Tending Your Small Business Clients
 
Michelle Baca

Busy season is a perfect time to deepen your relationship with your small business clients.  Below are four simple things to do this busy season to uncover opportunities to offer additional services and to help ensure client retention:

 

1.    Take a few extra minutes at the end of each client meeting or phone call to uncover potential opportunities. Prepare a list of a few open-ended questions to ask your clients prior to concluding any client meetings or phone calls. It will take only a few extra minutes and when you document your findings and follow-up it will likely lead to additional business.  Examples of questions to ask include:

 

· What concerns or challenges are you dealing with in your business?

· What are your goals for 2010?

· What critical decisions are you facing?

· How are we doing for you?

· How else can we support your accounting or business planning functions in your organization?


At a minimum, ask the simple question, “How’s business?” to show them that you care. Many times, their answers will lead to the possibility of providing additional services – or at least an opportunity to meet to explore the possibility in more detail.

2.    Look for ways to add value to your clients, which will improve client retention and increase the chance that your existing clients will make referrals to you, too. You will add value to your clients when you take the time to know them and their industry. Gain a deeper understanding of their business cycles and other industry considerations so you can provide benchmarking statistics, ideas to make them more competitive and suggestions for process improvements.  If you understand your clients’ lives and businesses, you can provide them proactive tax savings advice and save them real money.  You can introduce them to your network of contacts to help enhance their business, such as bankers to ensure that they have the right financing in place. 

3.    Ask every satisfied client you meet with who else they may know that could benefit from the same service, savings, process improvement or other difference you made for them.  When you provide value-added services, they will be happy to talk about them to their colleagues.  You may be surprised at how willing they are to refer you!  

4.    Consider expanding your small business offerings to position your clients for success when the economy recovers.  In this economy, many businesses are in financial crisis and you can act as a resource to turn to in tough economic times.  SourceMedia’s Accountants Media Group  issued a Special Report in the current issue of AccountingToday entitled “New Tools For New Times – A guide to serving small businesses in a troubled economy” and gave examples of how firms are doing exactly this. 

The article shares how, Barfield, Murphy, Shank & Smith, LLP “has formed a “TASC Force” of experts on financial modeling, and who can help small-business owners analyze financial issues and identify opportunities to produce results. Their services include business health check-ups, financial benchmarking, human resource management, credit underwriting data assistance, cash-flow projections and cost control. “

As Carly Bohach suggests in another recent AccountingToday article, CPAs Get Credit Flowing to Cash-Starved SMBs“The bottom line is that CPAs have to put on their chief financial officer /controller hats.” This type of financial analysis and consulting is what many small businesses are in need of and those firms that deliver what the market wants and needs can carve out a thriving and successful small business services niche.

Pick one thing that you can do during the course of busy season to make a difference for your small business clients and uncover potential business opportunities doing so. You may choose to prepare a list of open-ended questions to ask during your client interactions or make at least one recommendation to help improve your client’s financial position.  Please share the one thing you’ll commit to do during busy season!  And, if you have additional thoughts on strategies and ideas you can do for your small business clients, please share those, too!

Warm Regards,

 

Michelle Baca

 

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