My family and I spent some time over the past few days interviewing home caregivers for another family member. As you can imagine, this process had a strong emotional component and involved a number of potential service providers.
As the interviews progressed, I found quite a few parallels in service selection between selecting medical providers and accountants. Here are a couple of important observations from a prospective client’s perspective.
Having a strong technical ability only gets you invited to the table
Just like doctors and nurses, accountants are highly educated and specialized in their fields. And these technical abilities are what attract potential clients at the beginning. In the case of the home care provider, we didn’t even talk to people who weren’t registered or accredited in their specialty. But, once we confirmed their technical knowledge, we quickly began looking at other characteristics. Were they personable and kind? Were they willing to go above and beyond basic duties to help us? Could we count on them to arrive on time and as scheduled?
This is very similar to how business owners look for accounting and consulting service providers. Obviously, you need to market technical abilities in order to be considered at all. But you will quickly want to turn your marketing focus to those features that your clients will find important. Do you understand my business and my industry? Can you help me plan for growth over the next 3 to 5 years? By publishing articles that demonstrate your business and industry knowledge and by sharing case studies of how you’ve helped similar clients, you will demonstrate the characteristics that clients seek when selecting a provider.
The prospect needs to feel heard
Nothing can be more frustrating for a prospect than being interrupted or having his or her ideas dismissed. It’s not enough that you understand what the prospective client is saying. They need to feel heard. Regardless of whether: you specialize in medicine or accounting, I would imagine the situations could be very similar. In our case with medical providers, many of our questions were often met with comments like, “You don’t need to worry about that,” or “We take care of that,” but these comments didn’t validate our concerns or describe how will they planned to take care of our needs.
Keep in mind your business prospects have similar feelings when they meet with you. As you talk to them about their needs, you will want to address their concerns, validate their feelings and describe specific ways you can help. You might try something like, “We often see clients who have similar fears and concerns over a first-time audit, and you are right to feel that way. You are opening your books for scrutiny and you may be concerned about what we might find. Here are the specific actions we take to help you feel more comfortable.” And of course, go on to describe what you do, whether it is the type of team you select for first-time audits or how you work with their staff to educate them.
At the end of the day, winning over a new client comes down to stepping out of the technical zone and listening to the underlying needs of the prospect. Business owners are often as passionate about their businesses as they are about their friends and family. You can differentiate yourself by addressing the potential client’s emotional needs as well as their technical requirements. Marketing and business-development consultants and coaches are great resources for identifying prospects’ needs and for developing your style and marketing materials to better address those needs.