The value of advisory services
Sometimes you may face challenges when making a pitch to prospective clients if they say “no” to your initial sales proposal. In this episode of the Thomson Reuters podcast, Pulse of the Practice: Overcoming Challenges – Verbal Objections, we look at how to turn those difficult conversations into opportunities for positive engagement that embody the value of advisory services.
Manage objections by knowing what to offer clients
When pitching to clients, naturally you want them all to sign up no matter what without asking questions. Sometimes you may have to adjust your responses to objections from clients to get them to say yes. How do you handle those verbal challenges from prospects and know what to offer and charge clients where they will agree?
When it comes to selling business proposals to clients, firms need to think about the best way to gain new clients. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some sales pitches want to focus on the so-called easy clients. There’s a known mantra for sales that says make ten calls and three appointments, to get one sale. But maybe that’s too much work to get one sale. To successfully engage with clients, you must help them see the value of advisory services and all you have to offer.
A more focused theory of successfully selling services is if you have the right client, all you have to make is that one call. If you set your sights on someone where it’s reasonable what you’re going to be able to do for them, and you understand their needs going into the conversation, the client is more likely to accept what you are offering them.
A better strategy might be to find some educated middle ground. Do your research on potential clients and go after the ones that you think will be a good fit for your firm, who will accept your firm’s value, and the value of advisory services you are bundling for them.
The fact is, you’re not trying to get every, single client, or even the biggest client. You’re trying to get a select group of clients that fit your firm’s objectives so you can both have a beneficial relationship with room for growth.
How do you handle challenges from clients?
Let’s say you think you have found a client that could be a good fit for your firm, and they present a little more of a challenge to you than you expected. If they are only looking at price, and not recognizing the value of advisory services you are offering them, you may have to rethink your offering. Since you know confidently what you can bring to them, it’s time to talk to them anyway. Usually, there are some ways to work through any challenges or objections. Having a client who has reached out to you and expressed interest, or your research shows they could use what you offer, leads to a more successful engagement. Often a positive response from a client is just a matter of presenting the offerings to them in the right way.
It’s important to do the guess work on a client without making assumptions about their possible response. You might think the client can’t afford your services, or that your firm’s offerings may be too much for them. Sometimes firms attempt to make those unknown decisions for clients, but it’s better to remain open to a mutually beneficial compromise.
You can’t make the decision for clients because it’s hard to predict their response. There are clients that will shock you. You may talk to clients every day thinking they are never going to say yes, and they do. Then you have potential clients where you think it’s a no brainer, and they drag their feet.
Set the bar for successful client relationships
Even though you can’t decide for the client, you can get to know them better to understand what they need and the value of your services to them. It helps to feel confident in your position before you talk to them. It’s easy to get in your own way by making too many assumptions about the client. Once you feel it’s a fair offer, just deliver it. Put the proposal together in an educated way, package it, present it with confidence, then let the client decide, but be flexible. If they can see the value of advisory services you are offering them, they are more likely to accept your pitch.
How do you manage client objections?
There are ways to manage overcoming some client objections about value. In some cases a client may come for tax preparation, use your firm for six months and move on to something else. This is not the ideal, because that’s not how your firm is designed. Ideally you want to build a multi-year relationship and gain loyalty with a client.
You’ve got to convince clients that they’re going to do be better off building an extended relationship with your firm. A client might come to you and say they are going to be self-employed for the next few years. Right away you know they’re going to need help to pay taxes, they may need other services, and they are going to need assistance to utilize the value of advisory services to maintain and grow their business.
How do you manage advisory fee questions?
The long and short of it is, sometimes when you go through the pricing, the client may come back to you asking for a negotiation on the price of the services you are offering them.
Instead of considering discounting the price of services, try adding on something to sweeten the deal, or change the price by altering the services offered. Throw in software training or offer some extra bookkeeping. Another option is to have the client purchase 12 months of services but offer them 14 months at the price of 12, for example. Enticing clients with a few manageable additions will help them see the positives of advisory services. That way you are still honoring the value of advisory services you offer, and not undermining your fee structure.
Lowering the price and undercutting the value of advisory services sets the wrong tone for the relationship. If you just lower your fee, it’s possible that the next time a service need comes up, the client may think that they talked you down last time, so they can do it again.
Change the scope of your proposal to offer flexibility and win advisory services clients
Firms need to be careful about what they do if they’re going to discount pricing. Experts say they would rather sweeten the pot with the addition of advisory services by adding something else to the equation. Another way to handle overcoming objections, is find out what the client’s budget is, so you know the parameters.
Sometimes you may have a client who agrees to your fee up front, but they question the cost later. Just hypothetically, let’s say your monthly fee is $500 a month, but they say they don’t want to pay that. You can offer them a lower rate but reconsider the offering with a different bundle of services. Talk about what they can afford, and what you’re going to give them for that fee. If they want it to be lower, then put together a bundle of services that equates to you being profitable at say, $350, and see if they might accept it.
Some clients with objections, might be asking themselves if they can handle DIY for filing their own cooperation or doing their own books. The counter-argument to that is purely time. The only asset we have on this earth is our time and if you’re dealing with someone who is the “do it yourself” kind of mentality, you will not beat them, because they will go out and build it themselves, though there are risks. You have to connect with potential clients that know their time has value enough to allow you to manage these services for them and make their growth easier.
You’ve got to change the scope sometimes, because everyone has champagne taste on a beer budget. It’s important to help your client understand pricing. You have to walk through the offerings with your client and fit solutions into their scope to where they see their budget and where they understand and accept the value of what you’re offering them.
Understanding how to handle client curve balls
Occasionally you may get a curve ball from a client. Let’s say you’re in this meeting to present the proposal, and the client objections are starting to tell you that no matter what you say, they’re going to say no to the value of advisory services. Whether there’s a personality conflict, or something else is going on that they’re not letting onto, what are those queues or indicators?
Sometimes you can walk into a client and just know they aren’t going to say yes to anything. There’s a tangible silence. So what do you do? When you get to the part about talking price, you have to just process forward with confidence and make your pitch.
There is a reason for this because you’ve already determined the value of your offerings and potential value of services up front, and it’s not being insensitive to what they think. If you have made an educated decision on what you think the value of advisory services are that you are bringing to the table, and what pricing is, your decision has already been made. If a client listens to your pitch, and then they ask, “Can you go back to the price?” You may have to rethink what you’re offering them. You have to propose in such a way that shows your firm’s value and that what you deliver is something much more than they already have, or even better, what they need to grow.
Set the stage before talking to clients for successful advisory services engagements
In summary, after going through the proposal, if the reaction of your prospect is to ask questions centered around what the value of advisory services will mean for them, that’s probably worth continuing to drive forward. If it all comes to price, then you may have a less likely chance for things to go forward, because their focus isn’t on what you can do for them.
The question is if you are aligning with that client’s understanding of the value. You can set yourself up for success before you even get to the client’s door. When pitching to a new client, tell them before you see them that this is going to be a different experience. If a prospective client is going to buy a single transaction from you, if they’re coming to buy a tax return, or payroll, or accounting only, your firm may not be the right fit. When clients see all these solutions possibly bundled together in an agreeable way, and they see the cost at the end, there’s a value proponent in there the client could be interested in.
Understanding the value of your main and advisory services isn’t just about price. Having open-mindedness about value alignment, and where a client’s budget fits in, are first steps to successfully solidifying new business opportunities. By coming in prepared and with confidence, and listening for the queues, you can handle those objection challenges to successfully gain more longstanding clients who say yes.