[IMGCAP(1)]It’s hard to think of an industry that doesn’t employ sales forces to bring products to market. Sales forces are the key to sales success and revenue growth for most industries.

For example, think about the construction industry. When a construction company has an opportunity to bid a job, do they send a highly trained crane operator out alone to a sales call? Of course not; they send a sales person. So why do we still try to accomplish sales in our industry in that same manner—sending a highly trained technician (accountant) out on a sales call alone?

Think about the discovery process for a moment. Would the crane operator ask great questions? Probably…and they would be about the overall height of the planned structure, the use of each floor, square footage, the weight requirements for any special equipment that may be needed during construction, and probably the timeline expectations. Seemingly, great technical questions that would help the crane operator frame up the opportunity and create a proposal.

However, a competitor has been invited to the table as well. They don’t send their crane operator, they send a sales person. The sales person researches the company online and asks if anyone in his network knows contacts at the company. He also checks LinkedIn for connections in common with the prospect to generate rapport quickly.

In the meeting, the sales person may ask technical questions similar to those of the crane operator, but also ask about key project concerns: target budget, the competition involved, who did their last project (and what they liked and didn’t like about that provider), what will make the structure unique architecturally, how bidders will be evaluated, and the decision makers involved. These questions not only help the sales person understand what needs to be done, but also how the prospect wants it done, as well as what they prefer in a service provider and what is driving their decision.

If you analyze just the questions being asked in the discovery process, who has the greater chance of winning the work based on this first interaction?

Just as the guy who operates the crane is not appropriately trained in sales techniques, neither are many of our partners. All hope is not lost however, and certainly we can implement sales training in our firms, but is that enough? In many cases, it makes a significant difference to the success rates of proposal opportunities; however, it’s just a patch, a “band-aid” until we realize we are ready for full-time professionals opening doors and creating opportunities every day, all day.

Outside the Big Four, there are probably fewer than 250 professional sales people in accounting firms today. It is a growing trend as firms better understand the rewards, and how to motivate and compensate a sales person. However, the trial period is over. The case studies are in and good sales people can drive considerable revenue in the door to CPA firms just like yours. What would you do with an extra $500k-3M a year in additional revenue? You might first have a big party and then wonder what took you so long to get on board.

As the director of practice growth and marketing consulting services at Koltin Consulting Group, Art Kuesel helps firms grow and add millions of dollars of revenue to their top lines. Reach Art at 312-662-6010 or akuesel@koltin.com. Email him to get a sample job description for a business development executive in a CPA firm to open some of these sales opportunities.