The Complete CPA Firm New Client Checklist
By Adam Day
August 30, 2021
Every CPA firm needs a well-structured process for taking on new clients.
By establishing a good relationship right from the start, your clients are more likely to stick with you for the long haul as well as get new clients for your CPA firm. This onboarding process begins the moment a new client signals that they’re ready to move forward with your services. To ensure this goes smoothly, a new client checklist can be used for each new arrival. Below, we’ve put together a CPA firm new client checklist so you can start your client relationships out on the right foot.
1. Set Expectations and Assign Responsibilities
Begin by instilling confidence in your clients through a meeting that sets out their expectations regarding your services. A well-written CPA-Client letter of engagement can accomplish this by outlining who’ll be responsible for what. For instance, you’ll want to set out an agreement between the CPA and client on when reviews will be performed.
A well-crafted CPA-Client letter will also be useful to your staff, as they’ll know exactly what’s needed of them. By establishing a framework for your relationship with each client from the outset, you can avoid uncertainty and begin laying the foundations for a productive partnership. Make sure to include your payment terms in this letter of engagement so the client will know what to expect with billing.
2. Get to Know Your New Client
Next on the checklist, will be establishing some rapport with your new client by learning more about them and their needs. Each one will be a little different, so to make this easier, you can provide them with a CPA client intake form. This will be several questions for your client to answer so you can better understand their requirements. Some helpful questions include:
- What are your preferred methods of contact?
- What is your future vision for your business?
- When did you leave your previous CPA? (If applicable)
- What is the biggest problem you face from a financial perspective?
Once you have a clearer understanding of your client’s needs and wants, you can better tailor your services to suit them. This might be a good time to upsell them on extra services – such as CPA time and attendance services – if you believe they need them.
3. Gather Important Client Data
Another helpful document to give your clients is a data checklist. It should include several boxes to be filled out that will provide you with vital information for complying with regulations. These include:
- Proof of address for identity checks (as required by money laundering regulations)
- Professional clearance from the client’s previous CPA
- All relevant personal and business numbers such as the company registration number, corporation tax reference number, social security number, etc.
- Access details for accounting software
Some of this information may take time for your client to gather, so set a deadline for how soon you’ll need it. To prevent delays, have a process for following up with clients who haven’t provided all the information needed.
4. Provide a Welcome Package
Building a strong relationship will be the key to acquiring a long-term client. The best way to do this is with a welcome package that provides everything the client needs to know about working with your firm. A good welcome package should include:
- An outline of key concepts and the principles that govern your firm
- A short history of your firm and what it aims to achieve
- What it means to your firm to have a new client and how you will help them achieve their financial goals
- An outline of the project and the technologies that will be used
- A list of all your services and testimonials from satisfied clients
When done right, a welcome package will make your new client feel special, give them a full overview of your firm’s activities, and set their expectations for what lies ahead. Doing all this reaffirms their decision to work with you and commits them to stay with you.
5. Set an Action Plan and Follow-Up
Now that you have everything set up to get the ball rolling with your client, it’s a good idea to end the initial meeting with an action plan for moving forward. Go over the new client checklist again to make sure the client understands what’s needed of them and schedule the next meeting. There should also be a list of deadlines with clear instructions for the client to follow. Make sure these deadlines are both realistic and spread out so that there won’t be any delays.
With that settled, set a reminder to follow up with your client two weeks from now to ensure everything is going smoothly. Doing this will make the client feel well-looked after, while also giving you a chance to nudge them along if they still haven’t sent in some important documents.
6. Get to Work and Build Relationships
When you lose a client, it typically happens in the first 90-days of working together. To prevent this from happening, get to work right away and prove your worth to them. Good communication will be essential to this, so have a clear process for doing regular follow-ups and providing updates.
It’s often a lack of communication that leads to most lost clients. Never pass up on an opportunity either to further develop your relationship with your client. They’ll want to feel looked after, listened to, and see that you’re on top of any issues before they become problems.
Once you’ve got a client past the dreaded 90-day benchmark, take some time to reflect on how it went. Is there anything in your process that could be improved? Can you automate some parts of it? Is there anything you would do differently next time?
Every CPA firm will have its own approach to taking on a new client. Hopefully, the above steps can be incorporated into your one to make the process just a little simpler. The better you can refine the process, the easier it will be to take on new clients and train new staff that join your firm.