Independent marketing reports suggest time and time again that the best potential for fee growth for accounting firms lies within their existing client base.  It also makes sense that clients who already have a trusted relationship with their accountant would be more likely to take on additional services, including financial and business advice. However, for many accounting firms, the task of getting more value out of existing clients often seems as difficult as squeezing water out of a stone!

What percentage of your firm’s annual fees would come from new business provided to existing clients? Do you believe there is a potential to increase this? What are the main roadblocks to achieving success?

Our feedback from accounting firms has identified the following key challenges in getting new business from existing clients:

  • Too much advice has been ‘given away’ to clients in the past
  • Clients don’t see the value in proposed additional services
  • Clients don’t always see their accountant as a business advisor
  • There is no strategy in place to identify client needs up front
  • Accountants simply don’t know how to ‘sell’ additional services

One of the key issues we see is that clients simply don’t see their accountant as anything other than the person who handles their tax compliance work. They have ‘framed’ their accountant on the basis of the services that have been provided in the past. And once framed, it’s difficult to change perceptions.

The other challenge is that most accounting firms are reactive in looking for opportunities to increase revenue. A recent benchmark report (Bstar’s 2016 Accountants Research Report) noted that just 32% of firms have segmented their client base for future growth opportunities. Clearly, most firms work in reactive mode, happy to take on new work when it is presented to them, but less sure about how to proactively go out and target clients for new services.

So, what steps can accounting firms take to reframe client relationships? It’s a lot more than a new business name, a new website and a list of services. Follow this simple 10 step process:

  1. Refresh your firm’s value proposition, make it meaningful
  2. Outline service levels linked to client financial lifecycle needs
  3. Identify client touch points related to service levels
  4. Initiate an annual re-engagement process for all clients
  5. Set up client health check meetings at least once a year
  6. Undertake consistent internal client reviews
  7. Develop an internal opportunity identification process
  8. Develop your content management and online marketing systems
  9. Measure and monitor business development leads and fees
  10. Complete your firm’s client service charter and make it real

To start this process, you need to have a conversation with clients about the new professional relationship you want to have with them. The conversation may go as follows:

What we used to do was good.  Now what we do aims to make us more aligned.  We are committed to better understanding your needs and objectives.  We will ask questions we haven’t asked in the past.  We want to work with you to focus more on the future.  We do this with ALL of our clients!

Are you willing to do what it takes to reframe your client relationships?

Enrol your team in our 12 part eLarning Course ‘Client Connect.’

Client management is no longer just the responsibility of client managers and partners. Everyone in the firm involved with client work should take personal responsibility for the role they play in managing client expectations and delivery of services.

For firms transitioning from an annual compliance service to an ongoing advisory service with business and personal clients, it’s never been more important to establish clear expectations of client service excellence.

The new year is the perfect opportunity to review the way your firm and its people engages with its clients. This  eLearning course has been developed for accounting and advisory firms that are looking to really take control of their client relationships – to move from reactive to proactive in the way they communicate with their clients.

For further information, visit

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