Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sealing The Deal – Part 6

You Asked For The Engagement And They Didn’t Say Yes

Now What Do You Do?

In the last post we looked at what happens when you either didn’t connect personally or didn’t offer solutions that resonated with the prospect. Whether it was one of those reasons or a combination thereof, you did not get the engagement. We looked at some things you can do to overcome that initial “no” – which you tried – and, guess what, they STILL said no. Or at least didn’t say “yes.”

However good it might feel as you stumble out into the parking lot to curse their lack of perception and judgment while you mentally apply a tourniquet to your hemorrhaging ego, it won’t change anything. So let’s explore one final methodology that might help you eventually snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The idea is to stay in touch with the prospect, but do so in a manner that is more than a wave and “hi” at the local little league game. Of course, you’ll still do that if the opportunity presents itself, but what we want to do manage their perception of you so that eventually you become someone they want to do business with.

Along with staying toward the front of their memory banks, you also want to set yourself apart; to stand out from competing accountants.

One of the most successful approaches to ensure the prospect doesn’t forget you is to provide them real value. For example, you can send them a short email saying, e.g. “Hello Ted. I was just reviewing the new tax regulations for 2009 and I see that there are some new rules related to farm equipment depreciation that might impact your situation. I recall you said Abe Brown is doing your taxes but that you don’t do any forward planning. This is an instance where it might be to your financial advantage to do so. Regards, Alice.” After reading this, what will they do? Well, they might call Abe, but it is just as likely they’ll call you. It won’t be the worst thing in the world if they do call Abe and he quickly reveals he doesn’t know what they are talking about. If you do this you’re not being overly aggressive. There’s no pressure; you’re not being pushy, just helpful.

Or, you can do something more sophisticated and unique. For example, if your firm subscribes to ProfitCents you can easily and quickly prepare a comparative report that gives your prospect an idea of how their business is doing vis-à-vis other, similarly situated companies. You can use this to absolutely knock their socks off with data they’ve never seen before. You offer to go through the report in more detail and relate its contents to their circumstances. If that happens, I’m sure you can see where this goes and how it reawakens your opportunity to close the prospect.

This is an opportunity to differentiate you from other accountants. You can modify the ProfitCents form so that only you and/or your firm appear on the document. Unless you have very sophisticated competitors (and you are just plain unlucky) no one will recognize where the information came from. It’s powerful stuff.

(ProfitCents is a program that interprets financial statements into plain-language, narrative reports that include ratios, graphs, industry comparisons and trend analysis. It is available from SageWorks, Inc. There are also some companies that will run a report for you for a fee. I’ve encouraged many clients to use this technique and there have been some spectacular results. Check it out on the net.)

My experience is that providing valuable content is far more persuasive to the average prospect than, say, giving them tickets to a baseball game or similar. You need to demonstrate that you aren’t just a nice person … shoot, everyone plays that card … and instead up the ante by doing something that separates you from the herd and gets their attention. I’ve given you a couple of examples, and I’ll leave it up to your fertile imaginations to come up with even better ideas.

Topic Change

I received a couple of emails asking for further explanation about the last post when I talked about withdrawing before the prospect says “no.” The scenario is ripe when you feel the conversation with the prospect isn’t going well and the chances are poor the meeting will be successful. So, I proposed you preempt the situation by taking yourself out of the game. I said one means was to essentially state that your services are overkill for their circumstances and they should seek a more basic solution to their needs. The unspoken message is that you are too knowledgeable, skilled, experienced, expensive, etc. for them. It also says you are honest and have the forthrightness to tell them the truth. In sales, this is called a scarcity play. Many prospects are surprised by this withdrawal tactic and it is not at all unusual for them to do a 180 degree turn. Why? Because you have said “you can’t have this” and, of course, people immediately want it. This is a very powerful motivator.

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