Selling feels like something which is primarily for new clients. You got the new client, check! Proposal signed, payment authorisation confirmed, and they’re off to onboarding. The team will take care of them from there, and you’re on to the next prospect call.
Except the selling doesn’t (and must not) end when a client signs the proposal. You also need to be selling to your existing clients.
That’s simply the first stage of their client experience, and there will be additional services they add (and ones they remove) over the life of their business and relationship with you.
Client needs are going to change as their business changes. In the early days they didn’t need bookkeeping because they did it themselves. Now things are much more complex, with product lines or a larger team or price increases, and they need your help. Or they didn’t need payroll, and then they started hiring and are adding new team members every month.
Sometimes they did need all those services at the beginning, but they weren’t sure yet, so they didn’t sign up for everything at once. They had doubts and fears left over from past experiences with another accountant, and they’re not ready yet to sign up for All The Things. They need time to build trust, and to receive your good advice and see the benefit of it. At the same time, your own service offering changes as your firm evolves. The way you deliver your services, and the prices you charge, are nowhere near where they were in the early days, and legacy clients may not be aware of everything available to them now (which wasn’t there when they became a client).
It feels far less like selling when you’re having a conversation with someone you like and know well and whose business you understand and care about. As you talk about growth opportunities and changes they’re making, together you realise they may need a little help with this. A review of their budget. A seat on their new board. Support in hiring their own internal finance director. Additional payroll support. “Sure, we could do that for you. Shall I send over a quote?” or even, “We could start that next month for an additional £300 p/m. Do you want to start that in December, or January?” It feels less like selling and more like helping: giving them the services they need to succeed, and being on their side as they do it.
When I’m running the Accelerator sessions, helping accountants understand the structure and order of marketing, we always start with session 1: Audience. Everything circles back to who you serve. Your client is the hero. You’re the guide, leading them through a journey, but the big marketing (and selling) question is always, who is this for? What kind of clients do we want to work with, and who are we best placed to serve?
Whether you’re building a new page for your website, or running an event, or preparing social media posts, begin by asking yourself who it’s for. And if it’s for clients, that changes the approach you need to take. They know you, they like you (presumably), and you’ve helped deliver some great results. Your message can be simpler, more to the point. You can rely on the trust already built and be more direct.
Selling to existing clients can actually be one of the easiest things you ever do. It’s actually six times easier to sell to a client you have already than to a new prospect who is still getting to know you. And yet we keep seeking that dopamine rush, that little bell in your email or on Slack telling you there’s a new lead! A new proposal! A new client! You figure the existing clients have all they need, and you hurry on to the new, the bigger, the better…but what might you be leaving on the table?
Selling to existing clients helps make sure those clients are getting everything they need and it can have a big impact on your ongoing sales.
Here’s 15 ways you can incorporate selling into your existing client relationships:
1. Plan your prospecting and onboarding processes to plant seeds. Before they even begin their client journey, make sure you’re planting seeds about the services they may need in future so they remember later. Remember they are not going to sign up for every service (or need it) straight away. The casual comment or mention now and then will remind them the service exists and means it’s more likely to pop up in their mind at the right time. “What was that budgeting service you mentioned a while back? I’m wondering if we need that now.” Remember, they need to hear a piece of information at least 8 or 9 times before it settles into their mind: once is not enough. You are familiar with your firm, your services, your team, your pricing, because you live and breathe it every day. One casual mention about management accounts isn’t going to lock it in their minds. They’re thinking about their own needs, not about how you help solve their problems and how much it costs. Plus, they’ll rely on the relationship you have and ask when they’re ready: but the more seed planting you do in the early days, the easier selling becomes later on. Show them the full picture with a diagram or map in the prospect process and in the onboarding, but you’ll need to bring it up time and time again – at different times and in multiple conversations – for them to remember it at the right time.
2. Show you’re willing to change service levels as needed. Maintaining the client relationship and selling to existing clients must be based on what best suits them. It’s not always an increase in fees; it could be a decrease. The fees they pay could remain exactly the same, but they’re getting completely different services than before. Consider their needs and the way businesses, life and the world changes, and check in with them regularly so you know whether it still fits them.
3. Get in touch with clients and listen. Yes, you could have a fully automated client check-in process, complete with emails and Net Promoter Score ratings and service reviews – but even if you haven’t built that yet, find a way to connect with them and ask how things are going. It could be a text, a DM on social media, a phone call, a quick email. How’s their week? What’s exciting in their business right now? Is there anything they’re struggling with? Even if it’s not directly related to accounts and bookkeeping, whatever they’re going through will still affect those things. Remember it doesn’t have to be a “proper sales call”, booked in three weeks ahead with a Zoom link, a recorded session, and an agenda. Check in, genuinely and like a human, to see how they’re doing. If they’re great, great. If they’re struggling, listen and suggest if there’s something they can do. And if a service might help, ask if they want to talk about it first before going on about how great it will be and how they need it. Use what you know about the client for how to check in with them.
4. Build a client community. This can be by means of a WhatsApp group, a Facebook group, a Slack channel. This is your opportunity to stay connected with clients more often – and when something new is available from your firm, you can quickly tell them about it. Still send the official emails and write blog posts and share it on the socials, but a quick message to your client community can deliver sales results so much faster because it’s an ongoing conversation. You can use this to run online sessions which are for clients only, giving them a little extra because they’re already your customer.
5. Run live events for clients only. As we all learned over the past few years, there’s nothing more powerful than in-person connection. We all are extremely grateful for remote working and online meets and ongoing conversations, but there’s a long lasting impact which comes from being in the same physical space, making eye contact, observing body language and tone of voice, and getting a sense of where the client is at. The client relationship is solidified in a big way, and it feels like a safer space when everyone there is a client too. You could have some events primarily for clients to which you invite a few prospects, and when you do that your clients will literally do the selling for you. They’ll tell these prospects how amazing you are, and the results they’ve been getting, and your entire sales process will be faster for that new prospect.
6. Send regular update emails to clients. These don’t necessarily have to be beautifully designed or full of imagery and links. Your clients already know and trust you, so receiving an email from you personally means they’re far more likely to read it (or at least glance at it). Keep client update emails short and to the point. Consider the six word email: “New budgeting workbook available: download now.” “Do you need more payroll support?” “Client meet up Friday. Register now”. Add a greeting, sign your name, include the link, job done. It doesn’t even have to go through your full email or CRM system.
7. Create a members’ login section on your website and include client-only resources they can get to easily. This is a place where they can access all the resources created exclusively for clients: checklists, downloads, guides, service descriptions. Most of these resources will be helpful in a practical way, and sometimes they’ll point them to other services.
8. Create a client services matrix. List out everything you offer, connect it to every client you currently have, and review what services each client is using (or isn’t). Use this to look for upselling opportunities with clients. Think about those check-ins or the quick chat you had with the client the other day. Do they have everything they need? Is there anything they might be missing? What’s the best way to mention it to them? Your team can be involved in this and do it on a regular basis – monthly or quarterly.
9. Run full service reviews with clients every quarter. You could also start by doing this annually, or twice a year. The more often you check in with clients about the services they have and how that’s going, the better. Be sure to focus on this being a services review, not a ‘fee review’. As soon as you mention fees, they’re going to be worried their prices are going up, and will be less likely to show up to the meeting. If you use GoProposal or another proposal tool, use this to check with them what they need – just like you did when they first became a client. You might find there’s one small service they didn’t realise you offered, and it’s easy to add on. Multiply that by 10 or 20 or even 100 clients and it will have a big impact on your profits.
10. Remember they still have doubts and fears even after they’ve become a client. It’s easy to presume clients are happy if you haven’t heard from them, but simply their being a client doesn’t mean everything is perfect. Maybe you did bookkeeping well, but they’re worried about management accounts and how those will be delivered. Maybe they were more comfortable with accounts and tax, but payroll is new and feels scary and they’re unsure about what they need. If changing or adding a service means they’re working with a team member they’ve never met, they might feel uncomfortable and not sure how to express it. At least once or twice a year, pause to think about your existing clients as if they were new clients. Do they have all the information they need about the services they’re getting, the team members they’re working with, and the opportunities available? A quick email or client update Zoom session could make all the difference.
11. Increase your prices where it is relevant and right to do so. Simply increasing prices across the board because life, because the world, because recession, isn’t enough. Consider what the price increase reflects. Have you increased the team? Added experts? Made a particular service better, faster, more effective? Price increases are easier for your clients to accept when they understand why (as opposed to the “but everything’s going up” reason – which may be true but doesn’t help them see value). When you increase the prices, explain to clients where this is coming from and how it benefits them. Use your client update emails, your check ins, your formal service reviews, and your client community to share the changes and where they’re coming from.
12. Consider increasing prices with a staged approach. When you do raise prices, rather than immediately sending out updates and applying it the following month, consider levels of increases for existing or legacy clients. You could communicate something like this: “We know you’ve been a client with us for over four years, and we love being able to work with you! The price of this service is going up to x amount because [all these reasons], and we’d like to talk with you about that. You can book your check-in call here. Either way, rest assured your prices will stay the same for the next three months, giving you time to adjust and plan and make sure these are the services you need.”
13. Make it easy to add, bolt on, upgrade and downgrade. The easier it is for clients to change services, the more likely they’ll take what they need and remove what they don’t. Think about how frustrating it is when you want to change or review something you’re paying for on a monthly basis but there’s nowhere to log in, review, see what you’re getting or not getting. Many companies make it extremely difficult to change or cancel because they’re relying on people taking the path of least resistance, but that can build resentment instead of a strong, trusting client relationship. Have the team’s calendar links easily accessible so your clients can book a check-in call. Send automated emails clients can quickly respond to when it’s time for their review. Show them a clear path for all the services you offer; help them feel confident about what happens when, how long they’ll need it, and what they do if they believe they don’t need it anymore.
14. Question everything. Just because one client has a particular service doesn’t mean they still need it. Is that the best service for them now? What are they going through? What else might they need? What results are they getting? What would you recommend to them if they were a new prospect?
15. Prepare journeys based on lifetime experience. The client journey shows your experience, your authority, your expertise. You already know how these clients might feel because you’ve worked with hundreds or thousands of others, and you can reflect that in your communications. “So you’ve started hiring! We expect you’re feeling excited about the growth of your business and a little nervous about how you’re going to keep paying all these team members if something goes wrong, or you lose a customer or a project. Here’s everything you may need for your payroll, and what to do if something changes.” Graphics, maps, blueprints, and diagrams are useful to show the path they’re on or may soon be on, and help them feel reassured you know what you’re doing. None of this is a surprise to you. You’re there to support them with whatever services they need (or don’t, anymore).
In the same way you keep a connection with prospects until they’re ready to buy – staying in touch, following them on social media, dropping them a note now and then – do the same with existing clients. They’ll be grateful and so will you. It makes it so much easier for them to buy when they’re ready, which is much faster than any new prospect who comes to you!
To start your client journey with PF, join the next Accelerator coaching group intake. We’ll talk about the audience you’re best placed to serve and how to reach them best – whether they’re a client, prospect or both.