Five Top Sales Tips for Attorneys, CPAs & Other Professionals

 

Business Development: Five Top Sales Tips for Attorneys, CPAs & Other Professionals

By Kevin W. Brown, M.B.A.

Few professionals are full-time salespeople, yet all can benefit from learning and improving upon their selling skills.  Don’t you want to bring in more business for your firm?  Of course!   So what can you do to improve your chances?   How can you close deals, especially those that you may have lost before?

At Kevin Brown Marketing & Consulting, we’ve been providing sales training and coaching for professionals since 1991 – over 20 years!   We offer personal coaching, in-depth training courses and 2-3 hour workshops.  Our clients have included the largest law and CPA firms in the area, as well as small-to-midsize firms.  All benefit from a structured training and coaching program that builds on their professional skill sets.

Of course, these training programs will help you to be more successful.  In the meantime, what are some “top sales tips” that our clients have used regularly to improve their success?  Consider the following:

1.  Organize your sales and marketing efforts to position you for success.
Gaining a new client can involve a fairly extensive marketing process.  For example, your firm needs an effective Strategic Marketing Plan to guide your overall efforts.  Your branding must reflect your firm’s unique selling points and mesh well with your targeted market.   All of your marketing materials, including your website and client communication, must be at the same quality level as your services, reflecting highly upon your firm.  Prospects have to be identified and qualified, sales efforts organized, etc.   The list goes on and on.

However, many professionals essentially wing-it through several stages of the process.  As long as they keep the doors open and make some money, they’re happy.  They often think “There has got to be a better way!” but without the proper assistance, they get nowhere.

Instead, engaging a true marketing expert and you’ll be in a better situation to improve your sales and profitability!  This professional can provide the appropriate strategic direction, implement and manage your sales and other marketing efforts, and greatly improve the success of your firm’s efforts.  Or, if the marketing goals are solely business development (BD) oriented, a personal BD coach can help individuals to improve their success in obtaining new business.

2.   Always keep an active “pipeline” of quality prospects.
At Kevin Brown Marketing & Consulting, we work with our clients to regularly target and develop quality prospects, so that new work is always “coming down the pipeline.”  However, most professionals don’t do so – they wait until work “dries up.”  A typical scenario (using an attorney as an example) is the attorney working hard on a case and when it is nearing completion, or work slows down a bit, he then starts looking for more work.  This not only puts him in a stressful position but it can lead to accepting sub-par matters that are needed to pay the bills vs. planning ahead with marketing and then being able to pick-and-choose cases.

So, develop prospects along each stage of the process.  It would be nice if you regularly received inquiries from prospects that were immediately ready to buy your services.  The reality, however, is that it often takes awhile for a prospect to get to the point of purchasing.  They typically go through several stages, from initially becoming aware of your services all the way to the time when they think that your firm might be the answer to their needs.  It is important to have effective marketing and sales programs to help prospects along part of the stage!

3.  Treat the prospect like a client.
This will make both you and the prospect more comfortable.  Be respectful of their time, business-like and professional.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep; if you say that you’ll follow-up by a certain date do it (failure to do so is actually a very common sales mistake).  Be positive and supportive.

A key part of this is to listen more than you talk!  Believe it or not, this is one of the most common selling mistakes.  Find out more about the prospect’s needs.  Don’t talk so much about your firm and your capabilities.  Remember the old adage “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

4.  Know when to close and ask for the business!
You might have seen a “Shark Tank” TV episode when Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner, gave an entrepreneur a chance to “close the deal.”  After hearing his pitch, Cuban offered the business owner $90,000 in return for a hefty equity stake in the enterprise. Investors don’t get much more influential than Mark Cuban. But instead of jumping on the deal, the salesman missed the chance to close – and lost the deal – because he was too interested in pitching his product and seeing if he could get a better deal.   It cost him $90k and a chance to grow his business with a highly successful and connected businessman!

A key part of the process to get to the “closing phase” is to follow-up with prospects.  As mentioned, for many professionals, it takes several encounters with a prospect, possibly over the course of many months (or even years!), before the prospect is ready sign a contract.  Not following up as promised and regularly is one of the most common mistakes.

For example, a lawyer or CPA walks away from a sales meeting (or phone call), thinking that he/she did a fantastic presentation and the prospect should be responding any day now.  But when the prospect doesn’t respond, the professional/salesperson either gets too busy to follow-up promptly or is uncertain how to proceed, since the prospect “surely would have responded if he/she wanted to work with us.”  Often this isn’t the case; the prospect may have been too busy or may expect the professional to follow-up, just like most other salespeople do!

5.  Constantly improve your selling skills!
When I started my career at Bank of America as a Corporate Banker (commercial lending to companies with lending needs of $1-250 million), I went through an extensive 3-day sales training program.  Later on, I went through other sales classes and training programs, even though my job only partially involved selling services (this is the same situation as most partners at CPA or law firms, who need to sell to build their book of business).  Throughout my career, I’ve studied and read about sales techniques and sales management, especially because my firm’s clients need these services.

Curiously, CPAs and lawyers, who sell about as often as bankers, generally devote very little time and resources to getting trained in selling skills.  Instead, avoid this mistake and become fully equipped to bring in business!

Many professionals can benefit from hiring a sales coach!  At Kevin Brown Marketing & Consulting, we’ve offered sales coaching for 20 years to our clients.  We work with clients on a number of issues, from identifying specific follow-up action steps, helping to develop effective sales presentations, writing proposals and figuring out whatever is needed to close the deal.

Don’t just “wing it”!
Since you have read this article, you want to achieve greater sales success.  The goal, of course, is to obtain more business – a higher success/closure rate on sales opportunities!  These tips are just a few of the tips that we provide in our formal “Professional Selling Skills” courses and personalized Sales Coaching.  Contact Kevin Brown Marketing & Consulting to help your firm generate even higher revenues and profitability.

About the author: Kevin W. Brown, M.B.A. has worked with professional services firms for over 20 years.  His firm, Kevin Brown Marketing & Consulting, is a full-service marketing and management consulting firm that specializes in serving lawyers, CPAs and other professional services firms. Phone: (714) 965-1556. Website: www.KevinBrownMarketing.com

Copyright 2012