Pitching your firm to a new client prospect is a key skill. So how do you do it if you’re not a natural sales person? Here are some practical tips that anyone can follow.
What is an accounting elevator pitch?
An elevator pitch is a brief summary of your service that you can deliver in as little as 30 seconds.
The phrase comes from the world of publishing and entertainment. Aspiring writers would always have a short pitch ready, in case they encountered an editor or movie executive in the elevator.
Elevator pitches are not intended to win business on the spot. They’re not going to help you close a deal right there in the elevator. They’re all about making an impression.
At the very most, they’ll get you a meeting.
They may prompt an exchange of business cards.
Mostly, their job is to make sure you’re not forgotten.
Someone who hears your elevator pitch might not need an accountant right now. Or they may not want to talk about accounting at that precise moment. But if you make a good pitch, they’re more likely to remember you when they’re ready.
So how do you polish your accounting elevator pitch to ensure you're in with a good chance?
Frame your pitch in a way that people understand. Bring some feeling into it.
Instead of saying:
“I provide advisory services to help small businesses recognize their growth potential.”
“I help small businesses who are sick of having the same year over and over again.”
The first description is technical. The second evokes an emotion, which helps make it resonate. We all know what it’s like to be stuck in a rut. The second pitch also invites a follow-up question. Any naturally curious person is going to ask “how?”
Pitch solutions, not services
Put yourself in the shoes of your prospect for a moment. What do they really want?
Are they interested in hearing all about your firm?
Do they want to hear about every single service you offer?
Do they even care about accounting?
The answer to these questions is probably “No”, so don't waste their time. What they really want is a solution to their business problems. They want someone to take that problem and make it go away – and they're willing to pay for that to happen.
Everything you say in your pitch should come from this perspective. Talk about solutions to common problems the prospect might have. And make that solution sound as painless to implement as you can.
Position yourself as an advisor
Rightly or wrongly, many business owners see accountants as an extension of the tax office. You’re part of the system. An obligation.
That’s not a positive place to come from so try to show you’re on their side. Your firm can do so much more than figure out what they owe the government. Position yourself as an advisor with answers to wider business issues. Tell them how you can help:
- fix cash flow issues
- reduce the costs of doing business
- increase the speed of doing business
- give them a strategy for reinvesting
Don’t forget about the bread-and-butter compliance capabilities. All businesses want to be tax efficient. But open their eyes to all the other things you can do for them as well. Even if they don’t immediately use those services, it will help establish you as a collaborator and partner rather than just a vendor.
Elevator pitches are not going to help you close a deal right there on the spot. They’re all about making an impression.
Throw away the speaking notes
Avoid delivering the same rehearsed speech every time. It’ll get boring for you and it’ll sound wooden to your prospects.
It's good to have some standard quotes and ideas to bring out – that's just part of preparation. But a scripted pitch is unlikely to work. You need to be natural and adapt what you say to the audience you have.
Mention only the services that are relevant and helpful to them. Read their body language to see what interests them and what bores them. If they’re engaging on a specific topic, keep talking. If they’re drifting off, focus on something else.
No two businesses are the same, and no two individuals are the same. So no two accounting elevator pitches should be the same either.
Know your stuff
An elevator pitch is something that you have in your back pocket, just in case. You never really know when you’ll get to use it. For that reason, they tend to be generic.
However, there are times when you know you’re going to meet a bunch of lawyers, or designers, or brewers. When that happens, you can create a custom pitch. Find out about the industry you’re targeting. You don’t have to become an expert but make sure you understand the big issues.
Ask one of your existing clients, if you have any in the same industry. Find out what causes them trouble.
Use the internet, especially discussion forums. Find out what entrepreneurs in the industry are complaining about.
Look at your own firm, and think how your services can be tailored to solve your prospect's issues.
This research will help you structure your accounting elevator pitch. There are two goals here:
You want your prospect to feel that you understand their industry – that you're one of them.
- You want them to know that your firm offers the solution to their problems.
Know your USP – and use it
Your unique selling proposition (USP) is what sets you apart from your competitors. There are thousands of accounting practices out there so it’s hard to be truly unique, but you can certainly be different.
Do you have in-depth knowledge of the prospect’s industry?
Are you always available?
Do you work with other businesses of a similar size?
Are you a virtual CFO?
Don’t be trite. It’s not unusual to say you’re ‘client focused’. Every firm says that, including many that aren’t. Try to think of something that will really set you apart – and that clients will value.
Be ready for 'but'
Expect caution and negative questions from your prospects. They don't know you, and will try to poke holes in your argument. This is good business sense on their part. They need to know how you respond to queries and address problems.
Accept their questions in good spirit and answer them politely and thoroughly. Keep reiterating the value of your business, and stay positive.
Sow the seeds of new business
Remember, you’re not going to win a new client with every elevator accounting pitch. That’s not the point. As long as you’ve demonstrated your value and knowledge, you're still in with a chance. Earning a prospect's respect is never a waste of time.
If you get your prospect's contact details, a polite follow-up call is fine. You can always ask if they need any more information. But don’t rush them or over-communicate. People like to make decisions in their own time and they have a small business to run, so they're busy.
So long as you have a compelling, relatable way to explain your service, you've done all you can do.