Monthly Tips...

In this section we will bring you a brief, easy to do tip every month and then archive them over time to build up an extensive reference library for you.

Dealing with "No".

We've all been here - we've paid a visit, by appointment, to a prospective client, gone through our presentation, asked all the right questions and provided excellent answers and waited for a response, only to be told that the prospect wants to "think it over" before making a decision.

The same can be said for meeting with an existing client (or discussing this with them on the telephone) to talk about a new service that your firm could offer, that the client would benefit from.

I believe a "no" is not a definite or permanent state of mind, it's more like a "no, not yet" - perseverence pays huge dividends. While many "nos" are indeed a "no, not yet", the concept of getting objections out in the open and not wasting your time if they are fundamentally insurmountable at an early stage is a good idea.

We use the "Think It Over" (TIO) policy ourselves, often when an irritatingly persistent sales representative from a newspaper advertising sales office calls. We know when we say it that we really mean "no". So why do we believe that at "think it over" response from our own prospects would be any different?

Well, I'll tell you. It's because the advertising usually offers us no benefits whatsoever, yet we believe in what we do for our clients, that we genuinely help them, that by using our firm, they are far better for the experience and the quality of service we provide. We can help them grow their business, raise capital, save them tax, produce their financial statements faster than they presently get them, etc, etc...

Unfortunately, it's certain you and your people, at some time or another, have been on the wrong end of that TIO sentence. And every time you hear it, you fall victim to the biggest time-waster plaguing accounting firms everywhere.

Why do we encounter it so often? Well, many prospects think it's the easiest way to get rid of you so they can focus on more immediate opportunities and concerns. If that's the case, then you really need to qualify your prospects much better before meeting with them, and eliminate these to begin with.

But that's not the only reason we find ourselves in front of a TIO.

Some well-meaning people just hate to say no. But most of all, accounting professionals have a real problem asking prospects to make a decision during a sales presentation, largely because we don't want to be told "no".

So we permit prospects to drag us through the purgatory of alternating hope and despair. And even though 95% of all TIOs will never result in any business, human nature compels us to hang on in hopes that, this time, things will finally go our way.

The end result: we waste valuable time and resources waiting for a sale that ain't gonna happen. TIOs make it take forever to get to "no", which permits the prospect to steal your valuable time.

Clearly, we must learn how to respond to TIOs.

Better yet, we can stop the TIO from happening in the first place. If a prospective client is not convinced of a strong compelling reason to use your firm today, then they will put you off indefinitely in favor of priorities that have more immediate impact on their business and personal situation. So why not get straight to "no" in the first place and save everyone's time?

Here's how to eliminate TIOs.

It's critical that you make your customer understand they have two distinct and equal choices at every meeting, and that you are comfortable with either.

Tell them up-front that at the end of the meeting you will agree upon a course of action:

  • If there is no fit between your companies, or no real benefit to the prospective client, you will say thanks and part as friends, or
  • If they decide that it is worthwhile continuing the discussion you will then lay out the next steps together.

    A strong agreement like this - made up front - will ensure the customer is comfortable telling you "no" and will not feel compelled to string you along.

Finally, take this expectation into each step of the sales process: your prospect must convince you that there is a reason for your continued involvement. The TIO can pop up at any stage in the process, so if you're having any doubts that there's a reason for the two of you to do business together, tell the prospect. Then let him or her convince you why you should stay involved.

After all, what's a "no" worth? Just the most valuable thing you possess: your time.

© 2009, MFA Group Inc. All rights reserved.