The way you position your accountancy firm to prospects influences the value they place on your services. When you do something compellingly different, you don’t have to compete on the same terms as your competitors. So adding value right from the point when a prospect first becomes aware of you, makes it more likely that they will choose you and more likely that they will be willing to pay a higher fee for your services.
How to add value at every step
The key is to map out the journey your prospects take before they become clients. And then to see how you can improve their experience at every stage. So that with every point of contact, you differentiate your firm from your competitors.
(Obviously, what you do and say in your initial meeting with a prospect is crucial, but I’m not going to go into that here. Instead I want to look at the value perception you create with other aspects of the prospect journey, aspects that you perhaps haven’t thought about a great deal.)
So let’s start at the beginning.
Your website and online presence
An online search is now the number one way that a prospect will find you. Even if they have been referred by someone they trust, they will almost certainly check out your website before they consider contacting you. So having the right online image is critical in these increasingly digital times.
This is a huge subject, too big to go into here, but at the very least make sure your website does these three things well:
- * Your contact details are easy to find and there are different channels to reach you
- * It communicates what your firm is about in a way that resonates with the type of client you want to attract
- * It has plenty of information about the services you want to be known for (focusing on how you help, not just what you do) – but not too much so that’s it’s confusing
There’s a longer article on getting your firm noticed online here.
So your prospect has looked your firm up online, likes the look of your website and wants to find out more. The next step is to phone you.
The initial phone call
Do you have any systems in place for the way the phone gets answered in your firm? How many times is it left to ring? What do you or your team say when you pick up the phone? This is often the first point of human to human contact for prospects and it creates a lasting impression of your firm. But all too often it’s left entirely to chance.
Think about the businesses you’ve called recently. Did any of them create a really great first impression? Did any of them leave you feeling that you weren’t important to them? What did they get right and what did they get wrong?
Here are our top tips for doing this well:
- * Have a policy to pick up the phone before it rings more than three times.
- * Introduce your firm by name, give your own name, then add ‘how can I help you?’.
- * Listen to what the caller is saying and if you’re passing it on to someone else, give them the same information – don’t make the caller repeat it again.
- * Agree a process with your team so they know what to do if they can’t handle the call. If the caller needs to speak to someone who isn’t available, take down the details and confirm a time when they will be called back.
It sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? But I’ve phoned so many accountancy firms that don’t get even these basic steps right.
And remember, everyone in your team has to answer the phone in the same way, whether that’s you or the most junior person in the office. When the voice at the end of the phone is consistently friendly and helpful no matter who’s speaking, you start to build a reputation for… well, being friendly and helpful.
So you’ve made a great impression on the phone and your prospect makes an appointment to come and see you. What happens now?
Before the meeting
Make it easy for them. Send your prospect details of how to get to you, where to park, any little quirks that will help them. I know of one firm with a difficult to find office who recorded a time lapse dash cam of the route from the nearest motorway junction to their office, just to make it easier to find.
Find out as much as you can about your prospect’s industry – what are the issues? Where can you help? Create a meeting agenda so your discussion points are crystal clear and send this to your prospect too.
This is on the basis that we will get back to meeting in person at some point, of course! But you can add value even if you’re meeting online. Make sure your prospect knows how to connect to your meeting, send your phone number in case there are problems – and that meeting agenda is still vital.
So, it’s time for your meeting and your prospect arrives at your office – is it up to scratch?
You know the old cliché – you never get another chance to make a first impression. It’s a cliché because it’s true. Yes, you may be able to overcome a poor first impression with time and effort, but it’s far better to get it right first time.
So what’s the experience like for your prospect? Think it through from their point of view. If you have a car park, do you reserve a space for them close to the door? Do they have to wait to be let in, possibly standing out in the wind and rain? What impression does your reception area create while they’re waiting? Is your customer toilet always clean and fresh smelling?
What can you change to make it a ‘wow’ experience?
Here are a few ideas:
- * A sign with your prospect’s name on a car parking space
- * A drinks menu that offers more than just standard tea or coffee (think green or herbal teas, fruit juice, even champagne)
- * Good quality china and biscuits (your choice of biscuit impacts the success of your meeting!)
- * Fresh fruit
- * Press cuttings about your firm on the table
- * The option to choose the background music as they wait (one firm I know has a juke box in reception)
- * A range of toiletries in the customer toilet so they can freshen up after their journey
And don’t forget the next step…
The meeting environment
Do you meet clients and prospects in your office or in a meeting room? Either way, does it convey the right message about you?
This is just as important if you’re meeting virtually. I was recently on a video call with an accountant who was talking to me from his office. Every surface was covered with files and paper and it looked like he’d jammed as many filing cabinets as possible into the room. There was hardly any space to move, let alone do any work. Fair enough, he wasn’t trying to win my business, we were just talking, but if I’d been a prospect, I wouldn’t have trusted someone who looked so messy and disorganised to help me with my business. So even for online meetings, make sure your surroundings give the right impression.
Of course, the meeting itself gives you the opportunity to really showcase the value you bring. But don’t forget these smaller but very important aspects of your prospect’s journey.
The experience as a whole (whether physical or virtual) will influence the buying decision, so make sure you add value at every point of contact.
We recently ran a webinar with a more in depth look at adding value to the prospect’s journey. The webinar recording is available to watch again on the AVN Know How Hub – you’ll find it in the Survive/Full webinars section (4th February 2021). Find out more about the Hub and subscribe here.