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Partner Pages 2020: Objection! A masterclass in challenge management


Feb 20, 2020

Welcome to Partner Pages: a magazine made up of stories from the Xero Partner community, for the Xero partner community and shared as part of Roadshow Australia each year.

As any bookkeeper, accountant or BAS agent will agree, part of the job description might as well be ‘expertise in the skill of objection handling’. And no matter how long you’ve been in the industry, managing objections remains one of the most daunting aspects of day-to-day business. In the interest of learning from each other and growing together, we asked six of the partners who were shortlisted for the 2019 Xero Awards about the trickiest client challenges they’ve come up against, and how they handled them.

Here’s what they had to say about their approach to everything from calming panic about Single Touch Payroll (STP) to arguing the case for fair payment.

Finding the STP solution

Tamara-Lee Beveridge, Owner, BizCore 360, Tasmania

When it came to Single Touch Payroll, we chose to be proactive. That meant using the two year notice period as an opportunity to get every single one of our clients educated and prepared – and we began immediately. At each step along the way, we made sure to discuss our plans and the timing for the transition with each client. As a result, all of the small tweaks needed to ensure their payroll was prepped and ready to go were entirely transparent. 

By organising ourselves this way, we were able to remove any fear of the unknown right from the outset. Not only were our clients well informed and thoroughly comfortable with what STP was and why it was happening, but they were confident that our team had everything under control. 

What did we learn as a business in the process? It showed us that it really does pay to plan ahead: if you sense something might prove challenging for your clients, do the hard work at the start and save yourself potential upsets later down the track.

Proving your worth

David Dahm, CEO and founder, Health and Life, South Australia

People love it when things are cheap. I mean, who can blame them. The thing is, cheap doesn’t equal value. At Health and Life, we sometimes find ourselves competing against firms who offer Xero conversions for next to nothing, or even free. However, the process is rarely done properly at these cut-price rates. Rather than get frustrated, we saw an opportunity to win over prospective clients. We can’t stop people making the mistake of choosing to go with the cheapest option. But we can offer them a free consultation to explain what went wrong and how we can remedy it. What I say to them, in effect, is that unfortunately there are no shortcuts when it comes to keeping your books in order. You can’t just go and re-engineer the numbers at the end of the year. Instead, you need to invest in doing things properly at the beginning. 

Ultimately, fees are about value. And when people complain about fees, what they’re really complaining about is the fact that they can’t see the value. It’s up to us to prove our worth to them. And we do exactly that by showing the return on investment that comes from doing things the right way.

Soothing digitisation concerns

Jasmine Strom, Client Manager, Nexia Australia, Western Australia

Managing fear of change is a constant for us. As an example, we were working with a client facing a large-scale multi-system implementation, and with that came resistance, especially when it was time to say goodbye to their manual processes. 

While our client was on board with moving over to the cloud, they expressed real concern about transitioning from their old way of doing things. Ultimately, we found that the solution lay in reiterating the efficiencies they would gain by moving away from their time-consuming and cumbersome operating methods. All the while, we kept assuring them that making the move to Xero and the cloud would entirely revolutionise the way they work. All of which would mean more time to do what counts – and that’s something everyone can get on board with.

When a client has done things the same way for a hundred years (give or take), it’s only natural that they’re hesitant to change. We’ve discovered that the solution lies in being upfront about the initial challenges (so that they feel heard), positive about the end result (so that they can get excited) and, above all, open and nurturing the whole way through.

Making the case for coaching

Katherine Haines, Managing Director, KHB Bookkeeping, Northern Territory

We often see clients object to business planning and monthly coaching sessions because they don’t think they’re big enough to justify the expense. Recently, a young hairdresser looking to go out on her own and open up a salon was referred to us. We offered a program that included a business planning session, a cashflow forecast, budgeting for her new salon, and ongoing monthly coaching to help her achieve her goals.

She initially declined, feeling that she wasn’t at the right stage in her journey. In response, I told her that now was, in fact, the best time to get started. I explained just how often we see businesses fail because their owners didn’t make the time to put detailed plans in place right from the very beginning. So I was able to position the fee as an investment, all the while explaining that having KHB on her team during those crucial first months would not only ease the pressure but she’d gain access to a qualified professional to answer any questions along the way. While she ultimately didn’t go ahead with us, I was pleased with how we approached the objection and have used it as something of a blueprint going forward.

Calming cashflow woes

Shannon Smit, Director, SMART Business Solutions, Victoria

A challenge I repeatedly come up against is convincing clients to sign up for services that they need (and I mean, really need), but don’t feel they have the funds to cover.

When struggling with cash flow, it’s no surprise that people aren’t so keen to pay for assistance. In response to reluctance or objections, I explain that an owner needs to look at cash as if it were oxygen for their business. And if you’re getting starved of air, then naturally it should be your prime focus to fix it.

Next, I work with them to find some quick wins to free up funds, whether that means reducing debtor days, invoicing for work in progress, or seeking out any other root causes of their cashflow pain. By addressing the low-hanging fruit, we’re able to improve the wider situation. Then, we’re in the perfect position to focus on the main causes of their cashflow issues. I offer flexible payment terms to begin with, but find that once clients take on our guidance, they soon discover the funds to pay for the help their business needs.

Finding a successful solution 

Tracy Ebbetts, CEO, Inspired Org, New South Wales

We tend to find that tricky client objections pop up quite often. We work with a lot of tradespeople and most of them are concerned about whether Xero is the right fit for the size of their business or the demands of the industry.

 First, we listen and find out where their main pain points are. I can’t stress enough how important the listening part is, because that’s how we’re able to tailor the right solution. In most cases, we find that they’re really struggling. Either they’ve got an older outmoded admin system in place or they’re having problems with reporting. So, we tell them that the key lies in thinking about the end solution rather than the beginning.

I say, “Don’t think about what you’re going to install. Think about what you want to achieve out of what you’re installing.” Then we’re able to offer Xero coupled with trade-specific apps like simPRO as the perfect solution that will save them hours and hours of cross-referencing financial transactions. On the rare occasion that they’re still not convinced, we provide them with references from multi-million-dollar clients who are using Xero (very) successfully.

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