Having been asked to provide content for a forthcoming magazine article on a related topic I have summarised my feedback to create the list below.
1 – Decide what sort of leads you want
The key is to ensure that whoever is making the calls is briefed effectively and that you have identified what makes your practice different (really), what criteria the target client needs to satisfy and what services you want to promote. Preparation is key here and can save you loads of time that will otherwise be wasted attending meetings that are a waste of time.
2 – Be clear as to what you are offering
Businesses who receive cold calls always seem to be interested if they don’t rate their current accountant as pro active and good value. One key issue for many firms of accountants is that they use the same words to describe what makes them different/better from other firms of accountants thus proving that the aren’t different at all! I’ve addressed this in previous posts on this blog such as: Is the way you describe yourself helping you to generate enough business?
The focus should be on HELPING not on SELLING. This requires careful questioning to ensure that any follow up meeting is worthwhile and not simply an information gathering exercise for the prospect who then reverts to his existing trusted adviser with the new ideas you have freely given away.
3 – Be realistic as to what you can expect
The best you can hope for is to secure warm qualified leads for meetings. Without careful planning you will simply get a load of meetings with people who want a cheap accountant. The biggest complaint I hear from accountants about their telemarketing efforts is that the lead wasn’t properly qualified. The prospective client simply wanted a new accountant who was cheaper than their current one. Unless the new one is promoting themselves as being cheap this rarely leads to a worthwhile meeting.
Telemarketing is simply the start of the process. YOU will still need to be able to satisfy the prospect that you’re the right person to help, to solve their problems and to provide the solutions and service they require. YOU need to be able to ‘CLOSE’ – which is part and parcel of being a good Finder (even if the leads have been generated by the telemarketer).
4 – Relevant experience counts
Yes, you could ask your staff to source leads and to make calls but this is unlikely to be as effective as using experienced telemarketers. ‘Experienced’ that is in generating qualified leads for professional service providers. It is MUCH easier to educate such specialists as regards the specifics of your firm than it is to train up in-house people to be effective at qualified lead generation through telemarketing.
5 – Incentivise the outcomes you want
The key is to ensure that any incentive acts to motivate desired results. (We’re not talking about bankers here after all!) Telemarketers who are paid for each lead they generate will secure loads of inappropriate leads. There’s no point in the accountant then going to loads of meetings that are not with desirable and real prospect clients.
My preference is to incentivise teamwork rather than to pay a fee per meeting fixed up or per new client signed up. You don’t want to attend meetings that have no serious prospect of allowing you to generate the fees you want for the work you enjoy doing. And paying a third party by reference to your success at ‘closing’ isn’t going tio work well either.
One way of encouraging teamwork is to pay per day’s work undertaken by the telemarketing service with no long term contract. This can help ensure that everyone has the same objective – to maximise the benefit of the exercise for both parties. This includes monitoring and adapting how the exercise is working in the light of experience.
6 – Ensure the prospect gets multiple pre-meeting ‘touches’
Meetings will be far more worthwhile if the prospective client feels positive about their interactions with the accountant (through the telemarketer) beforehand. And such feelings can be enhanced by making contact (touching) the contact more than once. So after a meeting has been fixed up over the phone, the firm should, at a minimum:
- send out a written confirmation perhaps with a short relevant piece of promo literature (NOT a full brochure – unless the prospect requested this);
- If there’s time, look up the prospect on the web (not simply their website) and try to find an excuse to send something relevant and useful to them before the meeting;
- The day before the meeting someone should call the prospect to confirm the meeting, location, time, how best to find the building/park etc;
7 – Focus on what prospects most want
In the current climate businesses are even more interested in pro-active business advice than ever before. And of course proactive tax advice is always in demand. One way in which accountants can distinguish themselves when using telemarketing for new clients is to ascertain the nature of the tax issues and problems facing the prospective client. Detailed tax issues and problems can then be explored at an initial meeting even if the accountant may require support in developing and implementing solutions.
If you have further tips to share on this subject please add them as comments below.
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