Efficiency leads to performance
Efficiency leads to performance

Sales 101 for tax professionals: now you’re in the sales groove

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In the first article in a three-part series on selling, I offered tips for generating new business by clearly defining your niche, reaching and retaining clients best suited for your firm and visa versa, selling the value you provide, and developing a sales process and approach that is most fitting for your firm’s strengths. In part two, we’ll explore the actual sale.

As tax professionals, we often get lost in daily demands, and overlook the importance of selling not just the services we provide, but our firm, staff, and values.

Managing your contacts is key!

To sell your firm effectively, you must be able to track and manage clients and prospects beyond the contact information in your accounting system. A good customer relationship management (CRM) tool is imperative if you plan to grow your business and deepen your client relationships.

There are a number of good CRMs varying in complexity and price; for a list of CRMs that integrate with QuickBooks® Online, go to the QuickBooks App Center and search for “CRM” to see a multitude of options.

Salesforce is a large enterprise CRM and may be a bit too complex if you’re a small firm taking a first dive into a CRM system. We currently use Insightly, a solid middle of the road CRM with plenty of customization to build out your workflow. It also integrates well with many other apps, including G Suite, Mailchimp, Microsoft Outlook, and Quickbooks Online.

A major consideration in choosing a CRM is the depth of its integrations. As much as we love Insightly, we are seriously considering a transition to Intuit® Practice Management powered by Karbon because of its deep integration with QuickBooks Online, Lacerte® and ProConnect™ Tax – all tools we use in our everyday workflow. The ability to eliminate double entry of client information, tasks, and project data in multiple systems would improve our workflow.

Regardless of which CRM you decide to use, I suggest you thoroughly research and choose a CRM wisely. It can be a major endeavor to transition from one to another. It’s really easy to get lost in the interesting bells and whistles offered and lose focus; I dub it “the next shiny thing syndrome.”

There is undoubtedly a lot of functionality you can and should consider taking advantage of, but don’t lose focus on the goals of your CRM: track customers, manage projects, save time, increase efficiency, and gain insight into meaningful data.

Keep it simple to start; you can always further improve workflows and processes as the need for more functionality arises.

Cross selling services is good for the client and good for the firm

Now that you have a potential client on Zoom and no longer across the table due to COVID-19, part of your goal is to gather information so you can understand the prospect’s needs and best identify how your services can help them succeed. Listening is key; this is the beginning of getting to know your potential client and developing a relationship.

Let’s say the prospect or even a current client initially inquired about tax prep. That’s great, but ask yourself, “What other needs might they have?” This is how we increase our value, deepen the relationship, and create an environment in which the relationship is most likely to thrive. I often tell my team, “Prospects and clients don’t know what they don’t know,” so it’s our job to educate them on products and services they possibly don’t even know they need.

In these onboarding conversations, I try to set client expectations as to why we recommend various apps and process changes. It’s important to educate them as to why these additional services or products can make them more efficient, save them time and money, reduce the risk of shortfalls, and free up your team (which is their team!) to help them scale and grow their business.

Cross selling isn’t about selling; it’s about identifying needs, and matching those with your services and strengths. Cultivating a win-win experience will hopefully deepen client relationships and create opportunities for additional lines of revenue that genuinely benefit the client. What we have to offer is valuable, and we shouldn’t assume prospects and clients know all that we have to offer or even know what to ask from us.

Closing the sale … the fun has just begun

Remember, prospects are contacting you because they have needs. Acknowledge those needs and be confident in knowing that you have solutions.

While I assume they will say “yes” and immediately move into the onboarding process, I still try to make it as easy as possible for the client to join our firm. I’m also intentional about expressing my genuine excitement about having them as a client. I express my thanks and share how honored we are to be given the opportunity to help them achieve their goals.

Once you get a yes, move on, because fewer words are better at this point. Move on from the sales experience and get to the onboarding. Once onboarded, you can address all their technical tax and accounting questions, and begin sharing your valuable time, expertise, and energy.

People need our services, but more than anything, they want to feel listened to, appreciated, and taken care of. We may be in the tax and accounting profession, but above everything else, we are in the people business.

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