New and young accountants face the challenge of proving themselves to the industry. It's tough to find yourself a regular client base when you're just starting out. Few people will want to trust you with their business, and you'll often be eclipsed by more experienced CPAs. Nonetheless, building strong professional relationships with potential clients is key to making it as an accountant in this cutthroat industry. Here are six tips on how to do just that, and more:
Have a Professional Website
A professional website acts as your digital calling card that's visible 24/7 around the world. Anyone, from new startups to regular folks, can visit your site and get acquainted with your own professional brand. It's also customary nowadays for people to look you up online before even considering you. If you don't have any digital footprint, you won't seem trustworthy to prospective clientele. Get a website up and running asap, and make sure the design and information on the site characterizes what your business stands for.
Sharpen Your Listening Skills
People are drawn to people who listen to them. Listening is the foundation to excellent customer service, but it's a skill professionals rarely pay attention to. They would much rather go for developing technical skills rather than paying attention to details when conversing with clientele. If you want to build a deeper relationship with your clients, start listening more intently. If your client tells you about their plans or ideas, follow it up with questions. If they mention a topic of interest, follow it up with resources.
Be Transparent and Open
Running a business isn't always fun and games. Real issues are right around the corner and when it does happen, you owe it to your clients to be open and transparent. For instance, if you encounter a glitch while sending a form to your servers, let your clients know right away what happened and what you need from them to resolve the issue. Most entrepreneurs are afraid to be honest with their customers when they hit a roadblock out of fear that they might lose the support and trust of those customers. However, on the contrary, being honest can earn you the respect and support of your clients.
Adapt to Clients' Needs
When you first met your client a year or two ago, they were most likely in a totally different financial situation than they are in today. They may only have needed you to file their income taxes a few years ago, but is now looking into offer in compromise to address their financial situation. To make sure that you can help them with what they need, you have to stay relevant. Set up a reset or follow-up meeting to talk with your clients about their most up-to-date business objectives and explore potentially better solutions you can take. Let them know what the meeting is for, which is to see how to better adapt with their continuously changing and evolving business or personal circumstances. A reset meeting is also a great way to show your clients that you are looking out for them and that they're not just numbers on your spreadsheet.
Be Available When They Need You
When times get tough for your clients, they'll need the advice of their CPA to avoid any further financial damage. If it takes dozens of calls and emails to reach you, you not only endanger your client's business, but also their personal life. Besides, it is impossible to foster solid relationships without spending time with your clientele. Allocate some personal time from the office to meet with your clients face to face, whether for brunch or a party. Make sure to return missed calls right away and to email them back as soon as possible.
New accountants often just rush into trying to get their first client in the door. While this could offer short-term profits, it is not a viable long-term approach to building your accounting firm. Use the five tips above to build long-lasting, meaningful relationships with your client base.