How Professional Service Firms Leak Sales

It’s hard to believe but many professional services organisations do not keep a record of new business enquiries. Questions along the lines of ‘how many new business enquiries did we have last month/year’ can result in blank confused faces often because there are no mechanisms in place to track new business enquiries. This in turn means that there is no ability to monitor ‘conversion rates’ i.e. enquires to new business. Without these simple measurements there is little to attract management attention to the sales process.

When an enquiry is received information may be sent, there could be a quotation issued or possibly a meeting arranged. Sadly professional services firms are notoriously poor at following up an enquiry allowing them to drift off into the ether, typically for a more motivated competitor to convert. Following up an enquiry suggests enthusiasm to work with a client and need not be perceived as being ‘pushy’.

Another problem is that many professional service firms have great systems for billing clients – but allow new enquiries to fall by the way side in terms of data capture. Many firms can find themselves issuing quotations without the details of a motivated buyer being added to a marketing database for later on-going communication.

There are sales skills that people can acquire and one of these is knowing how to handle an ‘objection’. In most cases people have some form of objection when buying a product or service. The most typical one is price others include location and timeliness but it varies enormously depending upon the product, service, sector or buyer. Some people are put off as soon as they hear an objection. In practice accepting an objection as worthy and then responding to it, can result in it being overcome. Objections crop up regularly but few organisations pool their best practice for overcoming them.

Then there is the whole issue of ‘closing’ a sale. Perfectly good sales opportunities can be lost if there is no ‘closing’ of the sales process. This can simply mean asking to start work! It may involve listening to objections and adjusting a service package. Some people are culturally resistant to closing and need help to overcome this. One note of caution though – attempting to close a sale too quickly can come across as pushy and unprofessional.

Having secured a new client many firms then struggle to generate cross-departmental sales. This can be a result of many factors ranging from departmental silo dwelling, personal targets, a lack of any sense of shared purpose, or relationship hoarding for fear of someone else damaging that relationship. What seems to be the easiest objective of all therefore becomes beset with obstacles. These need to be brushed aside.