Understanding a prospective client’s business is vitally important to starting the future relationship off on the right foot. Bookkeeping and CAS firms need to develop a standard new-client questionnaire to gather basic information about the prospect’s business and then dig a little deeper to get a sense of the client’s pain points. The right questionnaire will help a firm identify good prospects– and help screen out ones that aren’t a good fit.

Gather basic business information

Start with the easy stuff like name and contact information. At this point in the sales process, you really don’t need much here- just the business name, a contact name with an email address and phone number.

Then move on to learning a little bit about the business. What does the business do? What is their annual revenue? How many employees do they have? Who are their customers? Are they the business founder? What led them to start the business? How long has the business existed? What is their biggest challenge? If you’re gathering information via a Google form or something similar, leave plenty of room for the answers in this section. People generally like to talk about themselves and small business owners tend to be passionate about what they do!

Add questions that help qualify the prospect

You’ll want to know what kind of business entity they are. Doing accounting work for a sole prop can be vastly different than a C-Corp. You might also want to know if their tax returns are current. Even if your firm doesn’t provide tax services, knowing the state of their taxes can give valuable insight into the client– if they haven’t filed tax returns for several years, it’s probably a sign that they are a hot mess.

Include some questions that help qualify whether the prospect is a good fit for your business. Do they have inventory? Do they file sales tax returns? Do they have payroll? If so how is it handled? These are specialized areas of expertise where your firm may or may not offer services. If you have a standardized method of delivering client services, you’ll want to make sure the client is comfortable with the way you do things. Are you a virtual firm that delivers all services remotely? Make sure the client is aware of (and comfortable with) that. Do you expect the client to use the apps you’ve chosen for your accounting technology stack? Make sure you question the client about their willingness to convert as needed. This is how you can weed out clients that don’t fit before you move on to the time-consuming assessment and proposal phase of the sales cycle.

Other questions to ask a prospect

It’s also great to know why they are leaving their current bookkeeper or accountant. A blunt “Why are you leaving your current firm?” can be very informative. You can also ask questions like “What do you like about your current bookkeeper?” “What do you wish was done differently?” Questions like these will help you understand the prospect’s expectations, which will help you make sure that you get off to a good start.

You might also want to ask how they heard about your firm. This helps you measure the effectiveness of your marketing and social media campaigns. Plus, if they are a referral from a current client, you’ll want to reach out to that client and thank them personally.

What questions do you always ask new prospects? Share them in the comments section– we’d love to hear from you!