[IMGCAP(1)]We all can relate to new clients asking us questions during the initial meeting. Sometimes we think we are ready for them and other times we may not be.

To help you seal the deal during your next new client initial meeting, we are sharing with you some common questions new clients ask their accountant and how you should answer them.

How do I contact you and how often should we be talking?
It is recommended that you give your client two to three ways to get in contact with you. You may want to give them your email, business phone line and Skype name, so they can have a way to contact you when needed. While frequent communication is great to help build the relationship, you always have to let clients know you will probably speak more frequently with each other in the beginning, but after the first month, you may only speak on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis.

To avoid losing the client after answering this question, always asks what they were hoping for. Obviously, if they are looking for you to be on call around the clock at their convenience, you wouldn’t want to sign a contract with them. But if they have reasonable demands, it could be worth negotiating a bit.

What are you going to do to make sure I survive tax season?
Usually, businesses outsource their accounting work because it is time consuming, and they do not want to have to worry about all of the stress that comes along with tax season. When you are asked about what you will do about their taxes, reference a couple of tax credits and deductions that you will be able to help them get, in addition to assuring them you are always up to date on the latest tax laws. Furthermore, give them a couple of tips on how they can maximize their tax write-offs. For example, you could mention the R&D credit.

You also want to let the business know they will have their taxes prepared way before the April 15th deadline because you stay on top of all of their accounting documents and data throughout the year, so filing taxes is a breeze.

What should I ask you about on an ongoing basis?
Assure your client you will be getting to know their business as if it were your own. Your client should feel that you are well aware of GAAP, corporate tax, individual tax, retirement planning and financial planning.

Your job is to make sure that when they make decisions, they are always thinking about how it will affect their finances, in addition to asking you about any decisions that they worry aren’t in their best financial interest. Some of these decisions could include whether or not they should hire an independent contractor or another full-time employee, or whether they should rent or purchase their office space, equipment, company car and more.

Make sure they are aware that they should talk to you about their decisions, regardless of how large or small they may be.

How will you assist me in growing my business?
Another part of being an accountant is making sure that your clients are profiting more than they are spending. If you see expenses increasing and profits staying the same, it is your job to bring it to their attention and guide them on what they need to do to increase their profits.

You have to let the client know that you will let them know when they are spending too much money on something and when they need to spend more in another area. They may be monitoring some of their expenses, but they have hired you to track their finances. Otherwise they might easily believe that all the money they are putting into their business will benefit them.

You can let them know you will always be honest with them and update their plan once a month so they are able to take advantage of opportunities for growth in their niche.

How can you help me get serious about my cash flow?
Being in control of cash flow is essential if a business is going to be successful. Accountants are hired because they are expected to keep the cash flow model organized and effective to ensure the business is able to survive any obstacles or shortfalls that may come their way.

When you’re answering this question, let them know the services you will provide to ensure they are always serious about their cash flow.

What is my breakeven point?
As an accountant, it is your job to make sure you are analyzing the metrics of the client’s business so you can determine if they are profiting or losing too much money. The business profitability and pricing structure depends immensely on their business’s breakeven point, and you have to determine what this is.

When first starting out, you won’t know what their breakeven point is and don’t be afraid to tell them this. However, let them know that once you determine what it is, you will be able to provide them with a good estimate of how many products or hours of service they will have to sell to be able to cover all of their expenses.

Closing Thoughts
Your job as an accountant starts from the first meeting with the client. When you are answering their questions you have to make sure they understand 100 percent that you have their best interests in mind. If you are unable to give them accurate statistics from the interview, let them know. However, keep in mind that as you answer each of their questions, you also have to let them know what you will do to ensure they are satisfied. As long as you do that, you are sure to land the job and be able to show them just what an asset you can be on their team.

John Huddleston founded his own tax consulting firm, Huddleston Tax CPAs, in 2002 and has written extensively on helping small businesses with their tax and accounting needs. He is a graduate of Washington State University and the University of Washington School of Law.

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