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How the selling myth holds accountants back


Many practice professionals hate the idea of having to sell, but the more senior you become the more valuable your ability to pitch becomes.

By Trevor Marchant14 minute read

Writer Charles J Clark III identifies 37 selling myths and lies but when you read between the lines they all have one theme running through them. But before we unravel the truth about the selling myth, it’s important to have a look at some basic sales and business philosophies.

  • The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.

If we fail to create enough customers and keep them, we can’t sell enough of the things we make, and generate revenue and profits.

  • Every business is two businesses.

There’s the one that does the work and there’s the one that sells the work.

  • Nothing happens until something is sold.

Would the truck driver have a job if somebody hadn’t sold the products being delivered? Would the construction worker have a job if a site developer hadn’t sold the city on the idea of a retail store?

Every business relies for its existence, survival and ultimate prosperity on something being sold.

  • Treat people the way you like to be treated.

Respect yourself, respect others and respect will come your way. It comes through in how you treat team members, customers, regulators, the public and communities.

  • Have a profound reason to exist in the market. A desire to make a living or grow rich is not a profound reason. Success now demands specific and unique relevance and importance to a target market and the delivery of an exceptional experience for the buyer.

I’ve been in sales for 50 years, teaching it for 20 years and being awarded the title of master sales trainer from Dale Carnegie in the US. It means I embrace the thought that nothing happens until something is sold.

Once you understand the truth about selling you realise there is no myth, just stuff you need to deal with regardless of whether your sales earnings are $1 million a year or $10,000.

We all have to find people to talk to and see if there is a gap between what they have and what they want, then decide if our product or service is going to help them close that gap. If it will then we have an opportunity. If it won’t, then we move on.

But for those who don’t see sales this way, there is a myth with two parts.

Myth part 1: Most people have a negative association with selling.

All of us have had negative experiences with pushy salespeople, and films and TV often portray the worst people in sales as villains.

But think about all the people you know who work in sales. You have friends, family members, and even parents in sales. Examples of good people (who happen to be in sales) surround you.

Don’t let your beliefs prevent you from being one of them. Most of us don't want to associate with something we dislike. But this is a really important thing to address: help people see that selling is simply a service you provide for people that’s good for your clients and prospects.

Ask yourself: What if you have the solution to a client’s issues but a false belief about selling means you fail to raise it? When the client finds out, they’ll wonder why you didn’t tell them.

Myth part 2: Sales is about convincing or manipulating people to buy something they don't need or want.

If you dislike sales, you may believe you are manipulating others, not working for or with them. You believe that selling requires you to convince someone to buy something they don’t want, don’t need, and can’t afford.

None of this is true.

People who try to force others to buy things they don’t want and can’t afford generally fail in professional sales. It’s impossible to force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. And, if you could, selling them something they can’t afford would be a waste of time.

The best modern sales professionals believe they are helping someone obtain a result they could not create alone. When you work with clients, remember you are helping them make an informed decision about what they need to do and giving them the tools to resolve a personal need or want they have.

If you believe selling is loaded with negative connotations and all about manipulating people into buying something they don’t want, you’ve probably been trapped into believing the following myths:

  • The client is always right.
  • Selling is dirty and undignified.
  • Selling is a high-pressure exercise.
  • A great product sells itself.
  • You have to be self-oriented.
  • Extroversion or aggression is necessary to be good at sales.
  • Selling can’t be taught.
  • Bad experiences hold you back.
  • Selling is difficult and doesn't come naturally.
  • You will never succeed in sales if you can’t handle rejection.

These myths and lies are excuses not to:

  • Accept that nothing happens until something is sold.
  • Embrace the idea of a winning sales and service culture within a business and take the necessary steps to learn and master the art and science of selling.
  • Apply what you learn and continue to learn about sales every minute of the day.

Selling is not some sideshow or an annoying add-on to what people see as the real functions of business, such as finance, operations, marketing management, etc. Nothing happens until something is sold.

Many accountants, practice professionals and consultants hate the idea of having to sell. Even the mention of the word is sometimes too much to bear so instead they prefer to use “business development”, “account management”, or “client relationships”.

But pause for a moment and consider this. The more senior you become, the less relevant your expertise and technical skills are. What becomes more valuable when you’re a partner or a director is your ability to “sell” your firm so clients will want to do business with you and your team will be inspired to achieve your vision.

Turning this around is simple. Just ask whether you want to. Do you want to forget the excuses and start getting what you want by helping other people get what they want?

If so, explore professional sales training.

Trevor Marchant is the managing director of Marchant Dallas Consulting and the co-founder of the Boss Factor library for accountants and their clients.

How the selling myth holds accountants back
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