Pricing services for a new client is one of the greatest challenges to any CAS (Client Advisory Services) practice. Provide a quote that’s too high, and the client may not see the value of your services they are getting for the price. Price too low and you risk having to go back to the client with a much higher bill than they were expecting, creating a contentious relationship instead of a partnership that can last for the lifetime of the business. New client assessments are one of the most essential pieces to a sustainable CAS practice.
Additionally, the more you work with a client, you may find that the work far exceeds what was initially expected when you performed the initial assessment. Resizing these clients to a more appropriate billing plan can be quite a challenge. Whether you have an existing assessment process or are starting a new CAS practice, Strongbox can help you fine-tune the assessment process and incorporate your expertise into the pitch. It can also help you demonstrate to your existing clients the need to resize their plan.
Either way, the goal is simple: to help you secure and maintain the right clients at the right price so you can grow and scale your practice!
What is a New Client Assessment?
To begin, let’s first define what we mean when we say “client assessment.”
A client assessment is the process of obtaining information and data from a prospective client to inform pricing, identify value-added services, and determine if they are a right fit for the firm.
We’ve found the best-in-class CAS teams perform Client Assessments using this 4-step process:
Initial Scope Conversation: Your first interaction with the prospective client, which could be over a Zoom call, an in-person conversation, or communication via email/online forms (We recommend a live conversation, Zoom or in-person, as the best way to start the relationship). Typically, this time is spent getting to know the client, asking basic questions about their business, and what they are looking for in an accounting partner.
Info / Data Request: Going deeper in information gathering by requesting both qualitative and quantitative information from the prospective client about their current operations, asking more questions about their pain points, and where they think they need help.
Complete Analysis: This depends on what you receive in #2 but typically includes an analysis of what was received to compare to your internal price scale, identify any insights you can provide up-front, and overall determine if they are a good fit to take on.
Proposal Walkthrough: Taking the prospective client through a proposal that outlines how you can help, the value that you bring, and how much it will cost.
Using this framework as a guide, here’s how Strongbox can help along each step of the process.
Initial Scope Conversation & Info / Data Request
Before you can properly determine how much work a client will be and how much time and resources will need to be involved, you must fully understand the financial situation of the business client. Most CAS practices like to look at financials from the business in order to get a big picture of what they’ll be dealing with. However, this process has several problems:
The potential client may be unwilling to hand over sensitive financial information prior to a formal relationship with an accounting firm.
High level documentation, like tax returns, paint a broad picture, but they don’t give any indication of how tidy the books might be and how much clean up might need to be involved for ongoing services.
A large request list of documents might run a potential client off, especially if the list will be time-consuming for the client who is already busy running their company.
Some clients may not be financially savvy enough to know what all the reports you might be asking for even mean, let alone who to produce them, especially if you want them in a specific format.
While having conversations with the client may clue you in to some additional information, especially pertaining to the goals of the business, you can’t rely on the potential client to be able to objectively and accurately describe the state of the books.
So how do you get the information needed to properly provide a quote to the potential client for the services you will provide if you don’t have the information you need to know the depth of that work?
This is where Strongbox can help.
Strongbox creates a read-only connection with a company’s accounting system or ERP, and it does this in just a few clicks. You can then download an Excel file with all the detailed information you need without ever having to have access to the company’s books. The whole process takes about five minutes combined for you and the potential client, and it’s easy enough for even the most tech-challenged client to do.
Complete the Analysis
After receiving the proper data, you are now ready to complete the analysis. To determine an appropriate price, these are some of the things you should be looking for:
How clean are the books. Are there duplicate vendors, unassigned debt, or incomplete journal entries? It’s important to know how much work you’ll need to do before you can start your work!
How many transactions will you need to reconcile each month. Is this a multi-entity business with each doing hundreds of sales a day? A client may tell you they only have a couple of transactions a month, but until you can look at the data, you don’t know what all you’ll need to take care of to close out each month.
CASH. Cash flow can help you better understand the single most important aspect of a business. Spot seasonality, trends, or trouble spots where you can offer insights.
KPIs. Having initial financial ratios can help you pinpoint where a client might be strong or weak and can be used to help you measure their success month-over-month if they retain your services.
Each of these can help you determine how much work you will need to include in your proposal. And Strongbox pulls each of these reports and more.
In the Strongbox Excel workbook, you can find tabs that include clean lists of chart of accounts, customers, and vendors. You can find a quick count of the number of transactions each month as well as AR/AP agings, broken down by customer and vendor.
The Strongbox output also includes industry-leading cash flow analysis that breaks down the monthly direct-method cash flow. Financial ratios, like profitability, liquidity, and more, can all also be found, ready to go in a single click. These consistent outputs make it fast and easy to review the books accurately so that you can produce the best possible proposal.
Once you have the data and have reviewed it thoroughly, it’s time for the proposal walkthrough with the potential client. This is where you can highlight all the services you can provide as well as how those services will benefit the client.
This is your time to shine.
Show them the things in their books that need addressing using their own data. Highlight areas where your expertise and insights can benefit their profitability. And use data visualizations to help explain complex topics that they might not understand automatically.
Again, Strongbox helps with all of these. The Strongbox output includes the client’s actual data that you can show, complete with professional, sharable charts and graphs. You can even customize your output to match your firm’s branding so that each presentation has a consistent look and feel, without adding extra time to your workflow.
All these things make it easy for the client to be wowed by your services and ready to sign!
Time to Get Started
But don’t take our word for it. Dixie McCurley, Partner at Cherry Bekaert (whose CAS team has increased 10x since they started using Strongbox!) shares her experience with Strongbox in this video. In it, she discusses how Strongbox has cut her 16 hour assessment process down to just 4.
We also have two additional resources that can help you discover more about how Strongbox can help you with your new client assessments. Get hands-on with our New Client Assessment Toolkit that includes a sample output, checklists, annotations, and templates, walking you through step-by-step each stage of the client assessment. Or get up-close-and-personal with the New Client Assessment Strongbox Output with our clickable tour (link when live). Both can show you exactly how to use Strongbox to nail your next proposal!