This is a subject that appears regularly in Any Answers. I have attempted to collate and summarise the best tips and advice - including my own! explains Mark Lee.
1. Be clear as to what sort of leads you want
The key is to ensure that whoever is making the calls is briefed effectively. Before you or anyone else starts cold-calling on your behalf you need to be clear as to what makes your practice different, what criteria the target client needs to satisfy and what services you want to promote. Preparation is key here and can save you loads of time that will otherwise be wasted attending meetings that are a waste of time.
For example, are you after new businesses that have yet to appoint an accountant or established businesses who will need convincing that you could be better than their present accountant?
2. Ensure everyone involved knows what you are offering
How do you know you’re better than the prospect’s current accountant? Whoever makes the calls will need to understand how to ask key ‘open’ questions and how to relate what you can do to what the prospect says they need. Empty promises are unlikely to help as that’s probably how the present incumbent got the job in the first place.
Careful but unobtrusive questioning is required to ensure that any follow up meeting is more than an information gathering exercise for the prospect who then reverts to his existing trusted adviser with the new ideas you have freely given away.
3. Set a clear objective for all cold-calling and telemarketing exercises
The best you can hope for from telemarketing is to secure warm qualified leads for meetings. Without careful planning you will simply get a load of meetings with people who want a cheap accountant.
You may be better off aiming simply to get permission to have a follow-up call at a convenient time. Although you’ll then be fully prepped, do note that the prospect will NEVER be sitting there waiting for the phone to ring. They may forget, they may have some key business activity that takes priority. But, if you’re lucky, they may give this follow up call more attention as they have agreed to it in contrast to the initial cold-call that was simply an interruption to their day.
4. Think about how you will qualify prospective leads
The biggest complaint I hear from accountants about their telemarketing efforts is that the lead wasn’t properly qualified. The prospective client simply wanted a new accountant who was cheaper than their current one. Hopefully this is not your key selling point. In which case what do you want the prospect to be saying before you decide it will be worth meeting with them?
5. How will you close the deal?
Telemarketing is only ever the start of the sales process. YOU will still need to be able to satisfy the prospect that you’re the right person to help, to solve their problems and to provide the solutions and service they require. YOU need to be able to ‘CLOSE’ the deal. If you can’t do that you’re wasting your time.
6. Ensure the prospect gets multiple pre-meeting ‘touches’
Meetings will be far more worthwhile if the prospective client feels positive about their interactions with the accountant (through the telemarketer) beforehand. And such feelings can be enhanced by making contact (touching) the contact more than once. So after a meeting has been fixed up over the phone, ensure the firm should, at a minimum:
- send out a written confirmation perhaps with a short relevant piece of promo literature (NOT a full brochure – unless the prospect requested this)
- If there’s time, look up the prospect on LinkedIn or elsewhere on the web (not simply their website) and try to find an excuse to send something relevant and useful to them before the meeting
- Ensure that your messages are tailored and not standard sales messages
- Where ever possible evidence the fact that you specialise in the prospect’s industry, business type or something else relevant to them – prove that you have specific expertise and are not ‘just another accountant’
- The day before the meeting someone should call the prospect to confirm the meeting, location, time, how best to find the building/park
7. Focus on what prospects most want
Businesses are typically more interested in pro-active business advice than in the process of producing their accounts or tax returns. Instead you will need to be focused more on value and benefits and able to articulate specific relevant examples of these.
One way in which accountants can distinguish themselves when using telemarketing for new clients is to ascertain the nature of the tax issues and problems facing the prospective client. Detailed tax issues and problems can then be explored at an initial meeting even if the accountant may require later require support in developing and implementing solutions.
8. Relevant experience counts
Yes, you could ask your staff to source leads and to get cold calling but this is unlikely to be as effective as using experienced telemarketers. ‘Experienced’ that is in generating qualified leads for professional service providers.
It is MUCH easier to educate such specialists as regards the specifics of your firm than it is to train up in-house people to be effective at qualified lead generation through telemarketing. For a start, the first 20 seconds of a call can be crucial. As is the ability to keep going despite getting lots of ‘no thanks’ when you get through to prospects. And there’s a skill to getting through the gate-keepers too.
9. Consider getting appropriate training
On an Any Answers thread last month about cold calling obstructions I endorsed a recommendation by @charlesgrace for a training system named after David Sandler. At one extreme this helps you to weed out timewasters early in the sales process.
As already mention though I think it makes more sense to engage a specialist to make the calls rather than spending time trying to do it yourself.
10. Incentivise the outcomes you want
The key is to ensure that any incentive acts to motivate desired results. Telemarketers who are paid for each lead they generate will secure loads of inappropriate leads. There’s no point in the accountant then going to loads of meetings that are not with desirable and real prospect clients.
I suggest instead that you incentivise teamwork rather than pay a fee per meeting fixed up or per new client signed up. You don’t want to attend meetings that have no serious prospect of allowing you to generate the fees you want for the work you enjoy doing. And paying a third party by reference to your success at ‘closing’ isn’t going to work well either.
This thread (and others) on Any Answers contains further tips along these lines from @maxxy who provides telemarketing services for accountants.
One way of encouraging teamwork is to pay per day’s work undertaken by the telemarketing service with no long-term contract. This can help ensure that everyone has the same objective – to maximise the benefit of the exercise for both parties. This includes monitoring and adapting how the exercise is working in the light of experience.
Please share your views, experiences and tips re. telemarketing below.