One problem that many accountants face when growing their business is improving their sales skills. Without excellent sales skills in your organization, it’s hard to convince people that they need your services. But how do you sell without appearing pushy?

In this week’s Growing Your Firm podcast, we’ll be talking with Nikki Rausch. Nikki’s the founder and CEO of Sales Maven, an organization dedicated to authentic selling. In the conversation today, we’ll be talking more about authenticity and toolsets that you can use to win at the misunderstood process of selling. 


  • The trouble with modern sales
  • Why authenticity is better
  • NLP techniques
  • How to create authentic business relationships through the selling staircase model


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The Trouble with Salespeople

Some old-school salespeople can be annoying. When they’re in selling mode, nothing can dissuade them from their laser-like focus on the prize of selling their products.

Unfortunately, this leads to uncomfortable moments when trying to sell both online and in person. Attendees at trade shows feel like they’re being pounced upon by everyone in a booth. This makes them shy away from others, or even avoid making eye contact to avoid having to talk with a salesperson. 

Nikki, like the others, felt awkward in selling directly with this in-your-face method. And, as she gained prominence as a national leader and coach, she developed more effective methods to close sales. Afterall, the goal of any sales interaction is to convert a prospect into a client.

The Authentic Way to Sell

In learning how to sell, Nikki also picked up some neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques which have helped her get people to say “yes” more often. NLP is the study of how language affects our minds, often taught as a set of techniques to help people become more comfortable with what you have to say. 

One technique is called Matching and Marrying, where you match your speaking pace with that of the person to whom you’re trying to sell. We tend to trust people who echo how we speak. A fast talker, even if they’re trying not to be a fast talker, can still be perceived as pushy.

The core idea that Nikki teaches is that sales must be built in a more natural manner. It should be relationship-focused and service-driven, not revenue-driven. You should think more in terms of what you can offer the other person. In fact, one of the first things you should consider is whether you even can offer what your lead needs.

What too many accountants, and others, fall into is the trap of simply asking for the sale and moving on if they’re rejected. Like any relationship, it must be nurtured in the right way. Both parties have to pay attention to certain cues to know when to move to the next step. 

The Five Step Selling Staircase

Nikki teaches that the real way to get the big-ticket sales with prospects is through the conversation, through actually talking with your prospects and finding out where you can fit into their ecosystem. 

She developed a five-step selling staircase model for sales, one which brings incredibly powerful NLP concepts together for a no- or low-hassle selling experience. What are the steps within the sequence? 

Step 1 – The introduction phase. 

This is the place where prospects are weeded out according to their need. You introduce your business or concept to people in the most efficient and powerful manner possible. Your whole goal is to make a solid first impression and qualify the lead. If you can’t help them, guide them to someone who can. Later, they may come back! 

Step 2 – Generate curiosity. 

You’re here when your prospect wants to learn more about your product or service. In this phase, you want to pay special attention to the feedback that you receive when you’re introducing items meant to generate curiosity. However, this is still just an introduction! They’re not ready to buy yet.

Step 3 – The discovery step. 

When you’re sure they are curious, then you can move to the discovery step. This is where you ask your prospect lots of questions to get a fully-rounded picture of your prospect’s need. What they may be curious about and what you offer might be different. Discover what it is they really want through conversation..

Step 4 – The proposal step. 

In this step, you’re laying it on the table and encouraging them to consider what you’re offering and make a choice. Their curiosity is there, and you’ve qualified them enough to know that you really can help them. Now you can lay out how your firm can solve the problems you’ve talked about in the discovery step.

Step 5 – The close. 

Now is the time to ask for the sale.

Having this system in place provides structure for both you and the prospect, as each phase is easily identifiable for what it is. Nikki emphasizes several times in the talk that you cannot skip any of the steps involved in the sales staircase. Skipping steps is how salespeople appear pushy. You can’t leap from curiosity directly to the sale!

It’s also important to recognize that you might not be the best fit for every client. You can’t win every sale, nor do you want every lead as a client. If what you offer isn’t valuable to that client, or you don’t feel that you can work well together, or something just seems off, learn to let them go or guide them to someone who can serve them better. Releasing a lead that doesn’t fit doesn’t mean you’re a bad salesperson!

We go into much more detail about the five steps, NLP, and other sales techniques inside of the podcast. Take a listen to the whole episode, and if you like this model, we highly recommend checking out Nikki’s book, The Selling Staircase: Mastering the Art of Relationship Selling. Thanks for listening!

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