Cross selling has become a lost art, not only in CPA firms, but in other industries as well. Whether it’s due to a lack of information on what to sell or a lack of proper training to learn how to sell, here are some tips that are ideal for young CPAs to know—or for that fact, anyone in your firm or organization.
#1: It’s Not About the Sale!
Cross selling is not about closing a deal or swaying a client with a list of features. It’s a process that involves building relationships. Getting to know your client from a professional and personal level will help you make a more informed decision about which services will benefit that client.
“If you listen to your clients and provide suggestions based on their wants and needs, their perception will be that you are adding value and not selling, which is a much more effective way to sell,” said Rob Berger, CPA, CGMA, a principal with Anders CPAs & Advisors and a graduate of the 2012 AICPA Leadership Academy. “In some circumstances, your client won't know they have a need. If that's the case, you'll have to point out the need for them. Start by asking questions about their processes.”
#2: Get the Training You Need
Every firm expects its staff to cross sell, but cannot expect success if the firm doesn’t prepare them properly. Rob says the accounting profession has recently seen a disconnect in training.
“We’ve become very specialized, which can make selling services that fall outside your primary area of expertise difficult,” he said. “Anders doesn’t focus on teaching its employees to sell services that are not familiar to them. Instead, we train employees to be aware of key indicators that could result in the need for additional services.”
Rob says this “engrained” process begins at orientation where each employee meets with department heads and niche group leaders to gain an understanding of the work being done in each department. Regular updates are then given from the various niches during department meetings, firm meetings, and at lunch. Pipeline lead and referral meetings are held every other week with supervisors and those in positions higher than supervisors. They report, by niche, on wins, losses, new opportunities, and trends in the marketplace.
Rob says this is the kind of process that must take place at your firm if you want cross selling to succeed. When the opportunity presents itself, employees must be educated on your entire firm’s services, know what to look for in a client meeting, and be able to know who to refer work to in your firm.
#3: Establish Face-to-Face Communication
Many CPAs are too comfortable sitting in front of their computers and crunching data. That simply won’t work for successful cross sellers. To build and maintain a strong relationship with a client, you must be present and you must be ready.
Introduce your client to the other members of your team. Not only is this a way to ease tension and anxiety, but chances are your client will also be advised by some of these team members down the road. When that happens and you are the client’s advocate, you must be present to nurture the process. When your client gives you the nod, schedule a meeting for all of you all to meet.
#4: Every Action Yields a Reaction
Whether it’s the managing partner or receptionist, everyone must represent your firm in a professional and appropriate manner. Returning emails and phone calls promptly, being on time for meetings, and being polite and respectful is just as important as displaying your skills and delivering your services.
#5: Approach Senior Staff for Partnering
For the sake of Nike, just do it! If there’s anyone who should know how important cross selling is, it’s your experienced senior staff. Taking the initiative to talk to them about how you want to learn more about their areas of expertise and service delivery shows them you are putting your best foot forward and may help your longevity in the firm.
Cross selling really has nothing to do with sales pitches or feature spiels. It all comes down to the value your firm adds to your clients. It’s that simple. Follow these tips to help your cross selling soar!
Protecting your turf is rampant, no matter what kind of firm you work in; have you encountered a person in your firm who refused to train you on his or her service or area of expertise? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll keep all responses confidential.