Most accounting professionals have a love-hate relationship with client acquisition.
They love the increased revenue but the possibility of wasting a lot of time on fruitless leads is a dreadful thought. In all actuality, firm owners should be spending the majority of their time pursuing new clients.
It’s safe to say the need for bookkeepers is strong. The pandemic spurred thousands of people to start their own businesses. In 2020, more than 4.4 million new businesses were started in the U.S., a 24.3% increase over 2019, creating a large pool of new potential clients.
However, the competition in the industry is growing too. Winning over new bookkeeping clients is increasingly difficult thanks to technology. Today a drive down main street to talk to your accountant can easily be replaced by the Zoom call with a virtual firm two states over.
The question becomes, what can you do to improve your success rate with new clients? While there are so many aspects that make up a winning sales strategy, let’s take a look at some of the most essential ways to find and win new bookkeeping clients.
The following tips will cover internal operations, external communications, and the initial client meeting.
When we talk about business deals, negotiation is an aspect that requires time and effort from both parties. When Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the negotiation process alone took over one and a half years. Bigger deals require more time.
While closing accounting clients is not the same magnitude as this huge acquisition, we can say that one element of the negotiation process is the same: You want your clients to trust you!
Part of building trust is transparently sharing more about your business and how you work. But before you get to that stage, you must ensure you have your business processes on lockdown and ready for sharing with potential clients.
Here are 10 tips to help you streamline business operations and prepare you for the trust-building conversations to help you close new business faster.
As stated above, trust is the most important element when it comes to closing ideal clients. This is because accounting is one of the most essential and critical functions of a business. If they are outsourcing it to your accounting firm, they need to be able to trust your firm to handle this well.
Offering bookkeeping services might be the routine for your firm, but the clients only know what you are going to do for them. First and foremost it is important to develop your workflow systems.
Many accounting firms fail because they are unable to keep up with the increasing workload. Their workflow processes are not designed to scale, which decreases the firm's performance. The firm may be missing deadlines, failing to gather important documentation and information from the clients promptly, and more.
The internal restructuring might also mean investing in bookkeeping software or workflow software that can help your employees structure the processes and assure that no tasks are forgotten and all work is completed promptly.
Once you’ve established a solid internal workflow, focus on managing the capacity of your team. Only purchasing or investing in a workflow system or bookkeeping software won't do. Implementing deadlines for both clients to submit information and team members to take action is essential.
Another key element of capacity management is time tracking. Document average times for specific tasks, and monitor progress for each client and each type of task. This can help you spot bottlenecks, and you can address these with system and process adjustments as needed.
The initial meeting with a prospective client will set the tone for the relationship. The client needs to know what they can expect from your firm.
You also need to engage the client in a discussion that reveals their values. What is the primary reason they are considering using your company for their business? What are their top pain points? What are they trying to accomplish?
This is your opportunity to help build a vision with your client for their future. If they are clear about your firm’s working transparency and effective management, it will be easy for the client to make a decision.
Onboarding is your next opportunity to build a great client relationship that will lead to future referrals and more business.
Clearly document what you need from a client by sending them a checklist of information to pass to your firm. This could include a form requiring the client to fill out their contact details, state registration numbers, incorporation document copies, and EIN.
Now, this is something that feels contradicting to all the tips above right? The truth is, it is not. A referral program is a great way to get more bookkeeping clients within a specific industry, however, it is not the only way to get clients.
Online advertising has also become an important tool for the B2B market. Advertisements, blog posts, SEO, Facebook ads, and social media marketing are great ways to showcase your business stats which can attract clients who prefer to search for you on Google or Facebook after a first meeting. You can also ask past clients to review your social media profiles or business pages to offer testimonials for potential clients.
Cold calling is a proven way that businesses have been working for quite long. While the internet might have revolutionized the way the B2B market works, the cold calling technique can still work.
In the video below, Greg O'Brian of GO CPA talks about how he began growing through cold-calling new tech firms and asking them if they needed accounting services. His tax planning firm grew to a million-dollar accounting firm from scratch within 24 months. You will want to have a newsletter or a short business proposal ready to send your client via email before you make the call.
#6: Networking Is Timeless
Networking allows you to informally pitch your business. Attend entrepreneurial events and start having conversations (and don’t forget business cards.) By offering your expertise and advice, you will be the person your contacts turn to when they have a complex bookkeeping need.
For example, instead of hard selling your firm, you may suggest a small business owner use online software to better manage their accounts internally until they are ready to outsource. When they grow, they might remember your advice and would be in a position to hire you as their accounting firm.
The initial networking might also generate immediate prospective clients who have a need you can meet with your bookkeeping services. It’s worth your time and effort.
Just as you should show that you understand what your client values, you should also know what you value and where your expertise lies.
Once you have defined your niche, you might feel that you are missing out on many clients. However, the truth is the opposite. You are opening doors to clients that are looking for exactly what you offer.
An inexperienced salesperson is the one who immediately talks to the prospect about business. It’s important to build relationships that go beyond the day-to-day. Once you’ve broken the ice, outline what you want to discuss, understand the needs of their business, and offer them a solution in your services.
Small talk is just as important as talking about the business because it gets the client to feel engaged and gets them to trust you not as a formal business agreement, but as a partner who is ready to listen to their problems and come up with solutions.
A major hurdle you might face while closing clients is getting remarks like “I need to think it over.” An inexperienced salesperson might respond to this by saying “Of course, whatever you need,” and never hear back from prospect.
But this is when you should try to attain a deeper level of understanding. You might say “I understand that you need to think about it. What do you need to think about?”
They might respond that they have more options and they need to weigh the offers against other firms. What do you do then? Will you say “Of course, whatever you need.” Of course not!
“You know I would do the same thing. Let me ask you this one question, what would you have to see on my end to make you comfortable with moving forward?” Now here’s a convincing argument that will win them over. It will show the client that you are willing to adjust to their goals and their needs.
Just as Lucasfilm’s negotiations went on for a year and a half because Disney was firm in its decision to acquire the company, the same principle does not apply all the time. It is best to invest time in a customer if they are interested.
There might be several issues that the customer faces such as budget constraints. You need to save your time for clients who know what they want and are willing to pay for the services they are getting.
Have you noticed some firms growing faster, more efficiently, and with higher profit margins? What’s the secret?
Download the free book, Double Your Accounting Firm, to get insights from 100+ interviews with high-growth accounting firm leaders on their strategies for streamlined success and grow your bookkeeping practice today.