The Sales for Accountants blog from Insight, exclusively for accountants - a free accountancy blog resource packed with great sales and marketing content
The recent economic changes and the unknown future that looms ahead has forced us all to reassess what we are doing in business and how we can continue to grow. This includes hundreds if not thousands of accountancy firms who have historically needed to do very little to win new clients. Perhaps you are one of them?
Those who are keen to grow and win new clients often try telemarketing as their first option. Sadly, we speak to accountancy firms of all sizes almost every week that have ploughed money – sometimes significant sums - into telemarketing and got nothing in return. One firm we met recently lost more than £200,000 over 2 years on a telemarketing campaign which failed to deliver. The situation was made worse because new partners had been taken on to handle the ‘predicted’ new work.
No wonder the word ‘telemarketing’ is taboo in some firms. The mere mention of it conjures up painful memories of paying lots of money for poor quality appointments. On the other hand, many firms have used telemarketing successfully and have generated a steady flow of top quality appointments to produce first class clients. So how can there be such a significant divide of experience, results and opinions?
If it is correctly set up, carried out and managed, telemarketing remains one of the most proven, reliable and profitable ways to win high quality new clients for accountancy firms. Equally, the margin for error is small and that means it is very easy to get things terribly wrong. And that’s why we produced the highly popular report – ‘Beware of Telemarketing’- in the hope it will highlight the risks and prevent many firms from making the most frequently occurring errors. We sincerely hope that this report will encourage some firms to investigate telemarketing further, particularly when it’s undertaken by industry experts such as Insight. However, it may deter others from telemarketing completely, and encourage them to consider other forms of marketing activity more appropriate to their business. If you don’t have a copy and would like one, please let me know and I’ll personally forward one to you – free of charge.
The report covers 12 mistakes firms often make and how to avoid them. In this blog, we’ll cover just two in brief – however these are two points which on their own can make or break a firms investment into telemarketing and appointment generation.
Expect good results – but not overnight!
In just the last 12 months alone we have carried out over 300 consultative 1:1′s with partners of firms from sole trader through to top 50. Many had tried telemarketing in the past or were currently engaged in it. When stories of dissapointment or frustration were shared there was a common theme:
1) unrealistic and poorly advised/managed expectations. Sales is not easy. A business owner should not switch their account on a whim. Those ‘clients’ will likely be quickly lost. Setting up a telemarketing campaign should never be viewed as a ‘quick fix’ or be looked upon as being easy. It isn’t! Instead, accept that you are in it for the long haul, set aside the money to fund it over that time-frame and make sure you review the results regularly with a view to improving consistently. Without question, telemarketing does work for accountants - but before you embark on a pilot or a test make sure you have done your calculations correctly, carefully and with reasonable caution. We advise potential clients that they may not see a return on their investment (money into the bank) for 12 months or more into a campaign (assuming we work on a 1-sales-day-per-week programme).
2) commission or ‘guarantee’ based arrangements. Without exception, the worse stories of dissapointment and frustration (some were particularly troubling to hear) came from those who had put all their hope on a seemingly ‘great deal’ whereby they only paid a comission for the appointment or were gauranteed ‘x’ for ‘y’. Winning new clients, who are paying professional fee’s for a service from their ‘must trusted advisor’ is not something that can be forced. It is dependant upon relationship and professionalism from the very start. On establishing differentiation, understanding, listening to and questionning your ‘prospect’ and providing good answers and value so that they choose to meet and have not been ‘strong armed’ into it. When commissions and gaurantees are used, it all too often results in the singular focus of ‘get the appointment’. Most firms find that this leads to poor relations with their ‘supplier’ and poor quality appointments resulting in wasted time and money and discouragement.
Relational Telemarketing - particularly when part of a simply yet well thought through offline plan – produces great results. Smaller volumes of high quality appointments with businesses looking to spend £4k + per annum and who actively want greater service, pro-activity, care and planning.
If your sales strategy (and you need a strategy) is setup correctly, you will be using the right partners, with the right message, to the right audience, gaining a steady flow of high quality appointments – converting c.1:4 of those to new clients and producing on average a 1.5-2x ROI based on first years fee’s. This should be considered a great success and platform from which to build your practice further!
What has your experience of appointment generation and telemarketing been? If you are considering or currently engaged in telemarketing and would like to discuss openly, freely, and without obligation your options or your current results – please feel free to call me direct on + 44 (0) 7879 654191 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or reply via this blog.
When we produce part 2 of this short blog series, we’ll also share a webinar we ran which has helped hundreds of firms to implement an offline plan that produces significant results; which is based upon quality relational telemarketing but doesn’t rely upon it….