The definitive guide to onboarding new clients for accountants (you can thank us later!)

It's much more expensive to attract new clients than keep the ones that you already have! But there are so many more benefits to keeping your best accounting clients happy. From gaining referrals and upselling your services to retaining these clients for the long term, building a relationship makes good business sense and it all starts with making the right first impression during the client onboarding process.

To help you make that impression count, here is a definitive guide to onboarding new clients for accountants. I've outlined exactly what onboarding is, why it's important, what a solid onboarding process looks like, and the best practices and tools that you need to implement it at your firm.

Client onboarding: what is it?

A woman onboarding new clients from her laptop.

That first impression that we talked about? That’s what client onboarding is.

Once a potential lead has agreed to become a client for your business, the onboarding process begins. Think of it as your client’s ‘induction period’ if they were an employee. It's your job to introduce the client to your business and get them up to speed; it's your opportunity to build a relationship, address any concerns, and start the project off on the right foot.

Remember this is also a time where your client is evaluating whether you’re a good fit for them! By the end of this process or ‘induction period,’ you will want them to feel confident that they have made the right decision.

Why onboarding new clients for accountants is crucial

Onboarding is the first step in your client’s journey with you and your firm and first impressions count.

If the onboarding experience is poor, i.e. the process is long, there are a lot of obstacles or issues that arise or they feel that you are not attentive enough, this may ultimately cause them to leave. If the onboarding experience is outstanding, this can be the beginning of a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship that has a profound impact on your business.

Onboarding for accountants is crucial because a good process:

  1. Reduces client churn and breeds loyalty
  2. Reduces scope creep
  3. Results in more clients and happier clients
  4. Increases profits and revenue growth
  5. Ensures compliance when signing a new client
  6. Makes your firm more efficient and therefore scalable

Click here to download our best practice onboarding guide with process flowchart with hints and tips on how to automate your onboarding process.

What makes a successful client onboarding process?

A woman surrounded by question marks thinking about what makes a good client onboarding process?

A successful client onboarding process involves a clear and logical workflow that is explained to the client. A setting of clear expectations and deadlines, and plenty of communication throughout.

You can always refine and improve the onboarding process as you go along but a typical framework involves seven steps:

  1. Do your research and set expectations - delve into the client’s history and explain the onboarding process.
  2. Find out your client’s needs and wants - use a standard questionnaire for this.
  3. Map out the framework - tailor the process to the client and share this with them to explain how they fit into the bigger picture.
  4. Explain key concepts and principles - provide a welcome package with all the information that they need.
  5. Identify responsibilities - both yours and the clients'.
  6. Set an action plan and follow up - use your accounting client onboarding checklist to create a plan. Set realistic deadlines for the activities that need to be completed.. Call them to check the progress.
  7. Get to work and build relationships - prioritise the tasks that they care the most about first to prove the value of your work. Provide them with consistent updates and communication to show that work is moving forward.

Read: Avoid the top 3 mistakes made when onboarding your new accountancy firm clients

What best practices and tools do you need?

To keep your new clients, make it as easy as possible to work with you from day one. This means that you need a smooth and streamlined onboarding process in place that can be used for any client.

Successful onboarding involves efficiency (automation!) and the human touch.  Here is a quick list of essential best practices and tools that you need to have or put in place:

  • Accounting client onboarding checklist
  • Client questionnaire
  • QuickBooks/Xero/FreeAgent
  • Practice Ignition
  • GoProposal
  • Accountancy Manager
  • Senta

Read: 4 essential tools when automating your firm's onboarding process.

Onboarding new clients for accountants

A man holding a smartphone after a successful onboarding process.

Onboarding your new accountancy clients is the first step in their journey with your services so make this first impression count! By following the seven steps of onboarding, automating the manual tasks, and regularly following up with your client, you can standardise this process to make sure that your first impression is a memorable one; one that builds loyal and long-lasting relationships.

Ready to kick-start the growth of your firm?