Lessons for accountants from ……a sales training expert

During a recent dinner with my old friend, Andy Preston, I got to thinking about how some of the principles he mentioned are more widely applicable.

Andy is a sales training and cold calling expert. He speaks at conferences and training courses for very large companies all over the world. Our dinner took place in Cape Town, South Africa. I was on holiday. Andy was in the middle of a hectic series of talks.

I was impressed that he kept referencing the benefits of STANDING OUT and assumed he was referencing my work in this area. I was amused later to realise that Andy is the creator of the STAND OUT selling system. Its purpose is to help sales people stand out from the competition, close more deals, and win the business – even when selling at a higher price!  This clearly dovetails nicely with my own work on how Accountants can STAND OUT from the pack.

When it comes to applying the experience of sales people to accountants, I must admit I have always known two conflicting ‘facts’.

On the one hand, accountants generally do not like to operate as or to be considered to be in ‘sales’. On the other hand, it’s hard to build a service based business, like accountancy, if you don’t do any selling!

One of Andy’s firm beliefs is that, these days, it is no longer appropriate for sales people to base their presentations on the ‘features’ and ‘benefits’ of the products they want to sell. This is a traditional approach that no longer works (if it ever did).

These days most purchasers do their homework online before they start shortlisting vendors. The purchaser typically already knows which products suit their needs and uses online comparison sites which invariably focus on the features and benefits, as well as the costs etc. Sales people who do not build rapport with prospects are unlikely to survive in the 21st century. (And it’s one of the reasons Andy is so busy). Who’d be a professional sales person?

The lesson for accountants, I would suggest, is that it is now more important than ever to STAND OUT in ways that prospective clients understand will benefit them.

You’re an accountant so they know you can do the work (or at last they assume you can). In what way will engaging YOU, rather than any other accountant, ensure that the client gets what they want and need (and more)?

As Andy suggests, a great deal hinges on the extent to which you are able to build rapport, to engage the prospect and to get them to know, like and trust you. This does not mean talking about yourself though. It requires effective questioning techniques, evidence that you’ve been listening to them and convincing responses to their questions about how you operate (if they ask).

A failure to execute these key ‘sales’ skills, will mean you don’t win the client, just as it means the salesperson fails to make the sale.

[If you think it would be good to improve your skills in this area, take a look at something I produced recently for accountants. Perhaps it could help you too? Full details here>>>]

By |2015-03-03T12:15:43+00:00March 3rd, 2015|Accountants, Conversational impact|

About the Author:

Mark Lee FCA is an accountancy focused futurist, influencer, speaker, mentor, author and debunker.


  1. Linkin Park 10th March 2015 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Nice thought Mark,
    It will open new doors for the accounting personnels in the field of selling.

  2. Adrian Ludlam 17th October 2016 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Fascinating post. But I constantly find it strange that marketing professionals – such as Andy Preston and many others – tell us that prospects are “sophisticated” in doing prior research etc. Apparently prospects have moved beyond features/benefits etc – and so they want rapport etc.
    I totally get the thrust of the piece – however:
    1. Small/medium business websites/advertising rarely get beyond features – even benefits are often missing!
    2. Despite what the esteemed professor, Theodore Levitt said – I suspect no-one has ever walked into a hardware store and asked for a 1/4″ hole!! OK – the hole may “arrive” in a conversation with the store but I’m not sure just how “sophisticated” a typical consumer is? Our brains seem to reduce our thinking to simple concepts? (Following Peter Drucker – one of these days I will ask a potential supplier to “satisfy my wants” – and see what happens!!).
    Finally, as the Sales Education Council tells us – the best selling often includes an element of challenge to the prospect!! Henry Ford’s – “If I’d asked customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse”!
    100 year old wisdom perhaps bringing us back to where we started??
    This is all really important stuff!!! The underlying issues for we Accountants and our clients is that we just can’t ignore them. Fundamentally this isn’t a discussion about “sales/marketing” – it’s really about how well our business operates!

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