The difference between an average salesperson and an outstanding one is usually very little. A successful salesperson will put in the extra effort to be exceptional and that is where the difference lies, in effort. To be successful at prospecting and sales requires a large amount of personal drive and self motivation. To that end, I will suggest a variety of ways in this article to get additional leads and appointments. The appointments are the lifeblood of the marketing program so any way that you can increase that number is going to be beneficial to your overall results. First and foremost is appointment setting. We always recommend that a CSR gather all of the new business leads that have been exhausted during the day. What I mean is that your appointment setters have attempted to contact that lead approximately four times over a two week period and have either never gotten an answer or had to leave a message each time without a callback. These leads should be placed in a separate list for the CSR to try contacting one evening a week, usually dialing for about 1.5 hours, from 6PM-7:30PM. Some business owners you will never reach during the day, for example a contractor or plumber who is out on various jobs all day long. Taking this simple extra step will lead to additional appointments and sales throughout the year.
This goes without saying but I will say it anyway, whenever there are no appointments scheduled it is part of the CSR’s job responsibility to make calls and stay actively prospecting throughout the day. Also you and your CSR should get in the habit of looking for grand opening signs and new businesses cropping up in the area. Make sure that whatever your CSR is doing to prospect, you are seeing some kind of result from those efforts. If they do in-person cold calling they should bring back a stack of business cards every time. This information can be added to your prospect database and email database for sending out your e-newsletter. They should also point out to you which of those business card leads seem most promising. Accountability is very important, so make sure they have something to show for their time at work, which you are paying them for. Make sure to keep track not just of the appointments your appointment setters are making but also those that your CSR is contributing as well. The appointment setters are to be viewed as a luxury, not a crutch.
Another way to build business relationships and set appointments is through effective networking. Good networking sources include payroll companies, banks, chamber of commerce, BNI groups, financial planners and attorneys. Make sure to try to develop relationships in at least a few of these key areas. Networking is not an overnight sensation, it takes time to develop and bear fruit. Join a local BNI group and go to chamber of commerce meetings. Get your face and name out there in your local small business community. Set up mutually beneficial relationships with bankers, attorneys and/or financial planners where you refer them work and they do the same in turn.
Referrals are the go-to growth source for many accounting firms who don’t do much marketing. This makes sense because referrals are fantastic leads, they really should be easy sales for the most part, and we all love the easy sales. If someone has been referred to you, you know that they have a need for your service and they have been recommended by a friend or family member, in other words, a slam dunk. So when it comes to referrals, the more the merrier (although they should not be solely relied upon to grow a business because they are not consistent enough.) The monthly visit to the client to pick up their records and payment (for those that opt for this service) is a great time to canvas for referrals. Periodically you should also send out an email blast to your client base to offer some kind of incentive (gift cards, free month of service etc.) in exchange for referrals that become clients. It’s important to make that distinction so you aren’t on the hook for a reward if ultimately there is nothing in it for you.
There are some alternative and generally less expensive or free ways to get additional leads for your appointment setters. Some states will provide you with new business listings as they register fictitious or DBA (doing business as) names for their new companies. These lists do not usually contain phone numbers so your appointment setters may need to do some extra work to find that information. From the county you can also get a list of businesses that have obtained liquor licenses. From your city you can also get leads from occupancy permits. Not all of these items are available in all areas so keep that in mind if you pursue them.
You can also use your local newspaper as a source of potential leads. You want to check any local papers from penny savers to the largest Sunday paper in your area to look for anyone posting an ad for a part-time bookkeeper. You can then contact the person who posted the ad to offer them the services they are looking for, plus a number of additional services without having to bring on a part-time employee and all the cost and headaches associated with that.
The ultimate key to prospecting is effort. All of the items on this list require varying degrees of time and effort, but if you and your sales staff are willing to take these extra steps it will bring you that much further towards the pursuit of your goals for practice growth. Keep in mind that your CSR, when not out selling, should spend the majority of their time prospecting and filling up their schedule. Putting in that extra effort will mean all the difference between generating mediocre versus astonishing results.
Chris Clark – Executive Editor, NCN Executive Editor, New Client News and Client Support Services
Chris is the oldest son of NCI CEO and founder, Bruce Clark. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA in 2005. He has worked for New Clients since April 2006 filling a variety of roles including Senior Account Executive, client support specialist, executive editor of and contributor to the NCI newsletter, New Client News and appointment setter evaluator. Chris also helped Bruce edit his two books, NCI Effect which came out in 2011 and Beyond the NCI Effect which came out in June 2015.