For professional services such as accounting and law firms to be successful and grow, they continually need to source and obtain new clients. Few such businesses employ a sales professional specifically to do this. In most instances, opportunities come in the form of leads or referrals, in which the accountants and lawyers themselves must convert into business, requiring them to sell themselves, the business and its services.
These professionals often don’t like to think of themselves having a ‘sales’ aspect to their role. When they hear the word ‘sales’, they immediately picture the stereotypical pushy used car salesperson. Therefore, sales in professional services is more commonly referred to as ‘business development’ rather than selling.
The first step can be a shift in mindset, understanding that sales shouldn’t be about pushing products or services onto people they don’t want or need, rather it is uncovering a person’s wants, needs and ideas, then matching a valuable service or solution to suit.
Although sales is in fact a large part of their success, it isn’t common for accountants and lawyers to receive any training or formal instruction in this area. They undergo years of study in their qualification but receive little in the way of skills required to maximise opportunities in converting leads or referrals into new clients.
Professional services generally have a brilliant understanding of their industry, and are a wealth of technical information. Impressing potential clients with this knowledge however, isn’t enough for a client to see value in doing business. A big part of winning new clients is building relationships and establishing trust, through asking effective questions and actively listening to show understanding. Ultimately, a client needs to feel the professional is working with them to achieve the same goal.
As well as obtaining new clients, maintaining and nurturing relationships with existing clients is also an important aspect of business development. Adding value to clients through educating them of the other services offered, is a way of maximising the relationship for the business, as well as offering the client a full and complete service. The goal is creating loyalty where clients become a source of further referrals and leads.
No matter what you refer to it as; sales, business development or converting clients, professional services regularly wear a ‘sales hat’. Learning to wear that ‘hat’ well, can be a determining factor in the growth of their client base.