Mike Hourigan, Negotiation Skills Speaker for Accountants
Negotiation Skills Speaker for Accountants
Don’t Let Your Debits Take Away from Your Credits
When I deliver motivational speeches as a negotiation skills speaker for accountants, I talk about the two sides of presenting to existing and potential clients. In making presentations, accounting firms must remember that negotiation skills with a current or potential client break down into content and techniques. They are distinctly different skills.
Accounting Negotiation Skills: Content
Most accounting firms presenting to new or existing clients are comfortable with talking about “content.” Content includes, but is not limited to, issues a client may be facing, along with pricing, terms, features, experience of the accounting firm, hours, facilities and similar topics. Most consistently, accounting firms negotiating for new business will stop at the point of expressing their capabilities, and often finish with a flourish saying, “As you can see, we can do the same things (our competition) can do.” Business cards are left behind, maybe a half-eaten box of donuts or some spiffy pens. In follow-up calls, the presenters are often baffled as to why they didn’t get the business. The failure is primarily due to the presenters not understanding that there is a whole other side to negotiation skills: techniques.
Accounting Negotiation Skills: Techniques
Expressing to an existing client or prospective clients that you can do the same thing the other three (or more) finalists can do will not make for an impressive story. Oh, you may have an outstanding tax department, maybe the best, but unless that point is fully developed during a presentation, your prospect will never know it.
Techniques include strategy, planning, tactics, style and all of the details such as who will represent the team, who will be speaking, who will take the majority of the questions and who will be the one to oversee the pitch. While strategy may seem to be an obvious (“Oh, we can handle that!”), it rarely is.
I once witnessed a firm negotiating with a prospect over how they could help that prospect with a particularly difficult taxation problem. It was down to the final two firms. They brought in three partners and a somewhat junior person who was energetic and personable. The junior person started to present, and was doing a great job, when inexplicably the partners began to vie for attention by trying to impress everyone with their experience. Unfortunately, one of the partners even began to contradict and speak over the others, until the original presenter’s program and flow was almost completely obliterated.
As I once had accounting firms present to me when I was in the corporate sphere, I immediately sensed what was transpiring in the minds of the potential prospect. They saw the accounting firm as disjointed and argumentative. The overbearing partner, while undoubtedly well-qualified, came across as a bit of a jerk. The prospective firm was thinking, “If they can’t get along while making a presentation, how in the world will they listen to us?” They did not get the business.
Accountants need both sides of negotiation: content and technique. At the end of the day, negotiating skills are still a people-to-people transaction, not debits and credits. Make sure your right people are talking to their right people, with solid technique to back it up.
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