Voices

The quickest way to get clients interested in CAS

It’s 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, and a staff member of my firm, MOD Ventures, approaches me. According to her, a client mentioned that he’s getting too busy to handle his multiple responsibilities at his small business. As an office manager, he takes care of everything from HR to business development to accounting and bookkeeping. Time is at a premium; it’s something he doesn’t have enough of. The idea the staff member brought to me was simple: Let’s help him out.

As a firm offering client accounting services (CAS), it turns out we have many ways to make his life easier.

Many accounting firms today are looking to expand their roles and offer services beyond traditional compliance tasks. For many, the goal is to become trusted advisors to their clients in all financial matters and develop an evergreen revenue stream. The quickest way to get your firm’s CAS practice off the ground is to onboard your clients. What are some ways to get them interested quickly in CAS? Here are a few ideas I’ve found useful for my firm.

Identify the right clients and approach them

While you’d ideally like to offer client accounting services to everyone you work with, some candidates will likely be more open to it at the outset than others. At my practice, I focus less on what type of business it is (for example, technology companies or restaurants). Instead, I find that prime CAS candidates are clients that are already interested in streamlining processes. If a client is open to making work easier with technology, CAS is extremely interesting already.

When it comes to broaching the subject of CAS with a client, MOD Ventures has the most success with a one-on-one approach. The firm’s staff members spend the most time with clients. As a result, they can identify excellent opportunities as they arise. Consider the example above about the office manager. It opened the perfect opportunity to approach him and discuss the benefits of outsourcing accounting.

Bringing your clients onboard with CAS is about more than delivering a sales pitch. It’s about educating them and empowering staff members. Your role is to provide your clients with knowledge and opportunity — what are the latest advancements, what can they do better, and how can they take better control and grow their businesses? Staff members at MOD Ventures are encouraged to take time each week to research new technologies. We have internal meetings and are always discussing how we can help clients more. We also attend important conferences like QuickBooks Connect to stay up on the latest innovations. All of this happens so that when we find that opportunity, every single member of the firm is equipped to start the conversation.

Showcase the CAS vision

Clients don’t always have a vision of what their accounting department should look like. They may have one overworked person handling all company operations including accounting. Or perhaps they’re overstaffed due to manual processes like data entry and mailing checks and invoices. It’s our job to give them a vision and explain what their options are.

I always plant the client accounting services seed. For example, each proposal covers what the client requests as well as everything the firm can do for them. This option reminds the client that while it might not be ready for CAS in this moment, it likely will be soon. Sometimes, this intimidates people; sometimes, it excites them — especially if they fit that profile of an ideal CAS client. It opens doors for conversations. With that mention, their team can start to think about it, investigate it, and eventually come on board for CAS.

We also share technology ideas, solutions, and videos to help clients understand how services like AP and AR can benefit from the cloud, mobility, and online payments. We had a client looking to go paperless. They had bought an expensive scanner and printer to scan bills into a module, but that method wasn’t working out. I suggested Bill.com and explained how it worked. My client pulled it up right away during our conversation and said, “What do I need to do to get there?”

Start small and expand

As nice as it would be to jump into client accounting services with both feet every time, it often starts with offering a single service to a client and building from there. For many companies, AP is the entry point for CAS. Clients quickly see the value of outsourcing AP. When you successfully handle their AP for them, they become comfortable working remotely with that type of service. Once they see how much work outsourcing takes off their plate, without compromising control and integrity, they’ll want to know what else can be streamlined and outsourced to free up even more time.

Outsourcing one service almost always leads to others. Outsourcing several services leads to full-fledged CAS. When you seamlessly handle AP, AR, and collections, you’ll be in a prime position when your clients need help managing their operations and building budgets. While your clients might not have thought of you as capable of providing these higher analytical services when your relationship first started, over time they’ll come to understand just how much more difficult it would be to function without your trusted knowledge and expertise.

The bottom line

Successfully developing client accounting services is about helping your clients, not selling them. You want to be intentional and thoughtful in how you offer to assist your clients. By educating them about their options and technology, you will get them more interested in seeking new ways to enlist your help.

Building relationships is the key to creating the kind of consultative business model that supports CAS. Being an advisor involves fielding questions and offering better ways of doing things, not simply taking orders.

Your input is valuable, and your clients need to see that. When they’re buried in work and don’t have the time to get everything done, you want to be the first person they turn to. By starting slow and building up your services, you’ll be in the best position to get clients on board with full-fledged CAS.

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