Accountants and the breadth of accounting services that firms provide are critically vital to your clients. Many of you are an integral part of your client’s businesses, especially in today’s environment where nearly everyone is struggling due to coronavirus. It’s why you are probably referred to as a trusted advisor. So why is it so difficult, at times, to ask for the work?
It’s not often that someone chooses the accounting profession with the thought of also having to sell the work. Accountants hone their technical craft and become experts in their field; keeping apprised of the ever-changing trends and regulatory mandates. As professionals grow through the ranks and arrive at the manager and senior manager levels, there comes the time when they are expected to generate business in order to advance to partner. That can be a very daunting realization, for some.
Selling and asking for work can be an unexpected and fear-inducing hurdle. This fear is intensified now as accountants navigate whether sales is possible during these turbulent times.
Flipping the Script
Flipping the script from “selling” to delivering critical value can be the key to releasing the fear, and it’s what makes selling possible in all environments. Viewing the services that you and your firm provide prospective clients as helping can start to massage the discomfort of asking for the work.
The first step is to truly understand the prospect and their pain points. The more you know about their business and needs, the easier it becomes to help them. Having strong relationships and asking thought-provoking questions allows you to better understand what your prospect is trying to fix, accomplish, or avoid. The secret sauce is becoming genuinely curious about them and their business. Doing so helps to create an essential rapport and develops the much-needed trust that differentiates you from your competitors. With more information you are able to provide the services you know they need. This creates a “pull” verses a “push.” Selling is pushing; helping is pulling.
You never want to push any available service on a prospect to see what will stick, even if someone told you that your career depends on it. This action generally invokes a fear response because it’s not genuine. Pushing rarely works and makes asking for the sale very uncomfortable and disingenuous. When you know that you are offering services that will uniquely suit your client’s real needs, the ask is more natural and comfortable.
When there is trust and rapport, your prospects will invite you in or “pull” you in for your help. They will want to work with you, thereby making the ask very simple. Put yourself in the position to earn the right to ask for the work. Charlie Green, co-author of the book The Trusted Advisor, developed an equation on how to build trust:
Trust = credibility + reliability + intimacy / self-orientation
You gain trust when you have technical credibility and prospects can expect you to be reliable. Most accounting professionals exhibit those qualities. Where accountants can really increase trust with a prospect is when they build rapport and lower their self-orientation or focus on one’s self. Building strong relationships based on genuine curiosity with clients, while focusing on their needs and business, verses your firm and what you’re trying to “sell,” exponentially increases trust.
Trust is an endearing quality and your prospects will know that you have their best interests at heart, eliminating the need to feel like a sales person.
Choosing Excitement, Not Fear
Here’s another way to look at it… more scientifically. Fear is a human and natural emotion. The tricky part about it is that physiologically fear presents itself in the body the same way as excitement. Research shows the same chemical hormones released in the brain show up when you are afraid and when you are excited. Pretty crazy, isn’t it? Think about it.
When you are excited, you may have a shortness of breath and maybe sweaty palms. Your cognitive brain can even feel compromised when you are excited due to the chemicals released from the primitive brain, the amygdala. What makes this fact so powerful is that when you have the physiological responses, you have a choice. You can either tell the brain that you are afraid or that you are excited. You get to define the response yourself.
Be fearless. Choose excitement instead of fear. Find excitement in the ability to help your prospects grow and achieve their ambitions. You have the tools to do that for and with them. Take the time to know your prospects, determine how you and your firm can be of service, write a terrific proposal tailored for the client and ask for the work… you’ll have earned that right. If you don’t ask for the work, your competitors will.
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” ~George Addair, founder, The Omega Vector
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About Ashleigh Miller
After spending over 20 years working for professional services organizations, serving large multinational companies across every industry, I decided to create Amplify Excellence. I spent time coaching teams on account management, growth strategies, and sales and negotiation methodologies. I have worked with C-suite executives of Fortune 100 companies building innovative programs to network peers facing similar challenges for purposes of learning, sharing ideas, and cultivating strong business connections.
Having served organizations in a wide variety of capacities, it occurred to me that the success (or lack of success), in every business function, was grounded in the degree to which interpersonal communications were effective and if there was a clear strategy in place. I experienced so many situations where goals were missed, money was left on the table, and morale suffered due to the lack of understanding of one another as human beings. I started Amplify Excellence to help organizations realize the importance of the human element to the success of their companies and to provide a simple solution to solve this valuable need.