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Tracy Crevar Warren

Developing a Successful Game Plan

Is the first step in acquiring and retaining new clients.

November 10, 2008
by Tracy Crevar Warren

In a previous column, I revealed the importance of CPAs asking powerful questions on sales calls and listening to what your potential client has to say. Bragging about your firm is not the key to a successful sale. What your clients care about is how well you understand their business and how you can provide solutions to their specific needs. Successful rainmakers achieve this by focusing their efforts on learning all they can about their clientele.

Just like Michael Phelps made winning eight Olympic gold medals look easy in Beijing, the industry’s most successful rainmakers make questioning on a sales call look easy. And like Phelps, successful rainmakers spend hours getting ready long before they arrive in a prospective client’s office for the first meeting. So take a tip from the best — don’t “wing it.” Be prepared and spend time developing a game plan that demonstrates your knowledge and interest to the potential client during that first meeting.

Developing the Game Plan

Great rainmakers understand that a prospect typically has little or nothing to base their decision on to hire you. Everything you do during the pursuit process will be an indicator of what it will be like to work with you. So, your first of order of business in any new quest is to develop a game plan.

The Sales PDA

To help you and your team develop a successful game plan, you need to break it down into three parts — Prior, During and After. Think of these three parts as your Sales PDA. Focus on being able to answer the following three questions:

  1. What do I need to do prior to the meeting?
  2. What do I need to do during the meeting?
  3. What do I need to do after the meeting?

Prior to the Meeting

If your firm doesn’t have a pre-call planning session prior to each sales call, it’s time to start. Would you ever conduct an audit or significant tax engagement without pre-planning? So why not do the same thing for your sales endeavors? What should your game plan include? There are many components, but here are some essentials.  

  • Determine your objective for the meeting — understand that it generally takes more than one call to win a client’s trust, so be prepared for each step in the process.
  • Research the company and its decision-makers.
  • Determine similar clients you currently work with and what key issues are important to them.
  • Identify who is best suited to go on the call — determine what role each person should play on the call (i.e. leader, moderator, industry or subject expert, scribe).
  • What key points do you want to cover?
  • What questions will help you uncover the information you want to learn?
  • Develop an agenda for the call — it will demonstrate your leadership skills and show respect for their time.

During the Meeting

Great rainmakers understand that their prospects will compare how you handle a sales call with the way you will serve them as a client. Here are some keys to a successful sales call.

  • State the purpose for the meeting — review agenda and timeframe;
  • Learn about everyone attending the meeting — their role and reason for attending;
  • Position yourself as a trusted advisor versus offering a sales pitch. Be inquisitive:
    • Look for pain and expand
    • Listen, Listen, Listen. Pay careful attention to what is said and what is not said
    • Encourage prospects to elaborate on answers

  • Take good notes;
  • Don’t be quick to offer solutions;
  • Do talk about the ideas and solutions you can provide to the issues they’ve expressed:
    • Summarize what you have heard
    • Demonstrate your knowledge of their industry through questions and stories
  • Move to advance the opportunity:
    • Schedule a time for the next meeting prior to departure
    • Are there others you need to meet?

After the Meeting

To be a successful rainmaker you should realize that your work does not end at the conclusion of the first meeting. Consider these key steps should you decide to pursue the opportunity. Your success depends on how well you execute them.

  • Debrief the meeting:
    • What went well?
    • What needed a different approach?

  • If you want to pursue the prospect, determine next steps;
  • Follow up as necessary and send thank you notes and request additional information; and  
  • Add key decision-makers to distribution lists as appropriate.

Are you ready to win more new business? Being prepared and doing your homework is the hard part. Making it look easy as you walk away with another new client is the reward you get.

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Tracy Crevar Warren, president and founder of The Crevar Group, advises professional services firms striving to grow and maximize performance. Warren was named by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the accounting industry and is a new Hall of Fame inductee in the Association for Accounting Marketing. 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).