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An Introduction to Consultative Selling: Essential Advice to Understand Your Client

11th Dec 2023
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Sage is the market leader for integrated accounting.

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In our previous post, we explored how technology can help you build a human-centric firm, with an emphasis on the significance of strong communication and empathy in your accounting services.

Now, we’re taking the next step into consultative selling – a practice that goes beyond number crunching and focuses on the art of emotive selling.

For Will Farnell, this approach to accountancy is “less about the numbers and more about the emotional resonance. How do we make our clients feel safe, confident, and motivated?”

What is Consultative Selling?

Consultative selling is an approach that focuses on creating long-term value and trust with your client. Crucially, it involves exploring their needs before offering a solution. When engaging with a potential client, the first objective is to build a relationship; the second is to provide the right service.

Instead of walking a prospect through a potentially overwhelming selection of options, consultative selling seeks to understand the client’s unique situation, goals, and challenges.

Moving from Traditional to Consultative Selling

Gone are the days when accountants were expected to crunch the numbers in isolation. Today’s clients are far more likely to look to their accountant for insights, guidance on their business, and above all, someone who understands their challenges and vision for their business. This shift in client expectations has given rise to consultative selling – an approach where accountants actively engage with their clients to uncover their needs, pain points and goals.

4 Ways to Apply a Consultative Selling Approach to Your Practice

The first step in consultative selling is to identify the key areas where your clients need support. This should not be a one-size-fits-all approach; it requires a deep understanding of each client’s individual circumstances. Here are some strategies to help you uncover them.

  1. Empathetic Listening

Consultative selling starts with understanding what your clients are concerned about. When you engage with your client, make sure to ask about their challenges and concerns. Often, it’s not what they say but what they don’t say that holds the key to their needs. Be attentive to their emotional cues, ask open-ended questions to encourage them to share openly, and balance questions with insights.

Asking too many questions can lead to a conversation feeling more of an interrogation. Offering insights along the way position you as a invaluable expert in the field; consider briefly discussing how well this solution has helped other businesses similar to your client.

Plus, be assertive when talking about your product, and ready to reference examples of relevant work in your client’s area.

  1. Pain Points Analysis

One of the most effective ways to identify clients needs is by analysing their pain points. What keeps them aware at night? What financial challenges are they struggling to overcome? By digging deep into their pain points, you can tailor your services to help their specific issues.

Priority number one in consultative selling is becoming an active listener – not interrupting their train of thought, and continuously empathising with your prospects. If they’re opening up about a challenge, be as thoughtful and genuine as you can. Let them know that these challenges matter to you.

  1. Workshops

Organise workshops or mind mapping sessions with your clients. These sessions can provide an invaluable platform for open discussions and idea sharing. While face-to-face meetings are not always possible, consider using video conferencing tools to bridge the gap. Video calls can also facilitate productive discussions by sharing screens and concepts.

  1. Be Open to Feedback

So, you’ve talked to a potential client over the phone or in person, feel confident, and you’ve now pitched your service. What next?

If your email has been met by radio silence, then follow up by asking for feedback. If your potential client has any concerns around the proposed solution, take this as a opportunity to  better understand their needs and expectations. Asking for their perspective paves the way to a collaborative, consultative sales process.

Your Next steps with Sage for Accountants

Consultative selling undoubtedly takes time. To make space for it in your schedule, having the right technology to support you is key.

  • Sage for Accountants: Powerful, customisable software for accountants and bookkeepers. Delight clients with client engagement and management tools.
  • GoProposal by Sage: Use ready-to-go toolkits like GoProposal by Sage to send out consistent pricing, professional proposals and renewals to sell and price confidently to clients.

Consultative selling is not just about providing financial advice or completing tax returns; it’s about building lasting relationships based on trust and empathy. It’s about making your clients feel heard and understood, and ultimately, helping them achieve their financial aspirations.

By actively listening, analysing pain points and using data, accountants can transform themselves into advisors who make their clients feel safe, supported, and confident to go after their goals.