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Image of closed sign

I Hate to Close

By Wendy Nemitz, Founder of Ingenuity Marketing Group 

Closing a sale is simple.

You wouldn’t know it from how much energy most professional service providers put into avoiding it. You would think it was a root canal; the way most professionals protest, they would rather do anything than close a sale.

Closing a sale is not magic. It is simply making sure that the questions have been answered, necessary issues have been raised, and potential clients know you would like to work with them.

Closing a professional service sale sounds like this:

  • “Your business sounds like a great fit for our firm. We would enjoy working with you and giving you great service. When will you be making a decision?”
  • “We have certainly enjoyed talking through your challenges to profitability. We have gone through the process for cost segregation and how we can analyze the data and help you pinpoint both cost savings and profit improvement strategies. We would enjoy moving forward with this project. When would you like to start?”
  • “I enjoy working with family businesses and have been able to watch many of the succession plans we’ve worked on go smoothly into place and keep both the business and the family happy. Shall we set up a meeting to start working through the major issues?”
  • “I have time to begin this project next week. Is that soon enough for you?”
  • “I enjoyed meeting you and appreciate your trust in our firm. How would you like me to follow up with you?”

I am making a change in my business and as a result am interviewing people to help me. No one closes! Most of the professionals I have spoken with take an hour to meet with me, answer my questions, tell me about their firms and then smile and shake my hand. Almost no one asks when this change will take place or even tells me they would enjoy working with me. Only a few follow up. This leaves me unsure of what to do next and if my company is a good fit for their firm.

Pushy Sales People

Many professionals are afraid of appearing pushy or “salesy” if they close any kind of sales interview. They think they might be pushing people to make decisions they are not ready to make.

Why would they be at your firm if they did not need you? They need you. If you can help them with their problems or concerns, you need to tell them so and tell them you would like to work with them. Closing a sale is not about pushing me or any potential client. It is about assuring the potential client of your sincere interest in working with them and your ability to perform the job. If you do not assure them that you are interested in the work, why should they choose you?

It is a real kindness to potential clients to assure them of your interest in their organizations and your firm’s ability to serve them well. It shows consideration to ask them what the timeline for their decisions are and to suggest a next step. Very few potential clients hire new firms regularly. It is your job to tell them the process and help them get started.

The market has changed and most people now have practice development and new client acquisition in their job descriptions. One of the most valuable things you can think about is how to close a sale. Don’t look for a magic word or phrase because there is not one. Think about something you can say that is sincere, that sounds like you, and that directs the potential client to the next step. You can use any of the phrases listed.

Rehearse saying this phrase a few times and write it down. Ask your potential client good questions about their challenges and opportunities. Be genuinely interested. Tell the potential client about how your firm can help. Find out what questions or concerns they had with their former provider. Address those questions. And when the conversation is done and it seems natural, tell them you want the business. Ask when you can start. Tell them what the next step is and make that prospect into your best new client.

What three questions do you need to close a deal? Send us an email and I’ll send you the slides from my Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) Summit presentation, “3 Questions to Close the Deal and What You Need to Make Them Effective.”

 

Our Top 5 Favorite Articles this Month

What are you reading, watching or listening to? From how to use personas to managing multiple offices, here are Ingenuity’s top content picks for April:

Top 10 Challenges of Managing Multiple Accounting Offices

Consolidation in the accounting industry has resulted in more accounting firms juggling multiple locations.

View this slideshow.

3 Reasons to Use Personas in Professional Services Marketing

Find out what personas are and how they impact your sales process and your firm’s ability to deliver great customer service.

Watch this video.

Branding. The ‘B’ word must be handled with care, inside and outside firm

Outside of the marketing department, branding can conjure many images, not all accurate or helpful to company results. To confuse matters more, branding inside the company is often different from branding outside the company.

Read this article.

Mastering the Un-Manageable Magic of Millennials

Listen to the director of human resources at a regional CPA firm talk about some of the staffing issues companies are having today.

Listen to this podcast.

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Our Top 5 Favorite Articles in March

We came across a lot of great content in March, but we boiled our findings down to the five pieces below. Find out why content is still king, the truth about why people buy and more.

Why Content is Still King—And Always Will Be

That was a popular phrase in the early days of search engine optimization, more popular still once content marketing started to take off.

Read this article.

The Truth About Why People Buy

To appeal to the emotional side of any buyer, try these positive strategies to tip the scales in your favor.

Read this article.

This is What Engaged Organizations Do Differently

For years, employers and HR pros have been searching for the elusive perfect employee engagement strategy.

Read this article.

How to Know When You Need a New Logo [VIDEO],

Your logo is a key part of your brand positioning, especially if you’re in professional services with a long sales cycle and complex services.

Read this article.

How to Be Better at Email Marketing [INFOGRAPHIC]

To succeed at email marketing, you need to catch prospects at the right time with the right message.

Read this article.

 

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4 surprising recruiting tips from recent hires

By Virginia McCoy, Ingenuity Marketing Group 

Your strategy for recruiting the best talent needs to change.

That’s what we learned when speaking to some recent hires in accounting. We interviewed experienced candidates and graduates to find out what they really want from their next firm.

Impress candidates in person and online

You may have been around for 50 years, but recruits will only notice you if you’re showing up where they are. Recruits need to know your firm exists. Stay visible in the industry by sending staff to association events and continually expanding your network. One hire we spoke to recently moved from Tennessee to San Francisco. Instead of contacting a recruiter or headhunter, he spoke with partners at his firm to find out if they had any recommendations through the firm’s affiliation with BKR International, one of the largest global certified public accounting firm associations. His partners connected him with another BKR firm, where he accepted an offer.

Another way to create a great first impression is through social media. According to LinkedIn Talent Solutions 2016 Global Recruiting Trends, social professional networks are the top spot in sources of quality hires. Share articles and photos on Facebook and LinkedIn when staff attend events. This will position your firm as a place to learn, grow and stay active in the industry. Plus, social media channels are a way to stay in touch with prospective hires while they finish school or gain experience elsewhere. By staying current in the online space, you will stay in front of prospects and be top of mind when they make the decision to pursue a new opportunity.

Modernize your physical space and technology

The physical environment of your firm may not seem like a factor in the recruiting process, but it is increasingly significant. The recent hires we spoke with ranked “a comfortable and modern office” as high as compensation and benefits!

“The physical environment is very important to me. I need the space to be comfortable in order to do my best for our clients,” one recent hire said.

Recent graduates and experienced professionals also have a high expectation for updated technology and software in the workplace.

“I expect firms to stay current, even if they’re not cutting edge. Fraud is an issue and we need to make sure our systems are safe,” said another recent hire.

Make your internship the real deal

Do your interns make coffee runs, or are they purposefully staffed on client service teams? Give them a realistic expectation of what they will be doing at your firm. They may understand the concepts they learned in a classroom, but applying it to the real world is a different story. Plus, if they are being underused at your firm and then talk to a peer about their experience, other potential candidates could decide your firm isn’t an option either. Those are the candidates you want — the ones who want to roll up their sleeves, learn and make a difference every day.

Another real world lesson for candidates is acknowledging the best fit firm for them. Maybe they’re comfortable at a large, national firm in an urban setting. Alternatively, they may want the experience of a small, local firm in a close-knit community. Be ready to help your interns set up these expectations through the content on your website careers pages (sharing lifestyle information as well as benefits), and other recruitment materials. This will help them make a decision faster about the lifestyle considerations of potential firms — and keep your firm on their “must-visit” list.

Let them talk to the team

To find the best talent, go beyond the traditional interview. One Houston-based firm we spoke with invites candidates to a company happy hour and peer lunch so they can meet most of the team.

“After I went through the formal interview process, I got to go to lunch with a few of my peers and ask questions. I liked the informal interview style and the opportunity to interview my peers about the culture of the firm,” a recent hire said.

If you hadn’t considered this before, you’re not alone. The LinkedIn Talent Solutions report revealed that a good relationship with superiors and colleagues was valued 10 percent more by young professionals than what recruiting leaders thought.

Your interview questions should also reflect the firm’s core values and vision as well as the roles and responsibilities on the job. Right-fit candidates must reflect the strengths and values of the firm because today’s candidates consider the workplace completely integrated with their lives.

Do you want to make a great first impression with candidates in today’s competitive environment? Talk to Ingenuity about how we help firms compete for talent through their brand impression and recruitment communication strategies in person and online.

Virginia McCoy is a communications consultant at Ingenuity Marketing Group. She helps accounting firms use talent branding to attract qualified candidates. Reach her at 651-690-3358 or virginia@ingenuitymarketing.com, or follow her on Twitter @vmccoy. Learn more at www.ingenuitymarketing.com.


This article was originally published on the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants website. 

 

Learn how Rudler, PSC groomed its next level of leaders.

THE TRUTH ABOUT WHY PEOPLE BUY

By Christine Nelson

Customers don’t buy with logic alone. They will first test their interest in your product or service with feelings. Do they “like” you, have a sense of safety and view you as an ally?

When their emotional vibes are satisfied, customers will then move on to phase two: logical decision-making. If you set off their negative emotional alarm bells for any reason, they won’t move to phase two, and you’ve lost the sale.

To appeal to the emotional side of any buyer, try these positive strategies to tip the scales in your favor.

Say it with color. You can get many different reactions from the same color.

“I don’t like blue.”

“I LOVE blue! Use more blue!”

“Blue is so boring. Can you jazz it up a bit?”

“That blue is so exciting!”

“Gross.”

When you’re developing or refreshing your brand, use color the way your customers may already perceive it. You can also pair up colors for a broader emotional response. If you pair blue with a bright green or orange, you develop a more contemporary palette of energy, excitement and youthfulness. Join blue with brown or gray to create feelings of calmness, power and reliability. Design several different combinations to test reactions with focus groups and key decision makers.

A picture tells a better story. Imagine two print ads. In one ad, a group photo shows smiling accountants standing outside of their building. In another ad, an accountant is wearing fishing gear. Which ad is more memorable?

Companies miss an opportunity when they go with the same tired visuals because people process visual information up to seven times faster than words. Design creates a layer of story. Great design combined with the professional style and presence of your people is a winning combination.

Design includes your fonts, colors, logo glyph, photos, paper and the other visual elements on your business cards, sales kits, video and website. It should be welcoming, easy to navigate and help customers find you and want to interact with you.

Most people also know good style when they see it. Shoes, fabrics and impeccable grooming create a distinct first impression. But it’s also the body posture, facial expression and tone of voice that attracts notice.

Perception is reality. Good design and superb style quietly build trust without saying a word.

Words still count. Take a cue from the emoji culture. Use fewer words. Increase meaning. When you hear fat words like “quality,” “service,” “trust” and “unique,” it’s like the trombone sound in a Peanuts movie.

Take more time to explain the experience of your company. Is it like violins, or like a chain saw? After choosing your company, do people feel taller? Richer? Do they want to adopt a dog? Run a marathon?

Companies that succeed know how to create messages that engage emotion with logic. Invest in quality writing for your brand messages, your website and your publicity. Invest in people who win awards for the right words.

Show customers you ‘get’ them. We want to hang out with people who are like us. Tribes of people tend to dress alike, have similar vocal inflections and share the same interests. When you find the right demographic or type of customer, think about how to attract more of them.

Develop descriptions of your ideal customer. Age ranges, gender, culture, professional titles, salaries, locations … add as many details as you can to paint a full picture of your customer. You will understand how to market and sell by knowing how customers think and where they gather information to make buying decisions.

When potential buyers feel like you cater just to them, they will buy. They may even spend a little more or be willing to wait longer. Don’t underestimate the power of emotion in your branding. Emotional appeal is the true reason people choose your product or service over that of a competitor.


Christine Nelson is a lead communications consultant for Ingenuity, a brand strategy firm that focuses on marketing, websites, sales messaging, social media and public relations to boost your competitive edge. Contact her at Christine@ingenuitymarketing.com or (651) 690-3358, www.ingenuitymarketing.com.

Credit: Leading Edge Magazine

10 Signs Your Client is Cheating on You

Investment news
Photo: Investment News

Do you have a client who keeps cancelling meetings? When you do meet, do they seem preoccupied? These could be signs that your client is cheating on you. Wendy Nemitz Founder of Ingenuity Marketing Group, recently shared signs of an unfaithful client with Investment News.

Click here to see the full slideshow.

Christine Nelson also presented a webinar on this topic to members of INPACT Americas. Contact Christine if you’d like to have Ingenuity speak on this topic to members of your firm or organization.

Firms Share Their Biggest Recruitment Strategy Mistakes

What is the biggest brand mistake in your firm’s recruitment strategy? We asked this question in a recent AAM (Association for Accounting Marketing) High webinar and received the following responses:
57% said “Recruitment is an afterthought in the marketing strategy.”
14% said “Partners aren’t involved in the interview or onboarding process.”
17% said “No career pages online or minimal content.”
11% said “Specific charity or community involvement isn’t promoted publicly.”

The sentiment was very similar at an SMPS Twin Cities education program, “Talent Management: How to Attract, Train and Retain Top Talent.” A panel of HR and talent experts representing architecture, engineering and construction stressed the importance of integrating marketing and HR, involving leadership and promoting the firm’s positive qualities.

Here’s why you need to adjust your recruitment strategy if these mistakes are happening at your firm.

Recruitment is an afterthought in the marketing strategy.
Your firm is seeking qualified candidates so it looks to HR to fill the positions. But think about how qualified candidates learn about your firm. It’s not just an HR issue; it’s a marketing issue first that flows into the HR process. The two should work hand-in-hand. At Ingenuity, we forecast that in the coming years, a marketer will be dedicated to the talent brand of the firm. We’ve seen it done in some firms already because it is critical to building the next generation of leaders and onboarding the right people.

Partners aren’t involved in the interview or onboarding process.
In an emerging leaders panel at Winning Is Everything 2015, new hires were asked why they chose their firm. Respondents said that at some point in their interview process, they were told exactly what they needed to do to get to partner. They could see a well-outlined path for their future and felt they could get there at that firm. Candidates also want to meet the partners, or at least know they exist outside of their website bios. After all, the partners are often the face of the firm. Make sure they’re part of the interview or onboarding process so candidates feel connected to the firm right away.

No career pages online or minimal content.
Filling your careers page with generic copy is a waste of valuable real estate. Make candidates dig for information and you risk having them bounce off of your website. How can you tell if this is happening? Check your analytics and look for trends in your careers pages. Also, don’t just talk about benefits such as health and dental insurance. Candidates assume you have them and can ask in the interview once they decide to consider you. Your careers page is an opportunity to show what sets your firm apart.

Specific charity or community involvement isn’t promoted publicly.
If your firm is involved in a specific charity or community project, it needs to be publicized in at least two places: your website and social media pages. While candidates will check out both options, cover all necessary channels by including photos and information on why your firm chose the cause. Bonus tip: share charity and community involvement (including photos) with trade publications. They’re often happy to share your efforts on their websites or social media pages, putting your firm in front of qualified candidates.

Need help spicing up your careers page, or using search engines like Google effectively to help recruit candidates? Contact me today to chat.


4 Surprising Recruiting Tips from Recent Hires

What Your Competitors Know That You Don’t

Accounting firms and engineering firms often call us when they see a competitor suddenly showing up in their market space and winning bids seemingly “out of the blue.”

A closer look at the competition reveals that those firms have set up a strategy to target a certain buyer, market or industry and are now reaping the rewards of months of focused effort. They didn’t just show up. They’ve been there for a while.
Read more