For many accountants, the lead to sale process seems quite simple. In your mind, it goes like this:
- Get lead
- Send proposal
- Get the work (or not)
Then it’s time to go back to step 1.
And this would be brilliant if the process did actually work that way! Simple, easy, and we can all move on.
But because you’re selling professional services – not a one-time, buy-now product – the key to your marketing is trust.
What your prospects are trying to decide is whether they can trust you for one of the biggest decisions of their business life. Do they like you? Are you qualified? Are you an expert in the area they need? Will you respond quickly, and help solve their problems?
This encourages you because if you haven’t heard back from the prospect yet, it could simply be because so far, at this time, they don’t know you yet. They aren’t sure if they can trust you – yet. They’re not ready yet. They don’t see the value yet.
And those reasons are all valid. This is not a failure on your part – it’s merely the first step in the process. And whenever they’re ready, you’re here.
Lack of a follow up process means you will lose business
If you don’t have an actual process for your follow up, you will lose business, and you probably are already losing business.
You can’t get by anymore on trying to remember things in your head, or sending out personal emails to every proposal you’ve put out in the past three months or six months or several years. There’s a lack of an actual process from start to finish, lead to sale, this is how we do things with a lot of automation in it.
Brendan Allen of Practice Ignition said in our webinar: “I’ve worked in a lot of other industries myself, and for some reason in the accounting industry doesn’t put as much emphasis on follow up as other sales industries, which surprises me, especially because there is so much available to help you.”
One of the reasons is that accountants have a tendency to want to get to the answer. This is true for all marketing. What marketing element is going to win me more business? Are events good, or bad? Do I need to sort out SEO for my website?
And when it comes to proposals, the same applies. You want a yes, or a no. You either get the work, or don’t.
But that’s not true anymore.
People don’t always say yes or no. Sometimes they say yes, and sometimes they say no, but the rest of the time, at least 80% or more of your prospects either haven’t decided or they don’t give an answer at all.
The follow up process is there to fill the gap of the (at least) 80% of your prospects who don’t sign up straight away.
The 7 step process for following up proposals
Here’s how to prepare your process, step by step:
1. Prepare your process
First, this makes you more profitable. Having a clear process means that you’re saving time per proposal.
You don’t have to send a templated proposal to every new prospect necessarily – you still want to customise it for their needs and issues – but if you have all the elements of the proposal there ready to be adapted, you could get proposals out in a few minutes instead of a few hours.
2. Check to ensure this is truly an ideal client
First, you want to find out their frustrations, pain points, and motivations. Many of the accountants I talk to are really excellent at this. You know how important it is to discover these so that you can match your offering to their needs.
But this is your opportunity to find out if it’s truly an ideal client, or just some more money. It’s critical to be very honest with yourself: because this is the exciting part.
You have a new prospect, and they are interested in all the services, and you can truly help them, and it’s going to be amazing….! But your proposal process can also be an opportunity to weed out the people who are not going to be ideal – who are tyre kickers, or will plague your life out with questions, or won’t trust you. That will make you more profitable, too.
3. Deliver the proposal using a cloud proposal system.
One of the most important reasons to use a cloud proposal system – rather than sending out a Word document or a tedious engagement letter – is that in addition to giving a professional impression of your firm, it also shows that you are modern and use good technology and respond quickly.
Because whatever you say you want to be as an accountancy firm, you need to back it up with what you do. If you’re promoting the fact that you are a Xero partner and can help your clients use Xero plus all the add-on integrations, but your proposal process starts with a few bullet points in an email, your prospects will feel the disconnect and will receive a message about how you do business.
Conversely, when you’re using Practice Ignition or Quotient or some other system, it gives the right kind of impression from the start.
4. Personal follow up: Listen to the internal reminders
Although automated follow up is important (see point 5), do listen to the internal reminders in your head. If you suddenly think, “I wonder what happened to that prospect” or “We talked to them about the funding they needed – I wonder how they got on with that”.
When that happens, if at all possible, get in touch with the prospect quickly. You don’t even have to ask if they’ve reviewed your proposal – you can simply ask how they got on, or send them a link to helpful information.
Remember that it’s all about them and their needs, and their issues: it’s not about you getting more business and getting more money. If your focus is entirely about you getting the sale, they will feel that, and it can affect the trust you’re working so hard to build.
5. Automated follow up
The ideal scenario is that you have a proper CRM such as Infusionsoft or Hubspot. When you have that level of capability, your automated follow up can be extremely powerful.
Particularly talk to us if you have Infusionsoft, because we’ve got strategic partners who work in partnership with us so you can have the content written and the follow up sequences organised and it all ticks over beautifully.
But if you don’t, you can still automate your follow up with something as simple as Mailchimp. You may even be using it already. The design is clean and simple, you can segment your database, and best of all there are automated follow up sequences built into the system. (Get it all set up for you – read more here)
6. Follow up everyone – prospects and clients
It’s not just follow up for the new prospects alone. Incorporating your existing clients into your follow up marketing is extremely powerful, because your clients’ needs change too. Even though they’re a client of yours, their needs don’t stay exactly the same.
Make sure you’re changing with them, and that you’re available to provide what they need at the time they need it.
Here are a few quick suggestions for how to do this – for prospects and clients alike:
- Send them helpful resources
- Arrange a catch up – or just ring them
- Send them something relevant to their niche or industry
- Invite them to an event (online or offline)
- Write & share blog posts
- Deliver a video on a key topic you’re the expert on
7. Avoid follow up entirely by asking, “Do you want to go ahead now?”
As a final bonus win, you might not have to follow up at all if your prospect is ready to go ahead. Always check the temperature of the meeting, and if they sound enthusiastic or ask the right questions or show an interest, don’t be afraid to simply ask, “Would you like to go ahead?”
If there is hesitation, or they have more questions, you can either answer those questions, or arrange another meeting to give them time to think.
Remember that it’s never a fail for someone to say “I’m not sure yet” (or even, “No thank you”), because you can then bundle them into your ongoing marketing, and it will be a win eventually.
It could take months or even years for them to come back round to you – but when they do come, they’re ready to do business and they will absolutely be your ideal client.