Interview with an accountant: Questions every prospective client should ask
Growing Your Firm

Interview with an accountant: Questions every prospective client should ask

If you’re like me, you are being very selective about the clients you agree to work with these days. Life is too short to work with people who undervalue your services or are not pleasant. However, if you want to bring on some new clients, I encourage you to make sure they will be ideal clients. 

An ideal client is a prospect who meets your criteria for the type of client you want to work with from all perspectives, including the type of work, payment terms, pricing, and personality. In other words, in order to have the type of clients you want to work with, you must filter them according to your own standards.

We can empower clients to filter themselves! It all starts by teaching them how to ask the right questions about the services we offer and whether your firm is a fit for that particular client.

The accountant interview checklist

What services do you offer?

Make sure you articulate for the client the services you offer based on their needs, and package them appropriately. Do they need bookkeeping, payroll, tax preparation, or something else?

What are your fees and how do you bill?

Be specific and direct. If you have a schedule of fees on your website, give them the URL. If you prefer quoting each engagement, be mindful of the scope of work, and enable changes to that scope if needed.

What certifications do you have?

Educate your clients on the qualifications you have and charge appropriately for your experience. Be sure to stress your QuickBooks certifications; you worked hard for them, so brag! In addition, there may be some certifications or designation that are best saved for other times. For example, I have my CFE (certified fraud examiner) designation, but a bookkeeping client probably isn’t interested in knowing about that.

Who will handle my work and how can I contact them?

Here’s the perfect place to talk about your team and their roles. You don’t have to handhold the client, so talk about how you can communicate with them.

Is timely service delivered?

Make sure you set clear expectations, but if the client is used to getting stale information, you can show them what a difference you can make with timely financials.

What kind of business analytics do you provide?

Here’s where you can educate your prospect about how you can help them beyond preparing tax forms. See how sophisticated they are in terms of being able to also sell them advisory or business-related tax planning services, for example.

How do you compare to other firms in terms of services and pricing?

To me, any client who is asking about pricing right off the bat is waving a red flag and looking for lowball offers. However if you feel they are just doing due diligence, then use this opportunity to deliver an amazing elevator pitch on why your firm is beyond compare.

What kind of technology does your firm use?

I sure hope my prospective clients ask this question, because we rely on tech-savvy clients to pay the bills. This is one of our key screening tools in my firm. If clients don’t want to work with us the way we want using the tech stack that makes our work efficient and profitable, then they are not an ideal client for our firm.

Provide the answers

Any time of the year is a good time to evaluate your client base and set some parameters around any new clients you are looking to take on. Heck, you could even use this checklist internally to screen some existing “borderline” clients who may need to get a disengagement letter sooner rather than later. If you need one, please visit the free resource center on my website and download a template.

Here’s to your next client interview; may it bring you a new client you love to work with!

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