When you’ve worked hard for the opportunity to get in front of a business prospect, you want to be sure you are making the most of it and presenting your firm’s capabilities to their best advantage. With so much competition out there among other CPA firms, how do you stand out and win that potential client over?
As an advisor, the answer shouldn’t surprise you. Above all else, you need to earn their trust.
In our opinion, there are two drastically different approaches you can take to prospect meetings in an attempt to earn their trust:
- The traditional “firm capabilities overview,” most commonly accompanied with a PowerPoint presentation. During this type of meeting you’re typically talking at your audience. Although sharing your company history and the depth of your team’s experience could potentially exude a certain amount of confidence in how your firm will be able to handle this new account, there certainly is a different and more productive way to gain the trust of this prospect.
- A “working session” is an alternative type of meeting that we recommend using when courting a new client. During a working session you actively listen to your prospect and get them talking more about their business and needs rather than presenting about yourself. As opposed to talking at your audience, you will be talking with.
Let‘s explore these options in a bit more detail.
Working Session (Our Preferred Method of Prospect Meetings)
Most people love to talk about themselves, whether their business or personal wants and needs. Think of the working session as a time to ask questions and uncover as much about those needs and wants as humanly possible.
For this method, we recommend that you jumpstart the meeting with one specific question so that you can tailor the discussion to the specific information the prospect hopes to get out of your time together.
Our favorite and very simple ice breaker question guides the beginning of your conversation:
- What would be the most valuable way for us to spend this time together? (If they ask about a specific service offering – dig further.) For example, what specific questions or concerns do you have about employee benefit audits for your company?
They’ll likely have very specific questions or struggles in mind; the quicker you can get to them the happier they’ll be, and the more time you can spend on a topic that they’re genuinely interested in and need the help, the better.
If you really want to impress, come prepared with additional open-ended questions that will get your prospect to reveal additional business needs and wants. In doing so, they will provide you with valuable insights into their business and help you determine how else you may be able to assist them.
- What are your business goals and objectives this year?
- What are your financial goals?
- What are your competitive advantages that help you win business?
- Define your target audience; who is the ideal client (size/industry/location)?
- What do you think you could be doing better (barriers to success)?
- Where do you see opportunities for the greatest growth?
- What other areas of your business or personal finances are you struggling with?
The goal: The hope is that in this type of prospecting meeting, you will be helping and not selling. By asking good questions, you will get the prospect thinking about their business in ways no one else has to this point. You should strive for a valuable and insightful conversation through an intelligent and exploratory discussion. By the end of the meeting, they should feel as though they have already begun to build a trusted relationship with you, and that moving forward with you on their team just makes sense.
So what about the company overview presentation you’ve prepared?
You can keep the “canned” capabilities presentation “in your back pocket,” just in case there is a need. But, as a general rule, the working session is not meant to be a company overview for you—it’s meant to be more of a deep company overview for the prospect.
Still, there may be times when the company overview makes sense.
When a prospect has specifically asked you to come in to present your capabilities, it’s fine to introduce yourselves and your firm’s strengths. However, there should still be an opportunity to incorporate questions to your audience so that the meeting becomes more of a give-and-take discussion and you can tailor your strengths to their needs. Pose questions to the prospect throughout the presentation to draw out their chief concerns and needs.
The goal: The first impression starts with the initial meeting with a potential client. Resist the urge to launch into your sales pitch. You’ll be surprised at how much more engaged your prospect will be in the presentation when you turn it into a discussion. Through examples you provide, all of that information about your firm likely will come out anyway.
You’ll also be much more likely to leave with follow-up action items. Remember, you can always leave more in-depth materials behind, but the opportunity to engage with your prospect and establish a relationship is now.
Interested in learning more about how to maximize your CPA firm’s marketing efforts? Contact Jonathan Ebenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.