Javier Goldin’s CSR, Hamoon Piroozmand
As a follow up to my interview last month with Javier Goldin, CPA this month we are featuring his CSR Hamoon. This is a fairly lengthy interview but it’s full of phenomenal insight from a CSR who is growing his CPA’s firm rapidly over the past several years during this tough economy.
Please tell me about your business background prior to going to work for the Javier at the Goldin Group.
I graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1995 with an economics degree. Out of college I got a job at a stock brokerage house. That taught me a lot, things like how to work in a team environment and learning patience and persistence through a high volume of cold calling. I also worked for a satellite office of Minnesota Mutual Life. There I did more business-to-business selling. In 2005 my mother became ill, so I stopped working to take care of her for two years. Then in January of 2008 I went to work as a CSRfor Goldin Group.
So you’ve been with Goldin Group for almost four years. How much new business have you brought in during that time frame for him?
When I went to work for Goldin Group I believe he had around $60,000 in billings. By the end of 2008, the firm was up to about $250,000. We’ve been able to grow at a rate of $150,000 to $200,000 each year since and are now right at $600,000.
That is impressive growth, especially considering the current economic climate. Can you offer any advice to other CSRs in the program who are out there trying to sell in a tough market?
Knowledge is very important. You have to know the product. You have to understand that it is an intangible product being sold. You have to understand the services and what you are offering. You have to know what bookkeeping covers. Why are financials important? What are the five primary features and benefits of the service? That knowledge is key; you need to know the product inside and out and it takes time. When I started out I thought I was just going to be selling tax returns. I didn’t know about write-up and bookkeeping work. I wasn’t aware of all that goes into it between the bookkeeping, the financial statements, the consultations and tax planning and why it is all so important and needs to be done throughout the year. The bottom line is you will learn that over the first three to six months.
I have to say that your weekly coaching program where I participated in an hour long coaching call each week was a big help to me early on in grasping all of this. Another benefit to those calls was learning from and in turn helping my peers around the country. We would share ideas and address common problems, for example; how do you get the back work when it’s late in the year? How do you get them to sign up now versus waiting until the first of the year? I found that to be very, very helpful in overcoming all the roadblocks and objections you’re going to come across in this job. We also discussed developing rapport when you first walk into a sales presentation and asking open ended questions to do fact finding to find their pain and offer to solve those issues through the service and provide peace of mind to the prospect.
In doing this now for a few years I’ve learned that you have to play it by ear, you can get a sense of the energy in the room when you first walk in, if they have time for you or not. You become good at reading prospects and people in general. You get a sense of how comfortable or uncomfortable they are in the situation. I’ve gotten much better and much faster at figuring these things out.
I also make it a point to pre-qualify leads before going on appointments. What I mean by that is to go through all of the questions on the appointment report provided by NCI. Sometimes I discover that there really is no need for the service and so I don’t waste my time on that appointment. Pre-qualifying is a very important part of the process. When you walk into an appointment you know is of high quality, it instills you with confidence.
Is it you that makes these calls or do the appointment setters typically cover this information when they set the appointment for you?
It’s interesting. When we started the program we had two appointment setters and they would ask all the surface level questions. How long have you been in business? And so on. They aren’t really qualified to dig deeper and I didn’t expect them to. Once I had a good grasp on product knowledge I started doing pre-qualifying calls to dig deeper than the appointment setters could. Now we don’t have any appointment setters so now I do all of my own prospecting and closing. I cold call, I go to a lot of networking events plus we are working on search engine marketing through the company website and also on our social media presence. We get a lot of referrals now so the overall quality of appointments is much better then it had been when we started. We’re getting enough leads from these other methods that at this point in time we don’t need appointment setters.
Can you elaborate on your networking methods for our readers?
I started networking last year. I’m part of a group, Javier’s a member of BNI, and so we get referrals from these two groups; about one or so a month from each group. Plus I’ve networked with some banks. I have a really good contact at a bank who’s given us several referrals who have become clients. I network a lot with these types of people and companies because that’s where it’s complimentary and we can provide referrals back and forth. Networking has been crucial over the last year. We’re getting some contact requests on our webpage recently and we’re going to optimize the website to take full advantage of those. We understand it’s critical to have your website hunt for you because if a prospect expresses interest via your website that’s a warm lead.
You mentioned the importance of learning product knowledge. How did you go about that when you got started in this job?
When I went out on appointments for the first month or so Javier came out with me. I went on a couple appointments with Steve, the NCI representative who trained me the first week. Then after I signed up a client I would go with Javier on the client set-up meetings. Doing so was a very good learning tool because we talked about the structures of business, why you’re a C-Corporation rather than an S-Corporation, what are the tax savings, what are the liabilities. You learn all these things that over time make you far more confident when you’re presenting. I also spent time reading the NCI newsletters and on the NCI coaching calls for the first six months, both of which were very helpful. Of course I also asked Javier questions as I went along.
I think one thing is especially important: you yourself have to be sold on the product that you are selling. I am 100% sold on this product. For instance, if I were to go into business for myself, there’s no way that I would start my business without a CPA firm in my corner from day one. There’s no way, knowing what I know now. I tell prospects that if you don’t have a good financial structure in your business, if you’re flying by the seat of your pants, you are likely going to fail. That is the bottom line. I’ve become a lot more blunt on appointments because people actually appreciate and respond to that. Especially when we’re offering services at such a reasonable price, at 2% or 3% of a company’s gross, it’s still very reasonable and we even charge less than that in many cases. So to not put a relatively small investment into such a critical piece of your business is just foolish. That’s the number one core principle I’d like to relate to all new CSR’s. Learn the product and believe in the product because it gives you conviction.
Another important thing to remember is that if a prospect says “no”, it just means “not now.” It doesn’t mean, “Never.” I remember that coming up during one of the NCIcoaching calls. I’ve had a number of clients sign up 6+ months after our initial meeting where they said they were not interested. If you go into a meeting sporting a nice appearance and you’re professional in presenting your product in a clear and concise manner and they don’t buy, you have still left a good impression. They will remember your professionalism; we’ve had prospects that didn’t go with us but have given us referrals. They gave us referrals because we were professional; we weren’t pushy or high pressure.
My pipeline is large. I’ve had plenty of people say no to the service and then call me out of the blue months or years down the line. Over my four years I’d say it happens at least four times a year. People that I thought had no interest in working with us call two years later and say, “Look, things have changed” and now they want our service. Things change and you have to keep that in mind. Always stay positive and professional and good things will happen. Be persistent, be patient, always follow up, but be respectful.
The equation goes: too much time on too few prospects equals not enough sales. You have to understand that there are so many, many businesses that need this product. There’s so much opportunity, but we all have our slumps, every salesperson goes into slumps. However, what gets you out is believing in the product, having the abundance mentality that there’s a need for what I’m selling and believing that your firm is the best and will deliver on your promises.
What would you primarily attribute to your great success over these past three years in obtaining so many clients during a very difficult economic period?
What I can tell you is that the recession and the economy are factors I can’t control and you can’t control. What I can control are several things: I can control my activity level and I can control my knowledge. The key is being active and understanding that this product that we’re selling, recession or no recession, you need it, you have to have it and you have to intrinsically believe this. So it’s going to be difficult because of the fact that the economy’s in a bad place, but when I’m talking to clients I tell them, “When business is slow, and expenses are still rising, you need a good accountant to maximize your deductions and lower your tax burdens so you keep more of your gross.” At the end of the day it’s not what you make, it’s what you get to keep. If you don’t do any tax planning throughout the year, right there you’re missing out on opportunities to save money. That being said, you have to stay active and try different methods or reaching prospects – the bottom line is activity, if you stay busy good things will happen for you and you will continue to learn.
That’s really good advice. Like you said, the economy is out of your control – why even think about that?
As you know in sales, most of the time they’re really buying you. So you have to dress appropriately, have the right image, be very empathetic, and be human. You can’t just go out there as a slick salesman in a seersucker suit. They have to know that you can help them and be personable.
It’s relationship selling. You’re starting and developing a relationship.
The relationship starts from that first call, the first cold-call. When you speak with even the gatekeeper, you have to understand that there’s a reason why they are answering that phone; they’re trained to get rid of telemarketers, they’re trained to not let you talk to someone. But if you build a relationship with that person, you’re nice and professional and follow up respectfully, you’ll get through. And I have, many, many times. When I bring a prospect to the office I think of them as a friend that I brought in for Javier to help. When you have that in mind that you brought a person in because he or she has a need and I know that we can solve it, you’ll see that people can genuinely tell.
What advice would you give to other accountants that are thinking about doing this kind of marketing program? Keep in mind that a lot of people right now are tightening their purse string.
This is a marketing program. Marketing is an investment that you must have. If you don’t have a marketing program, if you don’t take 3-5% of gross and put it into marketing, get out of business. The bottom line is this, to those that are tightening their purse strings: don’t tell me you’re not going to put any money into marketing. You have to be willing to invest in marketing that works, so decide what your marketing budget is and start this program!
If somebody’s in business they want to grow and make money, obviously. That’s what people get into business to do, and there are other reasons but it’s mainly to grow, make money and bring in more clients. Even now, to replace lost business, you need to market effectively, aggressively, and consistently, I think. It’s not an expense, it’s an investment.
It is an investment. I tell them, “Don’t think of it as an expense, think of it as an investment. No matter what your purse strings are, tighten it up to the level you can, and start. Don’t even think twice, start! You have got to have it. If you don’t have a marketing plan you’re not serious about succeeding, if people don’t know about you how can you help them?
What’s your favorite part of this job?
I enjoy the freedom of it. I can control my activity, I can do what I think is right to get business, to get results. If I think I should go out and do networking instead of cold-calling, I’ll do that. If I think I should go talk to some clients to get referrals, I’ll do that.
What’s the most challenging aspect of this job?
I would have to say the slumps. Especially at the beginning, though now it’s starting to get more consistent for us, it’s kind of feast or famine sometimes. You have times where you’re selling 5-7 accounts per month, and then some months, typically in the summer where it can be slow. That can be brutal and it can kind of get you down. Lo and behold, the seasons change and people start thinking about taxes and accounting again and all of a sudden you’re flooded.
That’s where we are right now; this is the best time, heading into and during tax season. Traditionally this is the best time to market and bring in new clients.
Yes, this month has been great for us with six new clients from a mix of networking, referrals, and cold-calling.
At this point you have the pipeline built up, and that’s another nice benefit of being there for a few years. You put in the hard work, learn everything and set it all up and some of the process becomes more automatic and you end up with more leads coming in then early on.
I just wanted to add about the pipeline that is such an important piece of any sales job – if you don’t build a good pipeline it’s difficult to succeed. What I want to say is that when I was doing marketing training for the first six months on the NCI coaching calls, one of the things our instructor said is, “Look, we all have pipelines. We have people who said, ‘no, I’ll call you later.’ It’s been six months to a year, resurrect some of these people! You never know. Call them six months or two years later, whatever. Just ask if anything’s changed. You will not believe but you’ll resurrect 4 out of 50 and that can make half your month.” The bottom line is, if people told you they’ll call you or to follow up, a random e-mail or a quick call and you never know. At the start of each New Year especially I go through my pipeline and see what I can resurrect. It’s far easier than planting a new seed and trying to get it to grow.
I’m not surprised that you’ve been as successful as you have been, Hamoon. You say a lot of the things we emphasize in the training and you have a lot of the characteristics that we look for in a sales rep. It’s a lot of work, especially in the beginning, but I think you’ll agree if you put the work in and you have the right work ethic, it pays off.
It really does, and this is the kind of business where if you stick with it over time you really start to see rewards. Especially if you’re getting some sort of trail on the work that you’re doing, the residual income over time if you stick with it and you’re getting a lot of new clients can be very helpful. Keep that long-term mentality in mind.
I appreciate it Hamoon, good luck moving forward and through this next tax season. Thank you so much, this has been great.
Having read all of the interview articles conducted by NCI regarding successful CSRs along with my experience having worked with hundreds of these individuals over the past 26 years I offer the following:
Hamoon, in this five page interview, has provided a blueprint for success as a CSR that has larger implications in business and life in general. To anyone selling accounting services keep this article handy and read it when you need a lift or to reinforce the habits and procedures that will help make you more successful.
To your success,
Chris Clark is the oldest son of New Clients Inc. founder and CEO Bruce Clark. He has worked as a Senior Account Executive at NCI for the past four years. During that time he has presented at the Practice Development Seminar on Internet and E-mail marketing and he also plays the prospective client during the seminar role play sessions. Chris also edits and contributes to the NCI newsletter, New Client News.