Quick SummaryIn the commercial world of law and accountancy, there is one tool that can be used to reduce, if not, eliminate the competition. That is to be better at selling.
The Seven Killers Of Competitive Advantage For Professionals
The question is how effective is your company's sales training? In our latest research, we have discovered that, at best lawyers and accountants are attending courses that are barely scratching the surface of the commercial reality. In the UK, a significant proportion is attending courses just to obtain their CPD (continuous professional development) points. A dangerous strategy that helps to only keeps your head above water. This is an equivalent to fulfill the minimal requirements to keep your license to trade. This is all well and good, but it does not increase the commercial prowess of a firm.
Professional firms, regardless of size, are now waking up from a long slumber and beginning to act. However, participating in just any old training is not sufficient. Too many firms are committing themselves and their staff to programmes that are wholly inappropriate. So, here are the seven killers that are strangling a firm and stopping it from sprinting ahead of competition.
Killer 1: LACK OF MANAGEMENT COMMITMENT
One of the more prevalent characteristics of larger practices is to let all the networking and selling be carried out by senior partners only. This is seemingly makes logical sense.
“Let the troops keep on working and the generals tend to bigger matters at hand.” Therefore, anyone else networking and selling, but not crunching numbers is seen as a liability.
In fact, this strategy is myopic at best. A good analogy is having a factory full of machinery. Although, the order books are brimming over, only 30% of the machinery are switched on. The MD refusing to acknowledge, let alone use the 70% that is already there. Given this state of affairs in the professional industries, it is the more commercially astute businesses that will run ahead of all its rivals. Not only are less informed practices losing potential business; their “troops” are not left feeling valued. If you doubt this, have a read of any issue of the “Sunday Times Top Best 100 Companies to Work for”. The top companies in this list have one thing in common. Their staff feel they are valued by their employers and a lot of investment is put into achieving this.
Killer 2: Zero Sales Training
Either firms are not investing in sales training or they are spending huge sums of money on training that has little to do with business growth. In more cases than not, the so-called “sales training” is in fact product training coupled with administration skills of how to manage clients. After many years of law school or studying for chartered status, lawyers and accountants are led to believe that this is sufficient. Perhaps this may have been the case a hundred years ago when there was a scarcity of lawyers. Clients would come to you and view you as the expert. Look around you today. What are the chances that you are the sole suppliers of your legal services in your market? Your competence in selling effectively will determine where you sit in the pecking order in your marketplace.
Killer 3: Attending One-off Training Days Not Development Programmes
Partners and senior managers rarely have a background in selling. So, when they do send their staff onto courses it is more out of pressure than a desire to create a better-trained workforce. Quite often staff are sent onto courses that are one-off training days that result in very little retention of information and much less implementation of the new skills.
How many driving lessons did you attend before you were allowed to pass and drive on your own? Yet, senior management in professional practices invest a significant proportion of their hard earned training budget on one-day courses, which help neither the trainee nor the practice.
For training to have a permanent effect, it must be
- Repetitive and re-visited often
- Over a period of time (90 days plus)
- Pragmatic and applicable in your market
Killer 4: NON-TRANSFERABLE SELLING TECHNIQUES
A new recruit transfers from a rival or smaller practice. This person is then trained in company matters and the services it offers its clients. Although, the recruit is well informed about products and services of his previous employer, his sales training is limited to shadowing a staff member with over ten years history in the company. This staff member makes acquiring clients look so easy, the recruit is in awe.
Then he is left to his own devices. Is it a wonder that new recruits either struggle for their first 12 months or leave within 6-9 months of starting? Although, selling is a skill that can be used in any company, each firm will have its own nuances for its own clients. Thus, for the sake of investing a little time and money to develop new staff, firms are willing to compromise on the value they deliver.
Killer 5: OUTDATED SELLING TECHINQUES
As the old adage goes, people do not like being “sold to”; they want to “buy” from you. Yet, companies are still putting their most valuable staff to manipulative, spin-based, spinning bow-tie selling methods that were hallmark of the 1970s and 1980”s.
Gone are the days where you can get away by doing a sales pitch and asking for the customer to “sign here” immediately or the offer will be gone forever. The manipulative approach is also a very strong factor why the sales industry is so stigmatised. In today's market, the values-based client relationship approach is the only suitable option available to firms who wish to have the competitive advantage.
Killer 6: EVEN MORE MANIPULATION
If it wasn't enough, some professionals are being taught clever techniques that involve selectively applying tools from the world of psychology or clinical therapy. Just another name for manipulation, I'm afraid.
Clients want to go back to days of being valued, respected and treated with dignity. You are far more likely to lose your credibility than to gain respect when your client feels manipulated. It is better left to the stage hypnotists and therapists to perform trickeries of the mind. The role of the professional is to create fantastic value for your client.
Killer 7: TRAINERS WITH NO SELLING HISTORY
Isn't it amazing that firms are investing in programmes delivered by trainers who have either never sold in their lives or have no proven sales track record?
Yet, firms are giving little attention to this very important detail. How satisfied are you knowing that unqualified instructors are educating your staff?
No more is it apparent than in the sales industry that we have people jumping on the bandwagon to make a quick killing. It is true. The sales training business is a lucrative market. You will recognise the unqualified sales trainer by three things:
- They will brandish their certificate in some education programme or other that is unrelated to selling
- They cannot prove to you their sales track record
If that wasn't enough, the unqualified trainers tend to be happy to lower their price and undercut anyone who is remotely competitive. Qualified sales trainers not only will not move on price, they will show you how you are getting a substantial ROI (return on investment).
Your thoughts matter to others - more than you can imagine.
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