Selecting and Keeping the Right Clients

Gina Deveney
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Great clients serve as the foundation of a business, carrying it through lean periods and economic downturns. For accounting professionals who are bound by strict laws and regulations, bringing in and keeping the right clients involves more than a simple transaction. With the right screening and operational procedures, you can build a solid portfolio of loyal clients.

Pre-qualify Leads

Before you accept a new client, take a cue from sales professionals and pre-qualify each entity. Research the individual or company, and look out for red flags regarding taxes, regulatory compliance or financial reporting. These signs indicate that the account might be more complex than it seems or might cause legally compromising situations. Speak with the decision-makers about their needs to ensure your team has specialists on board to meet each requirement. Finally, search news outlets for hints about the long-term viability of the person or business. Although this process takes time, it is an invaluable step in weeding out clients who are likely to demand more than you can give.

Maintain Impeccable Standards

Accounting professionals handle clients' most sensitive and confidential information, so trust and security are paramount. Create a stellar reputation from the beginning by establishing and enforcing impeccable security standards. Use a thoroughly tested security protocol to protect account details, particularly in the digital realm, and invest in regular security and software upgrades. Demonstrate your firm's integrity by restricting access to certain data and enforcing confidentiality agreements at all times. When your dedication to security is visible, it's easier to attract and keep the right clients.

Protect Your Business

Keeping the right clients involves protecting yourself to ensure you don't compromise your ability to serve other clients. To manage risk, stick closely to the AICPA's independence guidelines, which help you make decisions with integrity and objectivity and separates your organization from those that have a financial interest in the client's business. Document threats in detail, and include information about how your firm analyzed and protected against each threat.

Focus on Client Engagement

Once you have brought in the right clients, turn your focus to engagement. Stay in communication year-round, not just during tax season. If you work with companies, provide helpful tips to help business owners save money and build a foundation for long-term financial success. Keep clients informed on new regulations that might impact their daily operations, and update them periodically on the state of their accounts. Encourage them to ask questions or seek clarification. This process positions you as an expert and helps clients understand the value you bring, which can build long-term loyalty.

Bringing in and keeping the right clients is rarely a simple process for an accounting firm, but it's one that can have valuable long-term benefits. With the right policies and procedures, you can establish trust and ensure that clients stay with you through tough times.


Photo courtesy of fantasista at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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