Why is it that people seem to forget what it’s like to be sold to, as soon as they start doing the selling? We all know how annoying it is to have a bad sales pitch directed at us when we least want it – and yet the blinkers descend whenever we’re trying to flog our services to someone else. And you wonder why accounting firms tend not to be good at selling?
There are two reasons why it happens. One is just obtuse selling technique, which is the result of bad hiring and bad training. The other is a lack of good information, and unless you have a decent IT function, you’re going to have trouble cross-selling. That’s because one of the great strengths of IT is its ability to help you deal with clients.
You’ll have heard the old maxim that accounting is ‘a people business’, and is all about relationships, trust and convenience. At the heart of good selling are exactly those concepts, but it’s devilishly difficult to do well. Selling is all about people – certainly not about charm, smarm and a golden sales patter.
Instead, the most effective selling occurs when the client truly believes what you are offering is in their best interests, and that it is their own best interests you have at heart.
One of the most powerful consumer research studies I have ever seen was in the banking sector a few years ago. It transpired that an astonishing number of people opened their monthly bank statement in the unspoken belief that ‘the bank manager’ was the last person to have read it before it was posted to them.
They felt that somebody older, wiser and caring had skimmed their month’s transactions and said: ‘That’s a good month. Well done.’
People will always be impressed when it appears you have done your homework. They love to think they are important enough to warrant special focus.
Then, when that firm contacts them with real evidence that their movements have been tracked and reflected upon, and that there is a particular solution selected just for them, there can be an extraordinary – and very human – response.
It is these feelings that the best cross-selling will trigger. And this is where good IT comes into its own. The information is often sitting quite unused in your own data systems. What you need is a system that will allow you to track your key clients, so that you can spot what they’re doing, where they’re going, and (by extension – using your intuition) what they will need next.
This is not difficult – but it takes a combination of accessible management information, intelligent application of thought to their precise needs, and then the wit to put across engagingly that you have been going through precisely that process. It’s the simple stuff like this that makes IT work.
All of this can be killed stone dead by the clunky sales pitch on the phone – or the generic, laser-printed circular. It’s a combination of hard facts, and soft people skills. But without the facts, you’re left with charm and the smarm. And you wouldn’t buy from a company like that, would you?
- Mungo Dunnett, principal of Mungo Dunnett Associates.
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