How is it that some firms seem to have the enviable ability to bring in new clients or increase revenue from current clients with ease? On the flip side, why do other firms struggle with creating new opportunities or enhancing existing ones? These days, firms will spend thousands of dollars on marketing programs or sales training, often times with mixed or disappointing results. While many programs do help firms, I believe minor changes can be made within the firm that will result in lasting change and increased revenue. After working with CPA firms for nearly 10 years now, I believe that building a culture of sales is simpler that what most people realize. There are 4 essential components you can use to begin building a culture of sales in your firm.
Everyone has a Role in Sales
Let me start out by saying that too many people hear the word "sales” and immediately tense up or conjure up the image of a sleazy used car salesman. The first step in changing your culture will be to get your team to understand that sales are not bad and that everyone plays an important role…everyone! A quick brain storming session with your team will help them understand what their individual roles are. Have everyone try to answer: "How do I affect the revenue growth for my firm?” Responses will vary, but with further discussion, people will begin to see how every interaction they have with clients or prospects lead to sales. These are a few simple examples of roles played by different team members in sales:
- The receptionist answering the phone and getting the caller to the person that can best assist his or needs and avoiding voicemail if someone else can assist
- The IT leader keeping the technology running smooth so there are no service lapses
- A tax manager asking a client for a referral from a client
- The marketing director communicating the value of the firm on the website
- A partner asking additional questions during a client engagement in an effort to find additional opportunities
There are dozens of roles that your team plays in sales. Get the team to stop thinking that revenue is only driven by certain rainmakers or the sales team and you are on your way!
One of the biggest struggles for firms is properly communicating the importance of having everyone think about sales and revenue growth. Sales updates and discussion should not be limited to partner meetings and annual firm summits. Consistent high level updates to the entire team on a weekly basis are a good start. Firms should also consider building a sales team or committee similar to an IT committee. Have people from all areas of the firm represented so that the message is easier to pass along. Communication of sales goals and opportunities need to be driven from the top. Firms can’t rely on 1 person, like a rainmaker, to be the champion. Team members must see that the firm leaders all see sales as an important component to the firm.
Make it Fun
Selling has a very bad name to many people. There are probably people on your team that are missing easy sales opportunities because they don’t enjoy selling as they currently understand it. It is imperative that your team has fun while you work to change the culture. Help your team alleviate apprehensiveness with role playing, fun training videos, contests, and prizes for certain accomplishments (remember to tie these in with the "roles” so that everyone is involved). You may have to try a few different things or combination of things for it to help everyone enjoy it. The actual selling may not be fun for everyone, but the pieces that go into changing the culture sure can be!
One of the hardest things for firms to do is to make sure that they reward and celebrate successes, even the small ones. If you wait until a deal closes, you will have missed the opportunity to celebrate a moment that led to the close. For example, someone on your team mentions to a tax client that your firm also specializes in financial planning. This leads to a meeting of the client with one of your financial planners. Take the time to thank and congratulate that team member for taking the initiative to talk to the client about new opportunities with the firm. Whether it leads to new work or not, is not important at this stage. It is a step in the right direction and should be acknowledged. Take it a step further and mention the person in a staff meeting so they are recognized for taking an active role in sales. This helps everyone to see the positive reinforcement of a selling activity.
Building a sales culture won’t happen overnight, but when you follow these 4 steps consistently, you will see dividends quickly. Don’t be afraid to add in your own pieces that are unique to your firm. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but I have found them to be consistent among high performing firms across the country. Good luck and go sell something!