Sales conversationA sales conversation is the exchange between you and a prospective client where you find out what the client needs, explain what you offer, and see if there’s a match between you. It’s neither a lecture nor arm-twisting; it’s a discussion between peers about an arrangement that will serve you both.

Here’s what a conversation like this sounds like in real life, with a few asides to note what you might learn from it.

Accountant Meg: Hi, Jack, this is Meg Jones, the small business accountant. How are you today? (Meg re-identifies herself to Jack. She also doesn’t launch right into a lengthy speech.)

Prospective Client Jack: I’m good, but a little busy right now.

Meg: I hope “busy” is good news for you. Do you have just a few minutes to talk about us working together? Last time we spoke you said you’d like to explore that idea. (She acknowledges Jack’s situation, but doesn’t just end the call. She asks permission to continue, and reminds him of a reason he may want to.)

Jack: Sure, I can spare a few minutes.

Meg: Great. You explained to me you have multiple lines of business, but your accounting isn’t telling you which ones are profitable and which aren’t doing as well. That’s one of my areas of expertise, so I know I could fix that, and provide enough reporting and analysis for you to be able to make better strategic decisions. What else are you looking for? (Meg describes Jack’s known problem or goal, which she had in her notes. She tells him succinctly how she can help and mentions a benefit to him. Then she asks for more info from Jack so she can suggest more ways she can help.)

Jack: I could sure use that. Do you also do taxes?

Meg: Absolutely. If we work together, I can prepare state and federal tax returns for your business, as well as your personal returns. Once we have your accounting system set up in the right way, there’s very little you’ll need to do for your business returns. Tax time can go much more smoothly. Is there any other accounting help you feel like you need? (Meg recognizes Jack’s response as a signal he’s interested in hiring her, and tests how ready he is by asking if there’s more he needs.)

Jack: There might be, but those are my two biggest headaches.

Meg: Those sound like just the sort of headaches I can make go away. May I tell you a bit about how I work? (Meg is now sure that Jack wants to hire her, and moves from talking about benefits of working together to describing the features of what she offers.)

Jack: Sure.

Meg: Because I specialize in working with small businesses like yours, I offer a package of services at a flat price, which includes what most small business owners need. When we first get started, I’ll review your books and make recommendations for your bookkeeper to implement, plus give him or her a list of regular reports to provide to you. You and I will meet together once per quarter to review your profits and expenses, and analyze any strategic decisions necessary.

In the third quarter, I’ll provide yearend tax planning recommendations, and after yearend, I’ll prepare state and federal tax returns for both the business and you. The total cost for the year will be $2,500, which includes unlimited phone calls to discuss your business financials. How does that sound? (Meg describes exactly what Jack will get before she tells him what it costs. Then she asks for his reaction.)

Jack: Wow, $2,500 is a lot.

Meg: Yes, it’s a substantial investment. What you’ll get in return for that is an accountant on your team year-round without having to have one on the payroll. Plus, you’ll get the information and advice you need to make your business more profitable. You don’t have to pay the full $2,500 up front. I ask for $1,000 to get started, then $500 per quarter for the rest of the year. What do you think? (Meg agrees with Jack’s consideration, and gives him two more benefits of hiring her. Then she offers to make payment easier, and again asks for his reaction.)

Jack: Maybe I could do that.

Meg: If you’d like to get started, we could make our initial appointment for next week, and I can contact your bookkeeper directly to get what I need. Would you like to do that? (Meg believes Jack is ready to buy, and asks him a direct yes or no question.)

Jack: Sure, let’s do it.

Meg has closed the sale. Now it’s your turn! How could you use this example to have more productive sales conversations of your own?

C.J. Hayden

C.J. Hayden, MCC, CPCC, is the author of the bestseller Get Clients Now!: A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches, Since 1992, she's been helping self-employed professionals survive and thrive. C.J. is the author of five other business how-to-books, and has taught marketing at Mills College and John F. Kennedy University. Find out how you can work with C.J. as your business coach or attend one of her upcoming programs.

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