How to Develop a Sales Process to Turn Prospects into Clients
Many people, bookkeepers included, cringe at the word “sales” or the thought of “selling.” The reality is that every living person uses sales or influence to get their way. For example, a toddler throwing a tantrum in a crowded shopping mall is merely allowing his/her parents to exchange peace and quiet for a desired object.
Bookkeepers need a consistent sales process if they want to grow. The intent of your sales process is to consistently:
- Build relationships with prospects
- Identify needs
- Identify solutions
- Set expectations and parameters
- Move relationship forward or disengage
- Track results
Build Relationships with Prospects
Our marketing efforts are best utilized if we have a consistent sales process to turn prospects into clients. The starting point of any relationship is getting to know one another. Your first challenge is to build sufficient rapport with a prospect to encourage an initial meeting. One tip: ask lots of questions and let the prospect talk. Listening intently and actively will significantly increase your chances of signing up a new client.
There are specific steps and questions that I use to build rapport. Once I have built rapport, my sales process always starts with the same question, “What aspects of your business keep you awake at night?” I spend the majority of my first meeting asking questions and exploring the business needs of the prospect. I make notes for later so that I can summarize needs and set priorities. Do not rush this stage, as it helps with pricing and setting engagement terms.
This is not a free consulting session, so do not blurt out ideas and solutions as they come to you. Instead, focus on listening to the client. Make notes of any solutions that you may wish to discuss after all needs have been identified and prioritized. You can now mention service offerings that will meet their needs. Keep this conversation at a high level – you can go into greater detail after they become a paying client. Use this meeting to clearly communicate your value to the prospect.
Set Expectations and Parameters
Use a standard engagement letter template and a menu of services to pair needs with solutions. Discuss and agree to all aspects of the client relationship. Document the terms in an engagement letter to ensure mutual understanding.
Move the Relationship Forward or Disengage
Bookkeepers are often uncomfortable with asking a prospect to take action to become a client. In sales terminology, this is asking for the “close.” Take the pressure off by agreeing at the start of a meeting that you will either move the relationship forward or disengage. If the prospect needs time to “think it over,” be sure to ask them when they anticipate a decision. Do not waste your time following up repeatedly if they are not ready to proceed. If they are ready to move ahead, give them a timeline for the next steps. Every sales meeting must end with a planned next step. For example, by what date will you send them an engagement letter?
You should track your marketing and sales efforts to ensure that you are getting adequate results. A good Customer Relationship Management system can help you track how many prospect leads you generate through marketing, as well as how many leads you convert to clients in your sales process. Review your results regularly to identify opportunities and weaknesses.
The secret to earning more and working less is about the importance of developing client relationships through a deliberate sales process.