[IMGCAP(1)]An astute observer of human nature once stated, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

While the original author of that statement is not definitively known, it has been repeated by many of the best minds in business. What does it mean? And more importantly, what does it mean for professionals who sell knowledge like accountants?

Let’s take a look at an all too common approach to business development. Picture yourself in this scenario. You’ve got another prospect opportunity coming up and you’re preparing to wow your soon to be potential client. You’re going through a checklist of everything you need to showcase—your credentials, your past successes and your industry team of knowledgeable experts. You’ve got facts and figures, you’ve got jargon. You’ve got tax codes and regulations. You’re ready.

But do you have the most important thing the client is looking for?

You’re in business because you provide a service for businesses that they can’t do themselves. This means that your clients are coming to you because they are already aware of the fact that you have necessary knowledge and expertise in a field that they do not. When your sales process is built upon a strategy that merely showcases your knowledge and expertise, you may be pointing out what your potential clients already know.

It’s a common misconception among accounting professionals to believe that what differentiates them from their competitors is knowledge. You think you are just more knowledgeable than the partner at the next firm. Guess what? You may be, and it may not matter at all.

In reality, what often separates one firm and one partner from another is how they connect with their clients. Your sales process shouldn’t be centered on what knowledge you bring to the table; instead it should be centered on how you will work to provide value to the client in the best way possible. Clients want to know that you care about them and what happens to their businesses and families. Once they know you care, they will begin to trust you, and they might just let you put your wealth of knowledge to work on their behalf.

No Need to Showboat
When you’re sitting in a prospect meeting, if your marketing team has done their job, the potential client is already fully aware that you have knowledge that they need. That’s a pretty safe thing for them to assume of most many accounting firms, really.

What is most important to them is how you will take care of them and bring value to them. Your knowledge is the price of admission, and one that your marketing team should have already paid. It is not necessarily the differentiator that will drive the final decision.

In order to truly connect with a potential client, you need to convince them that you care. That you are on their side, and that you are going to be sure that your knowledge and experience are put to use to ensure their success. If they don’t know that you care, they won’t care what you know. And if all you do is talk about what you know, they will never see that you care.

Here’s an idea to improve your sales delivery. Make plans to engage in a conversation. The very first sales meeting shouldn’t be about you trying to impress them with your technical knowledge. It should be about you getting to know the client, their business, their problems and what they need. Your job is to help them, not put on a show for them.

Listen First
Avoid leaving a sour taste in your client’s mouth by refusing to make assumptions about their business and their needs. Treat every new potential client like it’s they are your very first one. This means getting to know their business on a personal level, listening to them tell you about what their problems are and what they need help with.

In most cases, these clients are coming to you because they already know their issues and know they need your help solving them. So, let them tell you about it. If you listen closely enough, you might just hear what is really troubling them. If you hear that, you’ll have the advantage and opportunity you are looking for.

Focus on Value
Laws and regulations are important, sure, but your clients don’t always want to know the nitty-gritty. In fact, most of them don’t care nearly as much about tax laws and accounting standards as you do. They simply need to know that your focus is on the benefit of their company, and that you will ensure that the full strength, resources and experience of your firm will be brought to bear on their behalf. This means focusing on the value and outcomes of the service you provide instead of the service itself and the resumes of those providing it.

Before your next big prospect opportunity, remember the quote above: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

You just might improve your chances of making a connection that will lead to a profitable relationship.

Stephen Brunson is a director at Catalyst CPA Marketing, an accounting marketing and CPA firm growth advisory firm working exclusively within the accounting industry. He works closely with both firm management and marketing teams to develop and execute effective growth strategies.

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