Editor's Note: This is another piece in a series of excerpts from Hitendra R. Patil's book, "Accountaneur: The Entrepreneurial Accountant."
Your current sales process may be totally wrong. How? To know, it is critically important to first understand the core fundamental truth of how you, and your prospects make decisions.
Have you ever had a moment where you looked at your customer’s accounting data and instantly felt something was not right? Did you ever have that “I-had-a-gut-feel-and-wish-I-had- listened-to-it” moment?
The dictionary defines intuitive as “having the ability to know or understand things without any proof or evidence.”
That intuitive ability is an immense strength for an accountant to be successful. Intuitive accountants, by definition, should be more successful than others.
At the same time, perhaps more commonly, accountants are expected to be insightful. The dictionary defines insightful as “characterized by or displaying insight; perceptive.”
- an instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding.
- penetrating mental vision or discernment; faculty of seeing into inner character or underlying truth.
- an understanding of relationships that sheds light on or helps solve a problem.
All accountants are insightful. Without being insightful, they just can not survive in this profession.
But is every accountant intuitive and insightful?
So, why, despite being an intuitive and insightful accountant, are you not getting enough new clients?
What Really is Intuitive?
“How did you know that?" I've been asked this question several times over the years. And I keep saying it's intuition. In the initial few years, I wasn’t very cognizant of this ability. But it was too conspicuous to miss. It made me think. I researched and researched.
And what I now believe is that intuition lies somewhere near the border of the conscious mind and the sub-conscious mind. Our conscious mind makes logical interpretations based on measurements. Even observing something is an optical measurement.
In your case, as an accountant, it is seeing something that seems wrong. The subconscious, driven by your past experiences, belief systems, education, knowledge, etc., processes your observation at enormous speed to connect the dots between your past knowledge and experiences. It takes into account your present observations and measurements, and future possibilities based on the past and present.
It can add a huge complexity of feelings and emotions to the mix. It all happens so rapidly that what your intuition tells you in a split second can take a few minutes or even hours of great effort to explain everything logically.
Now that you know being an “intuitive accountant” has nothing to do with sheer random thoughts, it gives you huge “intuition” and “insight” into your customers.
Your Customers also are Intuitive
All marketing and sales thought leaders agree that human beings make purchase decisions based on feelings, and then justify those decisions with rationale to justify our purchase decisions. This helps avoid that painful post-purchase feeling known as “buyer’s remorse."
Your customers also are intuitive. They go by their own experiences, belief systems, education, knowledge, etc.
Unfortunately, Your Marketing and Sales are not Based on Intuition
Most likely, the why, what, how, etc., of your marketing and sales are based on facts, hard data, logic and rationales – not on intuitive clues and triggers.
In other words, you're putting the cart before the horse. Hence, your current sales process may be totally wrong. Your customers’ decisions are triggered by their intuition. Yet, your marketing and sales is trying to justify customers’ decisions even before they are made.
What is the Intuitive and Insightful Solution?
- First, appeal to the intuitive nature of your prospects.
- And only then appeal to their rational mind with all of your “why,” “what,” “how,” etc.
If you intuitively agree to this, the immediate question is "how" to do so?
How to Fix Your Sales Process?
In my book “Accountaneur: The Entrepreneurial Accountant,” I have cited several aspects of how human behavior science meets the accounting profession. For both accountants and their customers, check out the "Top 10 Entrepreneurial Traits of Successful Accountants"). It's the science behind happy customers. It shows why accountants need to sell new ways of thinking ("Accountants and Six Fundamental Human Needs," and much more.
Let me cite a couple of ways to fix your sales process here:
No. 1 – Prospect with a first time need for the type of services you provide
Let's say your prospect is a start-up owner. He does not have many past experiences about the type of services you deliver. Such prospect’s intuition will be mostly based on experiences in other fields and the belief system – based on childhood experiences, etc.
Asking questions like, “What are the biggest challenges you have tackled so far in setting up your business?” or “Did your parents use accountants?” can give you clues about how their subconscious mind may be functioning. It may be that their parents had a bad experience with an accountant. This means his mind will be preconditioned to be more careful. Of course, you have to be alert and creative to ask sub-questions based on the answers they give – to make deeper understanding about their intuitive inclinations.
Once you get that intuition about their intuitions, address their intuitive sphere of thoughts. This will initially relax their survival instincts and begin the progression to the rational mind. Say something like, “Startups can sell their stake very cheap when they don’t fully understand accounting and tax implications.” This will help switch their subconscious guard into open-minded conscious analysis.
No. 2 – Prospect who is looking to switch from other service provider to you
This can be a bit more challenging for your sales process, because their intuition about accounting services might be very negative. Otherwise, they won’t be thinking of switching the service provider.
But the method to appeal to their intuitive mind actually is simpler, because there already is a proven “anchor” (of what a bad performance is) in their intuitive mind against which they will measure you.
Asking something like, “How many times a month does your current accountant interact with you?” can open the Pandora’s box of their feelings. Observe closely. Even if they seem to explain logical and rational reasons, you’ll often find that it is the human emotions they are feeling the pain with. Address those factors before you talk about any technical details of your service.
Your Customers’ Experience Journey
Being an intuitive accountant can help you be more effective in your marketing and sales process. Taking care of their intuitive thoughts during the initial interactions will help you reach a stage where you can leverage your professional insights to convince them that you (more than others) are the right person to help them with accounting.
Being an insightful accountant will help you close the deals and delight the clients.
What do you think?
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Hitendra R. Patil is COO of Pransform Inc., and author of "Accountaneur: The Entrepreneurial Accountant."