Bringing on new clients is a critical part of running a successful accounting firm. New clients help you grow your practice, further develop your expertise, and ensure the long-term success of your business. However, many accounting firms struggle with this. They often find themselves bringing on the wrong type of clients for their practice – clients that are just looking to pay the lowest price possible for the maximum amount of work.
So how can you solve this issue? By perfecting your proposal process. Let’s take a look at how you can create winning proposals that not only increase sales, but that sell the right type of services to the right clients, at the right time.
Devise a standardized sales process that covers the following three goals:
By creating a standardized process you can ensure that each new client is treated in the same manner – and it sets you up to ask the right questions from the get-go.
You’ll be confident that you know exactly what the client is after, that they’re the right fit for your business, and that you’ve agreed on a set of specific services going forward. Once you’ve gleaned these insights you can then produce a proposal that binds all this information together in one single document.
There are two simple steps to follow when devising your own sales process.
During your initial conversation with your prospective client, be sure to structure it as a needs-analysis process where you dig into precisely what their needs are and exactly what they require from you. This helps you to determine if they’re right for your firm (and vice-versa).
During this meeting, ask probing open-ended questions, such as: ‘Why are you looking for assistance now?’; ‘What are your reasons for changing accountants?’; ‘What are your business goals for five years?’ The prospective client might say they only need a tax return completed. When you do a little digging however, you may realize they’re thinking of expanding and would benefit from forward-thinking financial planning advice. You can use a client intake form to help compile your answers.
Once the qualification and needs-assessment processes are finalized, you can then craft a proposal that directly links their needs, goals and desired outcomes with the services that you can offer – and what this will cost them.
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There are a number of best practices to follow, regardless of the proposal in question.
As tempting as it might be to fire off an old proposal with updated client details, it’s worth taking the time to properly qualify clients and get to know their specific requirements. This will ensure that you only ever work with clients that you know are right for your firm.
Take advantage of proposal templates to maintain consistency and personalize the proposal with ease. Simply update the services to tailor your proposals and engagements to each client based on their specific needs.
Proposals represent your firm – therefore, they should be free of spelling mistakes and grammatical and numerical errors. Why would you trust somebody to handle your business’s complex financial and compliance-related requirements if they can’t even spell-check a proposal or get their pricing right?
It’s crucial for accounting firms to show that they’re detail-oriented, timely, and accurate in everything they do. This will help build valuable trust with clients before you even start working together.
Consider including pictures of your team or engaging videos that go over your services in detail. This will set you apart from the competition, giving you the opportunity to demonstrate why your firm is right for the client.
Your proposal should look and feel like it was custom-crafted for this particular client. Lift the lid on your team’s personalities and capabilities, directly linking your in-house expertise to the problems that you can help your clients solve.
Your proposal should clearly outline the services you’re offering, what’s included and what’s not included in those services. Being clear and specific about your services and terms will help to eliminate any gray areas and reduce the likelihood of disputes. It also helps prevent accidental scope creep.
No matter which methodology your firm follows, it’s important that you clearly outline your pricing in your proposal. List how much each of your services will cost and also define your billing schedule upfront. This is another golden opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition. Clients crave clarity – they want to know how much it will cost to work with you, and when they will be required to pay up.
If possible, avoid providing price ranges at all costs. Clients generally assume the lower end of estimates and may kick up a fuss further down the line if services cost more than they initially imagined.
Lastly, identify what happens once the prospective client signs on the dotted line. For example, you might go through the following process:
This ensures you’re all on the same page and gives you something to refer back to if you run into disagreements during the contract period.
Organize payment upfront, as part of a monthly recurring fee or as a partial payment. This helps to build trust and reduce risk.
This could be previous tax returns and login details for existing accounting software. Also provide access to any apps or accounting practice management software they will need to work with you.
By having a well-defined onboarding process in place, you’ll fill new clients with confidence and ensure that you can provide a fantastic customer experience right from the start of your working relationship.
It’s frustrating to send off a detailed, engaging proposal, only to have it sit unread for days. But your prospective clients are likely to have hundreds of different things going on, so don’t be afraid to follow-up if you haven’t heard back from them after a few days. This will show that you actively care about working with them. It will also ensure your firm remains front of mind at all times. Plus, you can also use this as an opportunity to ask the prospect if they would like any additional information from your firm or if there are any parts of your proposal that you can further clarify.
If you can’t effectively communicate your expertise, you’ll struggle to bring in high-paying clients – especially if you’re looking to sell high-value, but seemingly intangible, advisory services.
However, by having a strong sales process in place and following the seven best practices listed above, you can ensure the proposals you send out effectively sell your firm’s unique expertise.
Set your firm apart and consistently bring in the right type of clients. If you’re struggling to find the right type of clients or to sell certain services, the steps outlined in this post will help you reinvent your proposals, transforming your firm in the process.
Joshua Lance is Head of Accounting at Ignition and Founder and Managing Director of Lance CPA Group. Josh has been working in the accounting and education space for over 15 years.