Selling Problem Solving by Solving Problems

One thing about accountants I really like. They learn awfully fast.

I had breakfast the other day with an old friend, a forensic accountant—call him Joe the Accountant. He’s a bit of a loner, motivated by achieving results, and impatient with what he sees as bureaucratic and procedural focus. And he is very sharp.

He’s a bit like a bloodhound; don’t point him toward the scent and expect him to back off. Perhaps that’s why he tends to rotate employers every 6 – 8 years.

“Maybe I should just do free-lance work,” he mused to me. “I don’t mind selling. I just don’t know how to do it well. I could get appointments with several well-positioned past clients. I could just ask them if there’s some work I could do for them, I suppose.”

“No,” I said. “Talk to them about what problems need solving.”

Joe: Of course, silly me. Then I can pitch how I might be able to solve them.

Me: Congrats, you just went from weak salesman to average salesman in ten seconds.

Joe: So–how do I get to the next step? (Joe’s pretty impatient too).

Me: Pick one problem and solve it in that meeting.

Joe: Hmmm. I like that. But will the client do anything if I just give him the advice?

Me: You just went from pretty good to almost really good. So answer your own question.

Joe: I see, he’s got to be involved in getting the right answer in order to act on it it. So—you’re saying just do the work right there in the meeting?

Me: Pretty much.

Joe: So when do you make the sale?

Me: After you solve the problem together, you say, “This is great fun. We ought to do more of this. Though after one more session, you need to pay me. I can’t just be having fun for free. So how shall we set this thing up?”

Joe: Hmmm. Yes, that works, doesn’t it? Give ‘em a taste of your wares, so to speak. Just do it–then ask for the sale. Right?

Me: That’s about it.

Joe: Great, thanks. Gotta run; this breakfast is now interfering with scheduling my first sales call.

One thing about accountants I really like. They learn awfully fast.