How to Upsell Your Accounting Firm’s Services
Upselling is a proven strategy for growth. But more than that, it can provide an avenue for accountants to escape the role of niche technical advisor. Accounting practices don’t have to resign themselves to basic bookkeeping and tax preparation. Instead, they can position themselves as consultants capable of providing a broad variety of business advice.
The more value you can offer to a client, the more a client can offer in return. Increasingly sophisticated technologies, like client accounting services (CAS), can enable accountants to meet and exceed the needs of their clients. The first step is identifying the right services to upsell, and then extending awareness of those new opportunities to your clients in the most organic way.
Before trying to upsell clients, it’s a good idea to be certain they’re satisfied with the services they’re currently paying for. Happy clients are eager to let you solve more problems on their behalf. Conversely, clients who feel services aren’t totally meeting their needs will not be eager to try more.
Collecting feedback from clients and their closest company contacts can be an invaluable part of this process. Local marketplaces are always changing. Opportunities are in a state of perpetual flux as new businesses open, relocate, or close. Listening to client feedback, in all its forms, can help provide guidance for the right kind of additional client accounting services to upsell.
What are their aims and objectives? What were their most important victories and defeats? If they’re using a competitor for a service you can provide, how can you do an even better job of serving their needs? Asking your clients these questions and, more importantly, listening to their answers provides a better foundation for efforts to upsell new services.
Which satisfied clients should be prioritized? The most obvious criteria might be profitability. But if growth is the goal, it can be equally important to consider the potential exposure a client might offer, connections they could help forge, and even their attitude and general outlook.
Clients with a long history of choosing value-oriented services may not be the best choice to pitch a new line of top-shelf services. Understanding who your clients are can provide invaluable guidance.
And timing matters. The right time to upsell new services isn’t always immediately following a client’s last purchase. For this reason, it’s often important to focus on clients with the oldest business relationships, and clients who have the most trust in your firm.
Upselling Team Effort
The most effective upselling is the result of a team effort because anyone responsible for interacting with clients can serve as a juncture for upselling services. And all such individuals should unquestionably be involved in the conversation about identifying client challenges, and discovering new services to upsell.
For staff without a background in sales, it’s often beneficial to think of upselling as a means of offering more value to clients. Your clients already trust you and the services you provide to make their businesses a success. A full-on sales pitch isn’t necessary. Instead, lean on the relationship you’ve built over the years to “sell” your new services. And the more value you’re able to provide, the stronger relationship you’ll forge between the client.
Upselling with Client Relationships
Forging personal relationships with clients, trust and familiarity, is what makes it easier to upsell to current clients. It’s also why bringing a direct sales attitude to upselling client accounting services, or what is fast becoming known as “CAS” services, can undermine those advantages. Few people enjoy receiving a cold-pitch -- and even fewer have a knack for giving a convincing pitch that doesn’t feel like a pitch. This can be problematic if an accounting practice expects non-sales staff to be involved in upselling services.
Instead, the goal should be to start an ongoing conversation with clients. An annual or bi-annual checkup can ensure client needs are being served to the best of your firm’s ability and is an ideal way to have regular sessions where you are able showcase your services and listen to client feedback. Asking about client needs opens the door to informing them about additional services and their value, as well as building stronger, more empathetic bonds with your client. These regular interactions also provide an avenue for upselling with a discussion of how additional services may help.
Pitch the Benefits
Don’t upsell features and services, instead focus on their benefits. Describe differences in reliability, quality in service, and impact on productivity. Depict a better employee experience, or implications for business costs. Find and describe the most appropriate client accounting services for a client’s unique needs, such as collaborative financial reporting. Spelling out those rewards in concrete terms is the opposite of a cold pitch.
Help Connect People
Businesses have recruitment needs, investment questions, legal concerns, HR issues, and countless other challenges in need of solutions. Occasionally, clients will have needs that fall firmly outside the expertise, interests, or domain of your practice. For example, your firm may not plan on developing its own legal department.
But that doesn’t mean you’re unable to help clients with legal concerns. Establish business alliances with professionals who may be useful to your clients. It can deepen client relationships, paving the way for upselling established clients, and create the possibility of receiving referrals in return.
Extending service in this way can redefine the client-accountant relationship, from technical advisor to business partner. Upselling services is ultimately a matter of maximizing the value your firm provides to clients. In practice, it’s as simple as identifying the right management tools to help serve your clients, and then extending those services to clients in a natural way.