You’ve done your homework. Your presentation was outstanding, but the prospective client is not in a buying mood. So what should you do? Try these techniques:
Tips for Closing the Sale
1. Know when the timing is right. If your prospect seems distracted when you’re making your pitch, stop in your tracks. Say, “It seems that your mind is on something else. Am I right?” If the prospect admits that his or her mind is drifting, graciously tell him or her that you’ll call back or visit again later.2. Don’t miss a beat. Make sure you call back or drop in for another visit. Start from the beginning. Pitch him or her all over again. Your presentation will sound fresh since the prospect wasn’t listening the first time around.3. Give it another try. Contact people who have rejected your offer, and tell them that you’re still interested in doing business with them. Be sure to tell them something new about how your product or service is doing in the marketplace.4. Keep the door wide open. If your customer isn’t in a buying mood, he or she will resent any hard-selling efforts to change his or her mind.5. Don’t try to slug it out with your prospect. Say, “Well, thank you for your courtesy.” This keeps the door open for your next communication.6. Walk in your prospect’s shoes. Remember that today’s buyers are strapped for time. They’re being pulled in a hundred different directions, just like you. If you behave professionally despite their curtness and apparent rejection, you’ll outlast their negative moods and your competition.
Additional Marketing Training
Module 4 of our Professional Bookkeeper program, entitled “Building a Successful Accounting Service” describes other marketing methods to make your Accounting or Bookkeeping service grow!To see an overview of marketing concepts that the Professional Bookkeeper course will teach you Click HERE.
A short time ago, I received a call from a past student who, since completing the course, has successfully been operating an accounting service for years and enjoying the fruits of his labor as a freelance accountant. The night before his call, he explained, his office had been broken into and his new state-of-the-art computers had been stolen. And, adding insult to injury, his backup diskettes had been taken as well. He was distraught, to say the least — not so much about the computers (they’re insurable), but all the information they included that would take months, if ever, to recreate.Unfortunately there are many ways data can be lost: Theft, fire, natural disasters, disk crashes, oversight, just to name some of the more common ones. I hope that none of these will ever be your problem, but all of us are susceptible.
What Can You Do To Reduce Your Risk?
There are some data security precautions that every freelancing accountant should take:
Back up your hard drive on a regular basis
If possible, you should back up your hard drive on a weekly basis. This is particularly important for client files. One of the best ways to do this is to copy files to CD-R, or recordable CD-ROM media. If you have a CD recorder (and most computers that are purchased now have them), you can copy files to a CD-R quickly and easily. Newer versions of Windows operating system even have much of the software needed to burn files to CD-R built in now. CD-R disks are cheap and portable. If you have smaller amounts of data, you could use floppy disks, as older systems are sure to thave them, but you won’t get much information on a floppy disk.
Store your backup diskettes/CD’s off-site, or subscribe to an Internet storage provider
As with the example at the beginning of this article, if you make backups and they are stolen or destroyed by such things as fire, flood, or other natural disasters, they do you no good. You can take your backup media home with you if you do your work in an office (where appropriate), thus insuring that if something happens at the office, you have your backups in a seperate physical location. If you work out of your home, you can send backups by mail to someone that you trust that lives close enough to get the data in a crunch, but far away enough that if there is a natural disaster, they are unlikely to be affected if you are. In a corporate setting, where feasible, you could send your records to another office located out of state.Be warned that especially in the case of floppy disks, they may not be 100% reliable, especially if stored for long periods of time or in storage conditions where temperatures vary drastically from hot to cold extreme. Heat can melt floppy disks, making them in most cases unusable. Also note that floppy disks are succeptible to magnetic fields, since data is stored on them as magnetic dots, so keep floppy disks away from things like electric motors, stereo speakers, and even some unshielded monitors or televisions. Because floppy disks are more volatile than CD-R or DVD writable media, use them for backup only if there is not another option and if you must use them, you must take extra precaution when storing and handling them.An Internet storage provider is a service provided on the Internet where you can store data on a server located elsewhere. The upside to these services is that they are typically backed up in such a way that the risk of you losing data is very small. If you are going to use one of these services, however, if you have large amounts of data to backup, you must realize that the speed of your Internet connection will limit the speed with which you can do your backups. If you have a high-speed broadband connection or if you have relatively small amounts of data to back up, this may be an ideal solution. These providers will typically charge a monthly fee to store your data, so always balance this among the pros and cons of this type of backup solution.
“Hard Copy” Backups
While much to-do has been said about the “paperless office”, the reality is that many companies that produce printer consumables such as paper and ink/toner have seen steady increase in sales, despite so many records being stored on a computer. One reason why this is that when you print out reports and such, there is some confidence in having something tangible that you can look at without the assistance of a computer. I doubt that you have ever heard of a book “crashing”. While paper records cost money in ink and other printer consumables and can take a lot of space to store, it may still be one of the more dependable backup methods out there.Print out a hard copy of Financial Statements each month, and a complete General Ledger every six months and store them in a binder. This will become particularly valuable in future years if your accounting program changes.
How Long Should I Store Client Data?
You must store client data for at least 7 years (the statute of limitations for business materials). After that, your client data is actually a liability to them to have it stored. Why? If records older than that exists, it could actually work to a client’s disadvantage if they are ever subpoenaed for a court case. Those records could be used against them. If destroyed, they could be admissible in court or as part of an investigation. Before destroying client documents, you will want to sit down with them and weigh the pros and cons of storing them beyond the 7 year limit. Some business owners may want to keep the records for archival purposes (and some of us just can’t bear to throw things away). It is the business owner’s decision whether to keep records beyond the 7 year limit. Just make sure that they understand what their risk is if they do.
Whatever method of backing up your client data that you choose, you must be sure that not only is it available in case you lose data, but you must be sure that it is kept private. Most business owners take privacy very seriously, from their business plans, to their contact database, to their financial records. Their competitors would likely love to have access to their financials and other records. One of your chief responsibilities that you have to your clients is to keep this kind of information out of the hands of unauthorized people. If a client’s data makes its way into the hands of those that could use that data to do the company harm, at very least, you will have lost a client.These privacy concerns extend to your own business’ data as well. Just make sure that you take as good of care of your own business data as you do your clients’. Nobody ought to know better than an Accountant or Bookkeeper just how important that a company’s financial data is to their very survival as a business.Where possible, computers containing client information should be password-protected. This helps casual users from having access to these records, but they should not be relied upon exclusively. Computer passwords can be broken by those with the knowledge to do so.Computers should be be in a locked room up when not in use where possible. If you have taken precautions to make backups, but someone steals the computer itself, they now have your data. Where you may not have insurance to cover these kinds of losses, you may also lose you way of earning a living if computer equipment is stolen.
Your client data is entrusted to you to keep it safe, accurate, and private. While it is a liability that you bear, it is one that is managable if you take proper precautions. If you provide proper backups and have taken care of both passwords and physical security, you will eliminate much of the potential problems that could result from loss of your client data. You may want to point out to clients measures that you have taken to keep their data secure, once you have your information strategy in place. Showing your clients that their data is as important to you as it is to them will help build confidence in them. You will be seen as knowledgeable and proactive in your approach to keeping them protected.
Remember when you worked in a traditional environment where disgruntled employees would grumble about the boss around the water cooler? Not that complaining about management practices ever did any good, but it sure made you feel better! Unfortunately, now that you’re the boss, you need to be more proactive in changing poor management practices. That often means taking a long, hard look at yourself to see what must be changed in order to improve your business, and that can be difficult. How do you get started? Here are 5 self-management tips that will help you avoid common pitfalls and become truly successful.
1. Hire help when you’re outgrown your capabilities.
It sounds crazy, but a small business can spiral out of control when the owner gets more clients than he/she can handle. Some insist on managing all the work by themselves, even if it exceeds their capabilities. They work long hours and burn themselves out. Don’t run yourself ragged because you’re afraid that hiring help will cut too much from your profits. Remember, you’ve got to spend money to make money, and often that money is best spent on payroll. When you hire good help, you sacrifice a small percentage of profits in order to add more clients to your roster, growing your business and increasing your income.
2. Take the time to sit back and reflex on lessons your business has taught you.
You will learn a lot from your successes and even more from your failures. Small business owners often become so busy they forget that everyday their business is teaching them how to become more successful. As the manager of your business you need to schedule weekly time to reflect on what is and isn’t working. Examine both the high and the low points, and make necessary changes to your management approach. Most importantly, look at your failures and ask what they’re trying to teach you. Continual reflection on your business practices and how you could better them is what will separate your business from those that fail. In fact, this one tip alone could prevent countless businesses from collapse.
3. Find a mentor and learn without making mistakes.
While learning from your own mistakes is a good thing, it’s even better when you can learn without them. Look for a mentor, someone who has managed their own business successfully and enjoys the type of lifestyle you desire. Then ask if they would mind being an adviser. Generally people are happy to help if they believe they have some expertise to offer. Ask your mentor for advice, listen to their experiences, and share your own successes and failures in order to get feedback and guidance.
4. Allow employees and customers to teach you what is and isn’t working.
It can be uncomfortable to ask those you work with how you might improve your business. But an objective point of view is invaluable when it comes to developing strong management skills. And you’d be amazed at what employees and clients might say; they have insight to your business that you just don’t have and they may offer suggestions that would help your business become more profitable.
5. Be willing to change.
Improvement requires change. Most small businesses succeed because they are flexible and recognize the need to constantly revise their management approach. Don’t batter yourself over the flaws in your business; be grateful that you’ve discovered them in time to make the necessary changes. Don’t cringe when a client suggests you add new services or better your customer service; be grateful for the information that will enable you to improve your business. In the beginning of your business, change will be constant, but after a few years you’ll settle comfortably into rhythm that may still require change, but not as much of it.Good management starts with you. The best managers are able to step back, take a good look at their management style, and ask how it can be improved. When you’re willing to change, change usually comes easily and with fewer struggles. Remember that it’s impossible for any startup to arise perfect from the dust. The best and most successful businesses, however, go through a continuous cycle of reflection and change. Mistakes and flaws are not devastating; they are great instructors. Listen to what they have to say and move forward.
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