Accountants as sales specialists

My attention was drawn to an interesting blog posted on the portal this morning which addressed the question “can accountants make good salespeople? The author of the post was discussing some thoughts expressed by Paul Shrimpling a professional service firm marketing specialist. Click here to get to the blog.

The blog is definitely worth reading if only because it references a very useful sales meeting protocol developed by Shrimpling under the acronym PROGRESS where P=plan the meeting, R=rapport is essential, O=opening the meeting, G=gather relevant information from the client, R=reveal your solution, E= engage with the client, S=seal the deal, S=see it through by delivering on your promise.  This protocol reflects the essence of our own recommended sales process and I know it will work if implemented and practiced.

Of less interest in the blog was a discussion of the question “can accountants sell?” This was presented in the context that the increasingly competitive landscape mandates that they need to develop this skill.  The answer is OFF COURSE accountants can sell. Shrimpling is of the view, as am I, that it’s not a question of can, it’s a question of will. Or as some sage once said don’t say “I would if I could”, say “I could if I would.”

I commented on the blog and I thought I’d restate my thoughts here just for fun …

Selling starts with two fundamental questions: first, can I add value to this person? and if yes, am I willing to get in front of him/her and explain how? The first question is about client selection, the second is about self-confidence.

I often get asked to recommend a great sales training book. There are thousands out there–just Google it!  My recommendation is an oldie but a goodie–How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Interestingly, Warren Buffett says it was one of the only TWO books that changed his life, the other was Ben Graham’s book The Intelligent Investor.

Selling is something we all do all the time (see Dan Pink’s latest book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others) in all aspects of our lives as fathers, mothers, siblings, partners, managers, leaders – you name it! I can’t think of any life role in which selling is not a central part of the communication process intended to influence people for good and sometimes bad. To suggest that accountants can’t sell is absurd. They may choose not to commit to add value or not to develop the skill to articulate how they could add value but that is different to saying they can’t sell because of some personality issue. When I was in practice I passionately believed that it was my professional responsibility to create value for my firm’s clients if and when I could see an opportunity to do so.

I don’t believe this an issue of responding to competitive pressure. It is now, and always has been, a a question of our responsibility and our willingness to make a difference to the lives of people. That’s a defining characteristic of a profession and a professional. Better business means a better life. Accountants are in the perfect position to help people make better choices in their business and consequently to experience better outcomes. Spend more time seeking clients in respect of whom you can create value and less time chasing easy, mindless work and everything will change for you