Proprietor David Winch
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Sales conversations: Getting the results you want faster

30th Jun 2010
Proprietor David Winch
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David Winch pinpoints the key flaws in traditional sales conversations and outlines how to improve the process when agreeing engagements with new or existing clients.

Getting new work is all about speaking to clients in a language they understand and ensuring they trust you. As traditionally technically minded people, accountants have a harder time than most when it comes to selling themselves to prospective clients, but these conversations need to happen if you want to grow your business.

So, what's your strategy for a sales conversation? Do yours follow the familiar pattern because that is what you've always done, and you started doing it because it was what everybody else did? Were you taught that it was a reasonable strategy, in fact the best, or maybe the only strategy?

What are the major steps of your strategy? What stages does your conversation progress through? If we assume that one of the last steps is to attempt to close an order, what happens if you don't succeed? Where do you go after that?

Maybe the time has come to take a closer look at your current strategy and see if it can be improved.

The major steps

Many traditional sales conversation strategies follow a pattern a bit like this:

  • Investigate the problem
  • Analyse the problem
  • Construct a solution
  • Make a proposal
  • Attempt to 'trial close'

Round and round
If the trial close is unsuccessful, the perceived wisdom is that the sequence should start again from the beginning with more investigation, more analysis, more solution building, and another proposal tabled - followed of course by another trial close.

The great mile race
In this kind of culture, the expectation is that the first attempt to close is highly unlikely to be successful. This nourishes the thought that two or more iterations will be needed and, in its turn, this can drive sales people to feel they are like runners in a one mile race. They often go into the process thinking that they may as well get the first lap completed quickly.

Of course the natural progression from here is that the first steps are skimped, to the extent that they are highly unlikely ever to be successful. The process becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, reinforced by the "one 'no' nearer a 'yes'" brigade.

Each step just once
There is an alternative, and it can improve the 'quality' of the way each step is conducted. Whilst many of the basic steps remain the same, some can be replaced by better steps; but even more radical - and my own experience and that of a large number of others shows that this can be highly productive - is to take each step just once, not moving to the next step until the current one is completed.

Starting with a thorough understanding of the pertinent problems and issues they face, you need the client to see for themselves the difference dealing with these issues will make to their business. Having taken the client through all the ramifications of working together, you can make your proposal and, with their appetite whetted, your fee should then look like a bargain investment in order to gain the return that is that difference to their business. By now they will ask to buy from you, and you'll hardly have to sell at all. 

By a mixture of study, coaching and practice, the effectiveness of each step can be greatly increased.

Furthermore, if a culture of helping the client to get the best deal not only exists but trumps all other considerations, there will be an incentive not to move on to the next step until the client indicates they believe they have got the best they can from the current step.

*David Winch is an independent marketing and sales consultant and runs David Winch Consultancy. See for more information. He is not the David Winch of Accounting Evidence Ltd and MLRO Support.

David will be hosting a 'Pricing By Value' workshop on 15 July in London. Click here for further details and for booking information (external site).


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By Bob Harper
30th Jun 2010 14:29


@David - all good stuff!

Interestingly I have been doing some one-to-one value pricing/sales coaching with an accountant over the last couple of weeks on a new enquiry they received. We are using this to get the sales process and methodology in place.

As well as explaining what happens in the prospect's/client's mind during the sales and pricing conversion, one of the things I suggested which really helped with a mindset shift was assuming the position of a consultant, rather than service provider.  

Pretend you will not actually deliver a service or solution and you are being paid by the client to assess the situation and advise what to do. If you do this you will naturally spend more time getting an understanding of the situation and the circumstances from the client’s perspective.  You will also not fall into the trap of going too far and trying to fix the problem.

When you do this and identify problems and/or uncover opportunities you can build a business case on each with the client based on the value to them and the likely investment of time, money and energy compared to other things going on in the business.  

The sales conversion is about building commitment step by step and if you do this well the client will close the sale by asking "what’s the next step?” When they say this it’s time to show leadership and move the client past the close into the solution with a suggested action plan and to set the budget based on a share of responsibilities but always taking account of the value as expressed by the client.

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing

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