EP98: Andrew Argue - How To Strengthen Your Sales & Marketing Skills

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Andrew Argue, who is a CPA, spent years and years learning and understanding the fundamentals of how to become great at sales. He studied some of the most successful salespeople, read books, attended webinars, trainings, talking to mentors, and anything that he could get his hands on to help himself develop these skills.

He started to work with larger accounting firms to grow their customer base.

After a few months, his clients started seeing significant increases in new client fees.

Today, he has assisted over 200 clients in 4 countries.

During this interview, you'll discover...

  • The importance of seeing your clients’ situation

  • Steps in taking control of your customer relationships

  • How to help clients position themselves in the market

To learn more about Andrew, visit here.

For his LinkedIn page, go here.

For his Facebook, click here.


Read transcription


Michael Palmer: 01:14 Welcome back to The Successful bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer, and I am super excited about today's guest. He is a CPA that helps people start and grow hyper profitable accounting and tax practices. In fact, he's assisted over 200 clients in four separate countries around the world. His name is Andrew Argue, welcome to the podcast, Andrew.

Andrew Argue: 01:38 Hey man, how's it going? I'm glad to be here.

MP: 01:40 It's great to have you. You know, Andrew was really excited about having you on the podcast because we here believe that accountants are one of the best partners for bookkeepers to grow and scale their businesses, and you're an expert in that field, and so I'd love for you to share your backstory and tell the audience what it is that you do and then we'll get into helping the listeners with working with your type of clients.

AA: 02:07 Cool. Absolutely. Yeah, I do work with accountants, bookkeepers, CPAs, and eas. Most of the people I work with are in the US but I have worked with some people in Canada as we'll see UK, Australia. Really, I kinda got into what I'm doing now. You know, a few years ago when I started working with some larger accounting firms that were doing like one to 4 million a year in sales. Honestly, when I first got started, they were teaching me like about as much as I'm teaching them. And I just kind of learned the ropes and the INS and outs of how to grow and accounting firm. And I kinda got some requests from some of the smaller practice owners, you know, people that were doing anywhere between five and 20,000 a month in the beginning just to kind of show them what I was doing with the larger practices. And so probably about 18 months ago now, we started doing, working mostly with smaller practitioners, accountants, bookkeepers, CPS, NDAs, doing anywhere from just getting started to about 50,000 a month, helping them grow, helping them get clients, getting consistent pipeline together, closed deals, whether it's on the phone or in person. Yeah. So that's a little bit of my background, how I got into this.

MP: 03:04 Great. So let's maybe talk a little bit about how bookkeepers can work with accountants. What do you see in the industry?

AA: 03:14 You know, it's interesting like more and more and more, there's like a blurred lines at least in the US cause I think for most of the small business services, like you know, I think traditionally a lot of people think, oh, you know, CPAs or accountants just do tax. But more and more and more they are also doing bookkeeping. So a lot of people that I work with at our bookkeepers that, you know, or working with accountants or getting referrals and whatnot, that definitely is something that they do. But I think one of the big challenges that bookkeepers have in particular are when they're just living off the referrals of accounting clients. I think one of the challenges for them is, you know, kind of quality. Like it's not, it's hard for them to pick a niche and really stick to it when the accountants might not have a niche.

AA: 03:51 They might be a generalist accountant working with tons of different people. And I think they also have challenges with pipeline and flow, like how one of these referrals going to be coming through. And so while I do recommend if you're a bookkeeper, um, it, you know, having an accountant that you can refer your clients to for the tax side. Um, I do think that's important and then also get some accountants to refer clients to you. I really do focus mostly on helping bookkeepers and the bookkeepers that I work within the accountants focused on like a direct pipeline to get potential clients themselves, like directly to the source. I think referrals are great. I think referrals are awesome, but I love to have more control and I love to be much more specific in terms of the type of clients that we go after than just what referrals generally give, if that makes sense.

MP: 04:34 It totally makes sense and we, we certainly subscribe to that. But specifically working with accountants, you know, what would you recommend they do to help strengthen their relationship with them?

AA: 04:47 Yeah, I mean I think when I look at a bookkeeper, let's say there's a bookkeeper that's doing 200,000 a year in sales, I honestly think that it's very, very good to have one. One, one person can be a tax preparer. It doesn't even need to be an account, but someone that can do taxes, like whenever you look at your client relationship, I want you to control the whole thing. And in fact, a lot of people that I work with that are doing bookkeeping, they will have a, an accountant, uh, that does tax work, whether they're a CPA or not, that literally all their bookkeeping clients go to that one person and they continue to manage the relationship. I think that's so important for retention cause more and more and more accounts and CPAs are also doing bookkeeping. And so to kind of protect your base and to make sure that it doesn't get taken from somebody else, I definitely recommend managing that relationship. Being involved. The person knows that that person works with you, but you're the main point person for the whole engagement. I think that is a total game changer. And I wish more people were doing that. So yeah, that's really one of the things I, I've helped a lot of the bookkeepers do that I work with.

MP: 05:44 Yeah, that's great. It's very interesting. And how might they start to manage that relationship? Take control? Like what would be the steps you would recommend?

AA: 05:53 Yeah, well, I mean to be honest, I mean a lot of the people I work are actually managing that relationship with the client on the tax side. I think, look, whenever I work with somebody I like, some people don't want to do the tax on it, it's totally fine. But I think you still need to understand it. Like the total value that you bring to the client. If you're just doing the bookkeeping but you're not really thinking about their total financial picture, how much they're paying themselves, what they're setting aside for taxes, are they making their quarterlies? That's a big part of the engagement. And so I like for them to be clued into that and I like for them to actually manage the relationship in most cases. Some people don't do it. I've got people that do some 50 a year just doing bookkeeping. I don't do any tax, but if somebody's just getting started or they've got a smaller practice, I would love it if they're managing the relationship, the clients paying them and they're outsourcing the work to someone that's doing the work cause they don't want to do it. That is what I really do like to see. But it's not what everyone does choose to do.

MP: 06:49 No, for us for sure. So when you're working with the, the accountants that you work with, what do you see the feedback that comes from them about the bookkeepers they work with?

AA: 07:02 You know, it's funny though, it's kind of the language and the phrasing that you're using because I don't see that big of a delineation between bookkeepers and accountants. It's in today's world. You know, when I think about the people that I work with, you know, they're doing accounting for small businesses. I've got people that are bookkeepers that are also tax repairs. I've got people that are accountants that are also bookkeepers. I got people that are experienced CPA's, 20 years experience that are outsourced CFOs that are going all the way down to taking over all the bookkeeping and with things like bill.com and some of the other tools that are out there nowadays, you can really get the amount of work you have to use it to deliver the services on the bookkeeping side really low. So a lot of accountants more and more and more taking that over.

AA: 07:36 So I actually don't typically look at it with a clear delineation. You know, in the US you don't have to be a CPA to prepare tax returns. You don't have to be a CPA to be a bookkeeper. And so they're really a blurred lines. I would say 95% of the small business services in the US you don't need a license, you don't need to be an accountant to do, whether it's on the tax or the bookkeeping side. So I think the lines are becoming a lot more blurred. And you know, I can't tell you how many people I've worked with that are bookkeepers where if you were to ask their clients, some of their clients might even think their CPA's, they've never presented themselves as a CPA. They've never said they're a CPA, but they've just been working with them for so long and it doesn't even matter because that person totally nails the engagement, provides value to the client, get some the results and all they know is that's their accountant.

AA: 08:20 They don't really focus on the, whether it's a bookkeeper, an accountant, a CPA license or on license cause for that service it's, it's not. What's more relevant is not that person just is the biggest thing I harp on. Most of the times when you're trying to get clients, when you're trying to grow your business, your story, your background, your experiences, the words that you use to define yourself doesn't matter. Clients don't care if they're working with a bookkeeper and accountant, they could really care less. What they want to know is specifically and clearly how are you going to transform their business? How much time are they going to save? If they work with you, how much money specifically are they going to save it? They work with you. Let's say there's a construction CEO right now and he's spending four hours a week on his accounting.

AA: 08:57 He's trying to do some of his own job costs and he's messing with invoicing because they've got no good system in place. Four hours a week, that's 16 hours a month. Okay. Let's say that he's billing his clients $200 an hour. That is $3,200 a month. He is losing by not being on job sites and doing his accounting right there and so if you can get them to clearly understand that, I mean they wouldn't care if you're a bookkeeper, an accountant, a CPA, or if you're a baby from use Pakistan, if you could save somebody $3,200 a month, there's an engagement there. That's just on the time factor. Now we've got to get into the money. I mean he's he paying any other money for other consultants. Does he have somebody on site that's doing 40 50,000 a year is going to outsource to you a 1500 a month? Are there any tax implications? Does he have the right entity structure? So I care less about necessarily exactly how we define ourselves and what we do and more about how we're defining clearly the transformation that we're providing to clients. If that makes sense.

MP: 09:46 It makes total sense. It's fantastic. So let's talk a little bit about the, the way you help your clients position themselves in the market. You, you obviously helping them grow and scale their business and very, you know, remarkable numbers that you talk about. What, what would you say to a person who's never worked with somebody like yourself, let's call them a bookkeeper or an accountant, whatever, whatever the case may be. You know, you actually started to allude to the fact that you start talking more about value. What's, what's, what do you typically see when you first get working with these people and what are their biggest problems?

AA: 10:22 What I find most people's biggest problems are, and what most people think their problems are different. Most people think their problem is, you know, just not getting enough leads. I'm just not getting enough appointments booked on the calendar. I'm just not getting enough people to meet with week in, week out and everybody thinks that's their problem. But the reality of it is that's very rarely their problem. That's not that hard of a problem to fix. It's not that hard to get appointments with potential clients. It's not that hard to get leads. Once you get a basic system together to get some appointments, you'll find it's not that difficult to meet with three to five people a week that could work with you. Most people think their problem is lead generation, but it kind of what you alluded to there, I think where most people are falling short is, you know, there's all this trip Chirp Chirp in the industry about Oh, value pricing, this, that and the other.

MP: 11:01 Okay, but specifically how do we do it?

AA: 11:04 I would say probably the biggest value I bring to somebody when you sit across from another human being, how do you clearly figure out what are their problems in their business and what are the true costs of those problems in terms of time, like I said before, how much time are they losing, not working with you money specifically on the accounting and the tax side and how much money are they losing, not working with you. And what about like the gut wrenching, you know, emotional anxiety that they're going through. They can't open up their credit card account cause they're worried to look at their balance. They can't look at their bank statements. They're worried to run payroll cause they're not sure if they're going to override. Like they don't know what their profitability is, they don't know which jobs are going over.

AA: 11:37 Like what are the, what are the emotional fears and anxieties that they're having where they're sitting in bed with their spouse on a Saturday night looking at the ceiling, worried about the finances for the next week. And if you can clearly define to them those problems in a sales consultation where you're sitting from them, that is how you get the highest. So it's not that hard to get appointments, but closing those appointments, those clients into high paying clients, that's the biggest skill in business. And I think that's where most people are lacking. You know? It's unbelievable how many people, you know, okay, I don't really care. To be honest, I'm not big about all, it has to be hourly versus fixed. I don't care if it's hourly, as long as it's two, $300 an hour, $400 an hour, I'm fine with hourly. I just, but I want it to be high end.

AA: 12:16 I want them. And if people understand that working with you, they're making money, then they'll go for it every time. And the reality of it is that if a small business owner takes money out of their account and gives it to you in some way, in their mind they're making money on that deal, they'd rather have your services and they have that money. But what you need to do is get good at. Clearly defining that to them so they see it so clearly and so obviously that it fully solidifies the relationship and the value in a high fee. And I think while most people think the problem is getting consistent appointments or whatever, that's not that hard of a problem to solve for most people, the real and true skill comes in building that, that, you know, 30 45 minute consultation with a potential client to see if it makes sense to work together and getting them to commit be a pain

MP: 13:03 It's absolutely mind-boggling when you start to think about it, right? But say a person that gets 10 leads a month, even a and another person gets a hundred leads a month, if that person with those 10 can close them even for 25% more, it'll, the impact is, I mean it's, it's crazy when you start to think of what those numbers are so late. It is true. People are always thinking, I need more leads. I need more people talking to me. No, you just need to do a better job of the people that you do get. You could, I bet you could probably run a really great business with just a couple of leads a month if you really did that deep dive as you're saying, and really connected the dots on what is their problem or challenge and how you can truly help them put more money in their bank account. I really love that.

AA: 13:53 It's true and I think a lot of people are dealing with a few leads and they're like, you know, I can't tell you how many people I literally in the last 12 months, myself personally have spoken with over a thousand practice owners, bookkeeping, tax accounting. It's amazing how many people are like Andrew. I mean, I'll tell you, if I get somebody in the door, I close them 80 90% right? People typically have like five appointments a month, right? They get like three or four clients. Okay, cool. Um, but the problem is, is that that's not a badge of honor. That's something to be, I'm always weary of that. Look, if you're closing 80 to 90% of the people that you're talking to, you're number one, you're not talking with enough people. Those numbers are not typical. And you might say, oh, they are good at this.

AA: 14:26 Okay, well, number two, your prices are too low. If you're closing 80 to 90% of people, you're not meeting with enough people and your prices are too low. I mean, if you only closed 20% of people, but the prices were triple, that'd be the same money, heck of a lot less work. And so I think sometimes people have to be careful what they're proud of in their practice and think about, is that really the best thing? Is it really good just to get clients or is, do we want to get the right clients at the right fee?

MP: 14:53 Yeah, absolutely. It really is a focus. You know, our experience as well. I mean we have hundreds and hundreds of clients all over, um, North America, uh, Australia that we work with. And it's that common conversation of leads or the good thing, if I close at one, one that I laugh at all the time is, you know, I have too much business. I'm turning business away. And then you ask them what the price they're charging. And it's like, well, you know, it's, it's just they just can't see it because they've been, you know, inside their business for so long. So this is why, you know, I love doing this podcast to bring this kind of knowledge and awareness to, hey, there's people out there that are charging 10 2030 times what you're charging and they're doing it differently and when you like to be one of those people. So I love what you're saying, Andrew. It's fantastic. So this whole concept of helping them convert clients at a higher ratio, I loved that. What you were talking about in terms of the problem and helping people connect those, those dots with the numbers, and you gave us a really fantastic gift of just the person's time. Right? What, what else do you, what other areas do you focus on and what are those sort of hotspots, if you would?

AA: 16:09 Yeah, the key, or most people get it wrong is they think, and this is why everybody has all these insecurities. This is why I always say that you don't need a license or a degree or a certification to be successful doing accounting and tax because you don't, I mean, you're real people that know how to sell themselves. Their services grow their business like they know that the focus is never on them. It doesn't matter how many years experience you have, it doesn't matter how many clients you've worked with, it doesn't even matter your testimonials. That's pretty much irrelevant. Everybody's always going to find a reason to say, oh, I'm different than them. So testimonials don't matter. Licenses don't matter. Degrees don't matter. All that matters is how clearly you can see that client's situation and picture. Get them to understand it with you. That one area that I went into before it was time.

AA: 16:52 We used that example of the construction owner. Alright, four hours a week, 16 hours a month. If he was on his job sites, billing $200 an hour, that'd be $3,200 a month. That's one example of time. The second one is money. I mean specifically is there any way we're going to be able to save this person any money now that could be with this construction owner example, there could be another bookkeeper on staff. They're paying 30 or 40,000 a year to plus benefits plus vacation and they're going to work with you for 1500 a month. So instead of paying 50,000 a year, they're going to pay 18,000 so they're saving 30,000 there. So I found 30,000 on the time and I found 30,000 on replacing the in house person. Now, what about job costing? Currently, then I'm doing job costing. Okay. All right. Now if you were to do job costing Mr Construction Cu, how much more do you think you'd be able to go back on some of these jobs and bill additional for overruns and if you had job costing right now, I mean how do you think that would change your current pricing?

AA: 17:44 Like how much more do you think? When you look at the last year, how much more do you think you would have built if you knew the costs for every job that you had done over the last year and you haven't really a much better feeling of how much these were going to cost? He said, honestly, I think I could probably do an extra. Yeah, at least 75,000 a year. All right, so right now we got him to admit that number one, he's losing $30,000 on time. Number two, he's going to be able to save $30,000 by outsourcing to me, university in house provider, and number three, if we work on a value add activity like job costing, we'll be able to make an extra $75,000 a year. So all of a sudden working with you for $2,500 a month isn't about an expense. Oh my gosh, I have to work with you and I have to pay $2,500 a month.

AA: 18:22 I'm going to choke. It's like, this is literally an investment. I'm going to pay $30,000 to make 130 or $140,000 assuming those are the only problems we saw, which they're not, because we haven't even gotten to the emotional anxiety of someone who's running their business with numbers that aren't correct. They aren't on time, they're late, someone that's incompetent, that's not doing the value out of work, like job costing. And they're stressing out spending all this time looking at the books rather than out there growing the business and make magic happen. And so when you factor it all in, you start to make the relationship of what I call, we get to this like no brainer stage where it's like you'd have to be a total moron to not take that deal. And the only reason why someone wouldn't take that deal is number one, because you have not clearly articulated it to them.

AA: 19:01 And number two, because they don't believe you. And so if you can get them to believe you and you can get them to clearly see that working with you as an investment and they're gonna save time and they're going to make or save money and you can specifically get them to admit that to you how much it's going to be. Okay. I mean that's how you get high fees and it's so important to do that in the beginning because I don't care about getting a yes. It's not just about getting the yes, it's not that hard to get the yes, but what I care about is a relationship that lasts for a long time, that first moment, that first consultation where you're defining the problems, you're figuring out exactly what needs to happen, exactly what the problems are and the true cost to them and exactly what your fees are going to be in that moment.

AA: 19:39 When they understand that and they're paid 2,500 bucks a month. If you do a great job in that meeting, not only will they pay 2,500 bucks a month this month and the next month they'll still understand it for a year or two years or three years later because of that first meeting and how you clearly defined your value. So really is everything honestly. And is that is, those are a couple of examples. I mean I'd commonly refer to it as time, money and emotion. The three areas that you need to clearly get the client to see on in terms of how much time they are losing, how much money they specifically make or save if they worked with you. And then also the emotional costs of not being where they want to be financially and from an accounting perspective.

MP: 20:23 It's brilliant. I absolutely love it. And I think that's where, you know, when people start to think more in terms of a niche area that they're going to work in, they can really get to understand that industry used the example of a construction. Well, if you're working with more construction businesses and you really get to understand that and you can talk the talk, it lands so much better and you come across as an authority in the space, which even goes that much further when you're having these kinds of conversations, like that belief component that you're talking about.

AA: 20:51 I, and that's why I'm a hesitant on so much of the referrals from accountants. If you're a bookkeeper, because most accountants don't have a niche practice. A lot of them do, but most of them don't. People are still learning and understanding this, but if you as a bookkeeper or an accountant or someone who has an accounting or tax practice but wants to work with a niche, the best, the absolute best way right now is to just get a direct pipeline of meetings from that space with, with the decision-makers in the business. Typically the owners, the CEOs, the executive directors that you're working with, organizations are not for profits. You know, because if you rely on the referrals, it's not just that they come in sometimes. Sometimes they don't. It's that they tend to be a mix and so you will get better and better and better.

AA: 21:28 The construction one is a great example. I've worked with basically every single niche at this point. You know, across the board it does make a big difference and every single time you talk to a potential client, you're kind of building your cumulative knowledge and experience about their experience in their business and you're bringing that to the table every single time. I mean, I think he used that construction one because it's an obvious one, but every single niche has that exact same calculation of time, money and emotion. And we know that because business owners are paying people to do it all the time. The problem is is that the business owner is coming up with that calculation themselves in their gut. We haven't clearly spelled it out for them most of the time. And so that's really what we need to do.

MP: 22:06 Absolutely. And I, I w the one thing I would say when you're working with accountants in my personal opinion would be if you really do have that niche is just to be clear. I mean, we have some people that have very, very specific niches and they tell accountants upfront, listen, I only accept these types of clients so you know, we don't take on anything else. And I think that's one way to maybe improve that relationship because if they're really clear, while you're not going to get that many referrals from them, but you're certainly going to be only getting the type of referrals that you can actually work with. But I do agree with the whole concept of the niching and you know, we say nourishing up here in Canada, a niche for the United States. But I think it's really, really powerful from the perspective of just being able to understand an industry and really be able to talk to people from that deep knowledge versus, Hey, I work with a hundred different types of businesses. Well, how can you really be an expert in any of them? And so I love this stream of conversation for sure, Andrew.

AA: 23:05 It's true. Yeah. And I, and I don't want people to think that, oh, you know, like with the referrals and everything that, okay, that's a bad thing. It's a good thing. And I, and I do recommend, look, even if you're focused on a niche, like a specific type of clients, whether it's dentists or construction companies or medical practices or marketing agencies or attorneys or not for profits or whatever it is, I do still think you should take other deals as they come up. You should look at those deals and try to get the highest fee possible for the work. But I think when you're getting intentional about marketing and growth, you want to try to design it intentionally. You want to know exactly how many clients do you want, exactly how many fees, exactly how many people you need to be meeting with every week to get there. But if you're focused on marketing agencies and an offer profit comes and you just think it would be an awesome deal, you've got a great fee. But I think go for it. I want people to build a niche practice, but I, I think they should also take good opportunities as they come.

MP: 23:53 Yeah. And I do like what you're saying about I, I want to make sure we make it really clear. Having all your eggs in one basket or never is never a good idea. So going direct to the industry where you control it. And I love that concept, right? It's like if you are working in the construction industry, we'll stay with that as a theme. If you become known in your local area of construction that you have this ability, and let's say that the s the example that you've been using where you know, the savings of, you know, an additional revenue of 75,000 a year, you're saving him a time of $3,200 a month. I mean that starts to get around. I mean that person starts to want to refer you to his best mates and, and on and on and on it at goes. And then now all of a sudden you don't rely on really anybody. Like whether it's an accountant or whoever is referring business, you have referrals coming direct from the, from the industry. So it's really, really great advice, Andrew. I love it. Yeah, absolutely. So listen, I'd love for you to share as we sort of wrap up the show, share anything that uh, you'd like to offer our listeners that could go to your website and find out more information about you. That would be great. And we'll certainly be posting all of the links and whatnot on our site as well.

AA: 25:12 Absolutely. Yeah. So this is a pretty short podcast and so really, I mean if you want to learn more about all the stuff I've been talking about today, like specifically how we get appointments, like how do you get a direct pipeline to potential clients in a niche? Like how do you make sure you're getting three, five appointments a week sitting down with people, whether it's on the phone or in person to see if it makes sense to work together. How do you get appointments and how do you really turn those into high paying clients? Like how do you run a sales consultation if you want to learn more about that. And also service delivery, like specifically the services that we're offering. I mean, how are we structuring some of these to get the highest fee possible while also doing the smallest amount of work? I mean, one of the big beliefs that I have is that I want to do the bare minimum work for the maximum fee.

AA: 25:54 I want to get the client that result in the value, but if something only takes us two hours, but it saves the client a hundred grand, which a lot of people have experiences like that, I don't want to charge them $200 I mean, I think that's absurd. It's all about specifically how much the client's gonna net from working with us and the less time we can put into it, the better. So, and we talk about that from a service delivery perspective. So if you want to learn a little bit more about some of the stuff we talked about today, really the best place that goes, Andrewargue.com/training and if you go there, uh, there's a webinar that we put on. It's a brand new webinar that I've just released. And so that's really going to give you a good idea of all the different steps that we go through to clearly define the value to clients, how to get consistent appointments, how to deliver the services. So yeah, I'd love to have you on the Webinar and you know that's really the best place to go.

MP: 26:38 It's awesome. We'll certainly post all of those links for you, Andrew. It's been great having you on the podcast.

AA: 26:46 Absolutely. Thanks. Appreciate it.

MP: 26:48 That wraps another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. To learn more about today's guest and to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com. Until next time,

MP: 26:58 goodbye.