value-based selling

winning your first client – and your next client


understanding selling in practice

how professionals can implement calculable fee growth for their firms.

by martin bissett


practical wisdom on every page

screen shot 2015-01-16 at 10.18.00 amwhy someone would buy from you before you ever speak to them. (page 7)

how to understand how we can provide superior support to the business we want to win as a client (page 9)

whom should institute a system of accountability to drive success. (page 15)

discover the eight value questions every accountant must master (page 17)

why 87% of firms are capable of embracing a growth culture, but lack the structures to do so. (page 21)

when clients don’t by services, they buy relationships and the outcomes that come from those relationships. (page 23)

why accountants start by first creating and adhering to a system of self-directed discipline and self-rewards for themselves. (page 25)

if you were meeting yourself for the first time, what would be your first impression of yourself? (page 27)

how 70% of accounting firm partners can overcome the stigma in “selling.” (page 33)

defining the vast difference between marketing and sales – creating opportunities and converting opportunities into new business. (page 35)

why generating 82% of new clients from referral sources is not such a good thing. (page 37)

learn the difference between chasing new fees and attracting them. (page 44)

how 55% of a prospective client’s opinion of us is determined by our often unconscious body language. our words account for 7% of their opinion. (page 50)

how the best rainmakers break down the unspoken barriers in clients’ minds. (page 61)

learn three everyday disciplines to grow your practice with the right kind of work at the right kind of fee – without spending huge amounts of time on either. (page 64)

10 new skills “winning your first client” teaches:

  1. understanding the difference between marketing and business development
  2. firmly mapping out your plans for growth
  3. assigning yourself to become accountable to someone
  4. having them evaluate you
  5. determining what your value is relative to each individual new opportunity when you meet with them for the first time
  6. evaluating whether you believe in you
  7. assessing whether you would buy from you
  8. calculating a walk-away price for every deal
  9. describing why you and your firm are better than your competitors for each prospect you see, not just different
  10. scheduling specific, non-interruptible time in your diary to proactively work on business development initiatives

before you present yourself to a potential client, learn 9 ways to become comfortable with:

  1. how you’ve treated your family members recently
  2. how well you’ve been striving to hit any personal goalsthat you might have set yourself
  3. how you’ve dealt with employees and clients recently
  4. what you did when no one could see you
  5. what you think about, if it were to be made public
  6. the way you present yourself visually
  7. the way you present yourself verbally
  8. the work you do for your clients
  9. how much preparation you’ve invested into this meeting

table of contents

……….1st piece of value – perception is reality
……….2nd piece of value – those successful in winning new work are generally successful in life first
……….3rd piece of value – win your first clientdaily
……….4th piece of value – it is no longer difficult to sell accounting services
… ..5th piece of value – don’t chase new fees, attract them
… ..6th piece of value – it’s about time to realise that value is not about time
.. ..7th piece of value – scheduling + implementing x skill x knowledge = new fees
.. ..8th piece of value – compliance sells on fee, advisory sells on value

message from the author

dear reader,

whenever you pick up a book that promotes a certain approach, methodology, technique or ethos, as this one does, the front of the book is packed with sentiments like…

‘martin has some very insightful ideas and i now have a much better idea of how to structure meetings when trying to win work and also how to have a much more structured follow-up approach after such meetings….’

‘we recently started working with martin as our sales process just wasn’t working as it should do. already after two sessions we have started seeing very positive changes and implemented some of martin’s excellent ideas. his enthusiasm and skill really rubs off on our…..’

‘martin has already transformed our approach to business development. not only has he demonstrated how best to approach our marketing process but he has also helped us with the practical implementations….’

‘martin has real in-depth knowledge of his speciality, which is sales and marketing for accountants. he has shown a real interest in our practice and goals and ensured that our ethics correspond to his own, and has helped us break down barriers and build relationships with potential clients….’ etc etc etc .

don’t get me wrong, those are real examples of endorsements written by real clients, and i am greatly indebted to those who wrote them, but you’d hardly expect to read anything else other than high praise would you?

so instead of filling this page with endorsements that you’d presume i’d have plenty of anyway, how about we do things a little differently?how about i offer my thanks to you for giving of your time to read this book, that i invite you to consider its content, reflect on how it might positively impact you and your firm and then encourage you to have a go at implementing the content found in these pages?if that implementation leads to clear, discernible, sustained and positive improvement in your efforts to grow the firm, you have a better endorsement for this book and series than i could ever put on paper from other people’s words.

to your success!
martin bissett

from the author’s foreword

it’s been 16 years since i started working with the accounting profession. i have sat in over a thousand partners’ offices in that time, worked with roughly half of that number and been a part of delivery teams who have created over £450 million worth of new opportunities for those firms.

in that time, i have witnessed the highs and the lows of business development in the profession. i’ve seen the common vernacular of business owners downgrade accounting from a once noble ‘profession’ to a mere “industry.” i have also seen what the best firms do to win high-end work, at high-end fees and in short turnaround times. the common denominator in those firms is that their partners win their first client on a daily basis.

“winning your first client” refers to a state of mind that we adopt before ever speaking to prospective new clients. a common concern raised to me by partners of accounting firms is that they are unsure they can offer anything above and beyond that which a potential client is already receiving from their current accountant.

if we don’t know how we can provide superior support to the business we want to win as a client, we really can’t expect our prospective clients to know that either.

winning your first client is all about understanding why someone would buy from you before you ever speak to them, before you ever start the preparation for talking to them.

therefore, winning your first client is all about understanding why someone would buy from you before you ever speak to them, before you ever meet them, before you ever start the preparation for talking to them.

i find that this discipline goes unexplained by most ‘sales training’ offered to the accounting profession, but ultimately we have to be comfortable with who we are and the value that we offer.

we have to be comfortable with such little details as our appearance, the way we speak, the way we come across, the strength of the handshake, the amount of eye contact. all of these tiny little nuances play a part in how we are perceived by our prospective clients when we go and see them, or when they come and see us. so the more we can get in order first, the more relaxed and natural we are, which allows us to build the relationship we referred to in the introduction.

in case it’s not clear yet, the ‘first client’ is you. ‘winning your first client’ is therefore the concept and practice of understanding why your accounting firm can bring more value to the table for a business than they get from their current accountants. it is about understanding that you must be perceived as professional, that you must be punctual, that you must understand the business owner’s personal needs, which drive their business’s needs.

if we don’t know how we can provide superior support to the business we want to win as a client, we really can’t expect our prospective clients to know that either. ultimately, this can be summed up in one question: “if we were to meet us, would we be impressed with our- selves to the extent of wanting to work together?”

perhaps your personal modesty doesn’t allow you to admit that you would be impressed with yourself, but in selling our professional services we all need that kind of assurance, because once we have confidence about how we come across, we are much more assured, and able to project that image to prospective clients as well.

about the author

martin bissett

martin bissett is the founder of the upward spiral partnership, the u.k.-based consulting firm that specializes in the implementation of professional selling skills and leadership development for senior managers in the accounting profession.

he has worked with several hundred accounting firms internationally to grow their gross recurring fee bases. he is engaged by his clients to transfer skills to their practice, often in business development disciplines, via personal demonstration, training, consulting, coaching, mentoring and research content. the outcome of this work is new business for the practices, alongside the fine-tuning of teams of partners and emerging leaders who can create and close new opportunities for themselves without significant third-party assistance.

previously, martin served 10 years on the board of the uk’s leading provider of high-quality new business appointments for accountancy firms. there, he held the responsibility for the client base, including six of the u.k.’s top 30 accountancy firms. he now consults with accounting firms worldwide.

he can be reached at:
phone (in the uk): +00 44 7708 922622

winning your first client – and your next client


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