It’s a whole new world out there. As a consumer, you’ve almost certainly noticed the changes. Whether you’re part of a firm or an independent practitioner, chances are you’ve also seen a shift in your business environment. Client requirements and buying behaviors have become more sophisticated. Trends like accelerated return on investment, commoditization, and increasing buyer control, are here to stay.
That’s the new sales economy, and it’s impacting virtually every industry, including the accounting profession. Our prospects and clients have higher expectations of us than ever before, and firms are under more pressure to set their services apart in a meaningful way. This shift is especially challenging for professionals who play a dual role of practitioner and business developer.
One way you can break through in the new sales economy is to build upon your already strong client relationships by cross-selling services. You’ve likely seen the statistics… acquiring a new client costs 5–25 times more than keeping an existing one (Harvard Business Review). Growing existing relationships is a strategic way to lower your business development costs while increasing overall margins and client loyalty.
In a series for the NSA Main Street Practitioner, I’ll cover the topic of cross selling to clients. In this piece, we will explore how to uncover cross-selling opportunities by leveraging your existing client meetings. The second article will look at how to cultivate relationships within the client. And the third will share how to open new doors and build engagement with prospective clients.
Making the Most of Meetings to Uncover Cross Selling Opportunities
Cross-selling is a fundamental aspect of growing your book of business. As a strategic advisor, your role is to help clients understand the value you can deliver, beyond the services they know you for or the current engagement.
Most accountants will meet with clients at least once during busy season, and probably other occasions, as well. When you are face-to-face, it’s an opportunity to extend the value of that time together.
Here are four steps to leverage your existing client meetings to uncover new cross-selling opportunities.
Gather pre-meeting intelligence.
For any client meetings on the calendar, be sure to know who is attending and then do some brief homework on each person. This research can involve reviewing their LinkedIn profiles, or looking for “triggering events,” like annual reports, leadership changes, and other company and industry shifts. This can help you in leading a strategic discussion and uncover potential problems in their business that you may help solve. This elevates your role beyond the tasks at hand and helps the client consider their business differently—you help them elevate their thinking to become more visionary, rather than reactionary.
Brainstorm the areas in the client’s business where you are NOT doing business today.
These are opportunities to “sell deep” within the client and create more value for the them.
Using your research, where can you introduce services that have an additional or higher fee value? Or where can you offer a specialized service that warrants the additional investment?
Professional service providers, like accountants, have historically underestimated the curiosity of clients and their interest in knowing what other services could benefit them. Always be thinking about what opportunities and ideas you can bring to the table to create value for them.
Prepare an agenda.
Client meetings provide some of the best opportunities for business development, and you can build it right into your agenda.
Prepare a short agenda with the overall meeting goal and timing. For example, if you know the meeting is one hour, you might plan 15 minutes in the agenda for a discussion on future initiatives or industry challenges. That ensures the opportunity for discovery becomes a natural part of the agenda, and you can also position yourself as a strategic advisor.
As part of the preparation, create 3-5 open-ended questions — related to their business initiatives — to help you learn more during the meeting. These questions will guide the conversation and help you uncover new opportunities to deliver value to the client.
Ownership in the follow-up.
After the meeting, and while it’s fresh, send an email to your client thanking them for their time. Include a short summary of the action items (including any new cross-selling opportunities), your ownership, and the timing. Also send out a calendar invitation for the next meeting.
From there, delivering on your action items within the timeframes and staying in communication with the client shows your ownership and leadership. It’s how you continue to build credibility and provide value as a trusted, strategic advisor.
In this new sales economy, a focus on your current clients can exponentially grow your book of business. With these deeper, strategic relationships, you’ll uncover new ways to help your clients solve their biggest challenges. You’ll also differentiate yourself and keep your competitors out. Watch for my next article on how to cultivate multiple relationships within the client.
About the Author:
Amy Franko is a strategic sales expert working with professional services, insurance, and technology organizations to accelerate sales results. She’s a keynote speaker, sales strategist, and author specializing in B2B sales and sales leadership development. With over 20 years of client-facing sales experience, Amy began her career with global companies IBM and Lenovo before pivoting into entrepreneurship. Her book of business includes some of the world’s most recognizable brands. Amy’s book, The Modern Seller, is an Amazon best seller and was also named a 2018 top sales book by Top Sales World. Learn more and download a free chapter at www.amyfranko.com.