Episode 47: Sales Tips for Senior Client Managers
In this episode of The Wize Guys Podcast, Ed Chan and Jamie Johsn with Wize Mentor, Thomas Sphabmixay discussed how Senior Client Managers can be successful in their sales jobs. They discussed some of the different strategies that have helped their SCMs succeed, as well as pitfalls that should be avoided.
Tune in for this exciting session!
0:00 - Intro
0:35 – Develop a healthy sales culture with your senior client managers to grow the practice
3:03 – Pareto’s 80-20 principle
4:08 - The importance of getting the team structure and capacity plan right to increase sales
5:05 – The analogy of a sporting team (getting the resource mix right)
6:55 - “You should slow down sales, but rather ramp up production.”
9:22 – Some of the challenges you’ve faced in developing SCMs’ sales skills
13:28 – How to handle your existing clients VS new clients
15:47 – Jamie Johns’ 6-month Sales Academy: Training Program for your Senior Client Managers
18:19 - What are the KPIs senior client managers should be held accountable to when it comes to sales?
#wizementoring #sales #accoountingtips
“Getting more word-of-mouth referrals is important because not only does it endorse what you're doing if people are happy with you, getting more clients for no cost basically, but just for doing a good job.” - Ed Chan
“... it's most important that the senior client managers, and even if you're SCM yourself, have enough time to talk to the clients. So, rule number one, is you've gotta have enough time to talk to the clients and that's all about sorting out your capacity.” - Jamie Johns
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Thomas Sphabmixay: Today we're gonna be talking about sales tips for senior client managers.
Ed, would you like to get us started and introduce the topic of developing high-converting senior client managers and the importance of focusing on this in order to grow the practice?
Ed Chan: Yeah, thanks, Thomas.
This is a great topic because it's basically about getting more word-of-mouth referrals. Obviously, getting more word-of-mouth referrals is important because not only does it endorse what you're doing if people are happy with you, getting more clients for no cost basically, but just for doing a good job. People tell their friends how great you guys are and refer their friends to you. To me, that's the greatest compliment that you can, that you can have. But the opposite can happen as well if your body language is such that you are really busy. So if someone said, ‘Thomas, how are you, how are you today?’ And your response is, ‘I'm just so flat out.’ Then you take three months to turn their work around. There's a reluctance for them to refer you to friends. Because they might put up with a three-month turnaround time, but they certainly don't want to wear the backlash of a friend's complaint about your service.
So it's extremely important to ensure that you're doing a good job. I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know. So just covering off what at the moment and then we'll drill into how we do that as we progress through. But to be able to respond quickly to your clients for the senior client managers when they get an email to be able to respond on the same day or the next morning. That's our policy at Chan and Naylor. It's a sackable offense if you don't respond either on the same day or the next morning. Because if you see from the other person's point of view, if they've emailed you and you are responding very quickly, there's more of a building of a relationship with you rather than someone who doesn't respond to them. So turning work around quickly will also en endorse your organization for them to refer their friends and family to you.
Obviously doing a good job, spending more time in front of them. So often, we're so busy, we're just doing the work and grinding away. Pareto tells us that 20% of what we do gives 80% of the results and 80% of what we do only gives 20% of the results. So if you sit there and you do the grinding and you send the workout to the client, then that's 80% of the effort that only gives you 20% of the results. But if you get in front of your client, if you speak to them, if you talk to them about their results, if you do some tax planning with them, the effort to do that is only 20%. It might only take you half an hour, 15 minutes an hour compared to actually doing the work, which could take you, you know, 4, 5, 6 hours. But that 15 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour that you spend with them is the 20% that Pareto talks about effort. The 20% effort gives you 80% of the results.
We're gonna drill into how we do that because often when you talk to a senior client manager, they always say things like this to you or they say things like this to me ‘cause I've been coaching firms now for quite a while and I've got my own firm that I've experienced. We have another service called WizeGrowth, which provides a hands-on one-on-one coaching service to you. But when we've been involved with those, then often the senior client managers always say, we're not always, but often say, ‘Well, I haven't got enough time and I'm just already so busy.’
I remember when I coached Jamie's firm, his senior client manager said the same thing to me. At the time they were handling about 300,000 in fees and they said they couldn't do anymore. That's its maximum maxed out. Our senior client managers we're doing around $800 to $900,000. So it's doing the right kind of work. So we're gonna get into the details today.
Thomas Sphabmixay: So, Ed, it's so important to get back to the basics when approaching this topic. Before we dive into this topic, can you discuss briefly why it's so critical? You mentioned this before about getting the capacity and the team structure right? Why it's so critical to get our team structure and capacity plan right? If we want to increase sales and have client managers focused on sales. Can you please explain?
Ed Chan: Yeah, absolutely.
If you don't give capacity to your senior client managers and if you're very small, you could be the senior client manager yourself. You could be holding that role. But if you don't give capacity to them, then they end up doing the wrong kind of work. And if you don't have the right people below them and they talk about getting your resource mixed right. So basically you have gotta get the foundation right first before you're able to take on more sales. ‘Cause, there's no point in getting a whole lot of new business and you can't deliver which causes more problems and just hurts your reputation more than if you just said no to the work. So you've gotta get your foundation right.
Often when a senior client manager says to me that, they're just so busy, they haven't gotten any more time, it's because of several reasons. One is because they like doing the grinding work. They don't like talking to people. In that case, then you're playing that per person out of the position. It's a bit like a sporting team whether you talk about soccer or football. Everybody's got a position on the field and if you play someone out of the position, if you put a goalie on the wing and expect him or her to perform as a winger, you're gonna be disappointed. So that's the first thing. They may not be suited for a senior client manager role whose role is to talk to clients, communicates to clients, explains the results, and able to respond to their emails very, very quickly and be available to the client as often as they need to be. And if they don't like dealing with people or they have a difficulty in dealing with people or talking to people or communicating with people, then you're playing that person out of position. That's generally the first one.
The second one is that you've got the wrong resource mix underneath them. If you have too many juniors underneath them, then the work all ends up on their plate because the work's not getting done. If the work all ends up on their plate, then they won't have any time left over to get in front of their clients. Because the more often they get in front of their clients, the more referrals they'll get from their clients. So you could have the wrong resource mix but you may just be very, very under-resourced that you gotta use your capacity planner that's found in the WizeVault to work out your capacity. It allows the senior client manager to have time to talk to the clients. You gotta get the foundation right because if you don't get the foundation right and you add a second story to it, you're gonna collapse the whole thing.
So when we do this coaching, this one-on-one coaching, we always start with the foundation. We always start with the blueprint, with getting the right structure in place, and then we look for the people to fill those positions. So we don't structure our business around the staff we have. We start off with the blueprint and we find the right staff to fill those positions. It's a bit like coaching a soccer team or an AFL team or any sort of sporting team. You've gotta have the positions on the field and you look for the people to fill those positions and that's what you do in the accounting business as well.
Thomas Sphabmixay: That's excellent.
Ed, you have a saying that you shouldn't slow down sales but rather ramp up production. So you've shared your views on this. Can you tell us how have you tried to instill this mentality in your senior client managers?
Ed Chan: Yeah, absolutely.
That's correct in what you said, that you shouldn't slow down sales because you're not getting the workout. You should increase your production. The reason for that is that sales are very difficult, like creating a bit of momentum. If you have a bowling ball and it's standing still, it's really hard to get that bowling lot of effort to get that bowling ball moving. But once it's moving you can just tap it along. The effort to keep it rolling along is very, very little. But the effort to get it moving from a standing start is a huge effort.
Now I've learned that in the past where we hadn't got our production and our capacity right. So we slowed down the sales and turned off the marketing. Then when we got our production right, we tried to turn it back on. But just the effort to get it going again was enormous. So it was a lot easier to ramp up your production. But it's not about just throwing bodies at the workload.
Often accounting firms or businesses generally think that I'll just hire more people and I'll just throw more bodies at the problem. But it's a lot more scientific than that. Because again if you look at the soccer team, if you went and recruited three goalies instead of a winger because you needed a winger, then that whole team's gonna be out of balance. So it's a lot more sophisticated than just hiring a lot more bodies. You've gotta get the resource mix right. You've gotta have a number of juniors in there. You've gotta have a number of intermediates with two to three to four years of experience. You've gotta have a senior in there to make sure that they're checking the work. Then you've gotta have someone that's able to communicate because not all accountants are the same. Of the graduates that come out of uni, 80% of them are grinders or people who like production people. Less than 20% are people persons, they like communicating and dealing with people. So you've gotta pick the right people and position them correctly. Otherwise, you won't retain them, number one. Number two is that the team becomes very clunky and you won't get the efficiencies out of it. Lots of bodies in there so to speak and your profits are very low because they're all playing out of positions.
Getting that team structure right and bringing complementary skills together is really important to ensure efficiency and the flow of work and happiness. The happiness of the staff is all working together. When you get them all working together, that's what I call a championship team. A championship team is ordinary people working together compliment with complementary skills that will always beat a team of champions who may be great individuals but they're working on their own. That's the difference between a flat team structure and a deep and narrow team structure.
Thomas Sphabmixay: Thank you, Ed.
Jamie, in talking about sales division 2. It's also something that is naturally in your flow. You currently have four senior client managers at Sky Accountants. Can you talk to us about some of the challenges you faced with helping them develop their sales skills and some of the key aspects to making sure this remains a key focus in fulfilling their role as a senior client manager?
Jamie Johns: Yeah, thanks, Thomas.
Just to build on top of what Ed said, it's most important that the senior client managers, and even if you're a senior client manager yourself, that you have enough time to talk to the clients. So, rule number one, is you've gotta have enough time to talk to the clients and that's all about sorting out your capacity. ‘Cause 80% of the firms that we would meet at Wize, initially just do not have enough capacity. When they don't have enough capacity, all they see is a new client, Thomas, as pain. It's in your body language and you know, you get a referral, you get a lead and you just cave in because you think, ‘Oh, how do I even have the time to return that phone call?’ Or, ‘How do I have the time to book that appointment?’ So yeah, the biggest challenge is getting the team structure right as Ed said, making sure that you've just gotta put people in the right seat and have the interpersonal skills. Otherwise, if you really set those people up for failure because not all of us actually just like talking to people all day every day. But just going on from that is really important to have a process.
So I think I posted in the Facebook group a while ago, about the difference between goals and processes. While you can have goals and you can have 10% growth every year and all that, that's all fine. But unless you have a process or a procedure to get to the goal. The goal is really pointless. And part of that process is to make sure that you take your senior client managers and your assistant client managers and yourself train in the process of what you actually do when you meet a new client.
One of the things I've come across over the years is called LAPS, which is leads, appointments, presentations, and sales. There's a document in the WizeVault that everyone can have a look at that and go through. That’s what I do and what I've done over the years. Then continually fine-tune it so that when you get a new lead like Ed says you're selling the sizzle and not the sausage. So number one, get the time. Have enough time to call these leads, and sell the sizzle and not the, and not the sausage. And follow that process of LAPS.
So what do you actually do when you get a lead? As part of our process people have a look at that document is what I call. There are a couple of different names for it. One's called your guarantee. Another word is called your Unique Selling Proposition. So, the question is, ‘Why do I need to come to your firm?’ There are a thousand other firms there. I've called your firm, but tell me about your firm and why is your firm the best. So you need to know those answers. If you know those answers, you'll be authentic and you'll sound convincing. Then you just go through the process. The very first point is to get the lead and then book an appointment. But it's even a bit more than that, Thomas.
There's a great sales playbook document in there that talks about the research of how fast you need to call leads. I think about 85% of consumers. They define fast as in the first half an hour. So just be aware of that when you get a lead in your firm from marketing. All the money and expense that you've done on your marketing. If you've got marketing, you have to be far. When a lead comes in, you can almost guarantee that the particular lead has probably contacted two or three other accountants in the first hour of their research. You can get tremendous leads from your marketing. So speed is the name of the game and that's one of the challenges, Thomas like in terms of your question.
Also having an approach. What is the approach? What's the unique selling proposition? Is it a specialization in a particular field? Is it the fact that you might price upfront and have packages? You've really gotta distinguish yourself from the rest of the players in the game. That's sort of a couple of things.
The other thing is, I think the biggest barrier or the biggest problem, Thomas, is that we're all born outta production, just doing the work. But we're not trained in actual sales. Accounts make great salespeople when they're trained. Why do they make great salespeople? Because we're the nationally trusted advisor. Even bookkeepers have an absolutely tremendous relationship, even closer relationship than accountants a lot of the time with their clients. So, they're in a really great position to say, ‘Hey, have you thought about a cashflow forecast?’ The other week we were talking with some bookkeepers talking about adding additional services like commentary around their KPIs, around their figures. We're naturally trusted advisors in both industries, but then it's just using that to help your clients and to offer more services then. There are some main barriers.
Thomas Sphabmixay: Excellent.
Jamie, something that's always been on my mind, and I am sure many of our minds are differentiating between existing and new clients. Could you just share some insights, maybe a few insights or comparisons here, because as you said, we all grew in production, we're dealing with clients that we've always seen day-to-day, and now we're managing a firm where we are seeing people come in from new leads, we're using our processes such as LAPS. How do you compartmentalize this?
Jamie Johns: Is it between existing clients and new clients, for example?
Thomas Sphabmixay: Yep.
Jamie Johns: Yeah. So I mean, with existing clients you've gotta be a little bit careful. Some of the problems I've seen at Sky Accountants is that the client managers are just on the phone forever and really giving away the IP. You've really gotta have a communications policy with existing clients to a point. I'll give you the extreme where your client managers are on the phone for hours and hours on end. Like just giving away your intellectual property or giving away your knowledge without really converting that to charge you all hours or to bills. So, there's a real balance there. Sometimes, I've seen at Sky Accountants some of the guys just sort of struggle with that balance. You sort of must have some guidelines around that. I have got some guidelines that I can share with everyone.
The challenge is there, Thomas, that you can be on the phone all day and not charge it a thing. You have to have the trainer say, ‘Well, at what point do I say, well ~ Good day Joe, look, I can really help you with this. This is gonna take me an hour or two hours to do. I'll send you a proposal.’ Now to do that one step takes a little bit of courage for a lot of people ‘cause otherwise, you'll just be on the phone or on email all day. So what's with their existing clients? You've gotta give because it's in sales, but you've gotta be moving. I think as Ed said like to take an order in that sense. A part of their role is obviously to help the clients, but there's a limit on how much free time if you want to call it, or time to give to them so that you can move from the sales discussion to say, ‘Hey, I can send you a proposal on this.’ Or if you're a time billing firm, which you may be you can say, ‘Well look, I'll need to spend an hour or two on this and this is what it's gonna cost. I estimate its cost.’ Then so existing clients are in that sort of discussion.
But with new clients or new leads, that's LAPS. I call it Thomas. You must make time for that sales process as well. Some accounts I spoke to over the years that they've been working for years at 80 or 90% productive and they had the mindset that every six minutes is chargeable. So you've gotta get out that mindset once you build the team and put people in the right seat. Because part of their KPIs is winning new work.
Thomas Sphabmixay: Excellent, thank you for that Jamie. That really clarifies it for me.
Honing back on developing a higher converting senior client manager. So, Jamie, you are looking at doing a six-month sales academy training program for your senior client managers.
Jamie Johns: Absolutely.
Thomas Sphabmixay: Can you share with us some of the training and lessons you're going to share in addition to the ones you've shared and how others listening in the webinar today could implement this in their own practice? What skills will you be aiming to help them develop as part of this training?
Jamie Johns: I think Thomas, the biggest one is we like just do a bit of role-playing within our firm. So people might laugh about this, but actually, sit in your boardroom and one person pretends they're a client. The other person pretends they're a client manager and just roleplays some of the scenarios that actually happen in real life. Then help them how to handle that particular situation. As part of the sales process of winning a new client is having the ability to say, ‘Look, I'm happy to give you a quote or a proposal, but I need all this information so that I can scope the job out.’ So you've gotta be able to have the skills and the know-how to follow that sort of LAPS process, but actually, role plays it in the firm.
A lot of the time over the years, I've lost count many times when I was talking to new leads I’d say, ‘Look, I'm, I'm happy to give you a proposal and I really wanna do that to protect the relation relationship upfront.’ I would say, ‘Oh, it's a little bit like a builder. If a builder's asked to build a house, the first thing the builder's gonna ask is, ‘Well, show me the plans so I can have a look, and then I'm happy to give a quote.’ What you'll find is you'll filter through the leads that are serious and that are not serious. So a very small percentage of the time, some of those leads have been uncomfortable with Thomas giving us that information. That's simply the sort of people that really don't wanna work with because it's just not following our process in our mold. But, it's only a small percentage of the time because obviously what people don't want is to be sent like an unexpected bill and whether your time bill or whether you fixed fee.
The most important thing is managing the client's expectations both from the word go right through as the relationship goes on and on. So managing their expectations is, ‘Well what's it cost? When are we gonna deliver it? When is the work gonna be done? How is it gonna be done? Who is the team who's working on it?’ So right from the word go. That's some I suppose the sales academy process I'm gonna take my team through. They're skilled up to deal with it. You can't sort of just tell people to be client managers. But you've also got to give them the skills and give them the know-how and just have that discussion in the group so that everyone learns and is on the same page. That's one thing about having policies. Another thing actually getting everyone on the same page. So excellent training together.
Thomas Sphabmixay: Excellent, Jamie. So that's going on from that, it's one thing to make the policy. It's one thing to give them all the training. It's one thing to set the foundation.
Something on our mind is accountability, so I wanna ask you, Jamie. I'm sure others here are curious about this too. In the process of implementing this process, what are the KPIs senior client managers should be held accountable to when it comes to sales?
Jamie Johns: Look, in terms of sales, the ones that are in the Fab five for the Wize community to really focus on is number one, What percentage of leads and referrals are you actually converting to a client? So that's one of the most critical ones. The next one from a basic point of view is fees. What fees you've won and what fees you've lost?
So in that sales area, one thing that we really hone on and focus on is leads to percentages and then clients one and lost. If you do that in a healthy competition, the people with the lower percentages can deliver just provide training support where it's needed. Because someone might be getting a hundred leads a year, but they might be only sort of converting 10. 10% say, but the other three client managers are converting 50 or 60. So unless you measure it, you can't really make any decisions.
It's just like Peter Drucker said, ‘what you can measure, you can manage.’ But you've gotta go to the efforts to put the systems in place to measure these things. Thomas, it's critical that you measure the things and then you can help people and you can have the discussion. A couple of my guys are really good converters than in a group. So go to what works for you. How come your conversion rate of 70%? It's not in a blame culture. It's in a culture of how can we improve, how can we help one another with our sales process, and converting clients across.
Thomas Sphabmixay: Excellent.