. Give examples of how your firm's partner-in-charge of an engagement is involved actively with your clients. Share a story that addresses your firm's track record in having a continuity of professionals serving its clients.

Just like having prepared questions, it's a good idea to have some stories ready before the call. You might think of some other great examples while you are there, but at least you will be ready to get the conversation started.

Ask for More

There may be other issues that your prospective clients want to know, so make sure you address them. Consider questions like: What other concerns do you have? Is there advice or assistance you are seeking but is not presently being addressed by your current advisors? What other issues have we not addressed today in our meeting, which are important to you?

If you want to retain more new business, address the issues that your prospective clients want to know. Not only will your actions help differentiate you from your competition, but they will give you a stronger sense of what your clients really need once you get their business.

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Tracy Crevar Warren, president and founder of The Crevar Group, advises professional services firms striving to grow and maximize performance. She is an author and frequent speaker on various growth, business development, and marketing topics for local, regional, national, and international audiences. Warren can be reached at 336-889-GROW (4769). The Sales PDA is a tool developed by The Crevar Group. For more information, contact Tracy Crevar Warren.