A potential client brings responsibilities and prospects for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Retaining that potential client is more difficult than acquiring it. And the first step to retention is to build a cordial relationship with your clients at the beginning itself.
One of the ways you can do that is by asking the clients the right type of questions when meeting them for the first time. The questions you will be asking will not only be detrimental in building trusts and retaining them in the near future but will also justify the proficiency and expertise of your services.
So, here are the 7 questions you need to ask your potential bookkeeping/accounting clients before working with them.
1. What is your business all about?
Before getting down to the real job, this is the most fundamental question one needs to ask a client. This will give you an idea about the business entity, their company, partnerships, staffing, merging, acquisition prospects, and whether it is an LLC, LLP, or a sole proprietorship.
Another thing which you need to know is the history of the business – how did they get into it, who are their competitors, the number of employees in the company, the annual revenue generated, and so on.
This will be a possible conversation starter and can give you enough introductory knowledge about the business.
2. What are the steps that have been undertaken until now, as far as accounting is concerned?
This question looks straightforward but can give you some interesting insights. Since accounting deals with the budget and financial planning, this question will let you know about your clients’ financial strategies, major investments, equity sharing, and “already processed” or “to-be-processed” business bank loans.
You can also get to know whether their major accounting tasks are handled by a third-party service or the company controls its own finance department.
3. What are the challenges and problems normally faced?
Newbie CPAs often ignore this. But, this is one of the most valuable things that is needed to be inquired from a prospective client, as you will come to know whether the problem lies in any accounting software they are currently using, business goals, or bookkeeping activities.
This will give you an opportunity to jot down their biggest pain points, as these are the criteria where you can communicate and quantify your value to your client.
Moreover, it can prove to be a value – add on to your services that portray the importance of your services in growing their businesses and minimizing their frustration levels.
4. Were you a client of any other CPA firm or bookkeeping service?
Being a CPA, you would like to know, with whom your clients were dealing with, and who or what is responsible for their business mismanagement and bottlenecks.
Were the bookkeeping services handled by themselves, or were there any third-party involvement to do the activity?
It’s all right if they were doing the activity themselves, but still, know the reason behind this consultation. In case any third-party was handling the activities, ensure that you know the reason behind why they are moving to a new bookkeeper service.
5. Are the taxes being filed correctly?
Filing taxes could be a tedious and cumbersome task. Question your client regarding their tax returns. Ensure that you are taking up a client who does not have any malpractices regarding the filing of taxes. This could really be beneficial for you as you would not want to take up a client involved in any illegal activity.
It’s better to avoid these clients as this can put your reputation as a CPA in a negative fix.
Also, make a query regarding their sales tax and their filing procedures, like whether they file it monthly, quarterly, or annually. This could give an insight into their tax audit history.
6. What are your estimations regarding the completion of the job?
Before you take up a client, it is always good to know the expectations, estimations, and expertise of a client. Ensure that there are no unrealistic expectations from the clients’ side.
Also, make sure that the pricing that you charge for your services is feasible enough for your client. You can also ask for a time frame estimation, and make sure that their expectations are met by your services.
7. What accounting software they are used to?
If your client has handled accounting jobs or services earlier, ask the accounting software they prefer for the accounting process. There might be a difference in the accounting solutions they are using.
If the present accounting software used by the company is outdated, you can always ask them to move their accounting to a more advanced solution such as cloud-hosted software and help them in the process.
These are the basic foundation questions, being a CPA, need to ask your prospective clients. A productive conversation like this cannot only let you know your clients better than before but also can strengthen your status as a trusted financial advisor.
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