Being a senior accountant in 2009 involves much more than accounting,
particularly given companies are becoming more and more selective of the firms
they do business with. For you and your firm to survive the downturn, business
pitches (and winning them) have become vital.
Yet many accountants miss out on winning new business. This is mainly because
they employ the wrong sales techniques, react to pressure by jumping straight
into selling, appear desperate and fail to address the individual needs and
expectations of their prospective clients.
Firstly, accountants often fail present to themselves as a team. Team members
should introduce themselves and no one person should take the limelight.
Another mistake often made is striking too early with the hard sell. Teams
often pounce at the first sign of interest when, instead, they should hold back
and listen. Accountants pitching ought to find out more about what the client
really wants. The result is a prospect who sees an interested team. The client
learns, the accountants learn and the team has built value into their
proposition. Price, therefore, becomes less of an issue.
Also bear in mind the ‘So what?’ question. It might be impressive that your
firm ranks highly and has just opened a new office in Abu Dhabi, but is this
relevant to your client’s needs?
Ultimately, pitches should be made as simple as possible. Teams try to
communicate far too much information to prospects and ‘sell’.
Multimillionaire businessman and star of ‘The Apprentice’ in the USA, Donald
Trump, once said in Forbes magazine that those pitching ‘have to be
enthusiastic, succinct, and fast’. Therefore keep credential documents as brief
as possible (anything approaching the length of a Harry Potter novel is perhaps
too long!) and explore the client’s issues. This has much more impact than
simply stating what services you offer.
By asking questions, the client feels listened to, rather than sold to.
Remember that pitches are not only an opportunity to close deals, but also a
chance to establish relationships. Therefore, the aim is to leave the client
feeling really good about meeting you and positive about doing business with you
in the future.
Jack Downton is the MD of The Influence Business and a
former Royal Marines colonel
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