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How to train your client | accountingweb

How to train your client


If you dread onboarding a new client, try this four-step programme for training them. It could take the pain out of it for both of you.

12th Sep 2022
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We actually don’t have an onboarding process for new clients. Instead, we have a Client Training Programme, and framing the process in this way has created a much smoother process in getting started with new clients, as well as creating a mindset shift for my team. So how can you create a seamless onboarding process? Here’s what we do.

1. Set expectations before the sales call

In any marketing we do, whether it’s a Facebook post, a contact from a YouTube video or an email enquiry, the next step we always ask people to take is to book in with us via Calendly. By doing this, I’m immediately setting the expectation that we have a virtual and digital set-up and that we don’t always rely on people to do the administrative work.

The booking form includes questions about the prospect’s business and where they need our support and help. By asking questions at this point, rather than leaving them to ask the generic “how much will it cost to…” questions, we take control. This is crucial for setting the tone of how we will work together, but also for ensuring we make progress in the next stages of onboarding.  

2. Start the training in the sales call

My mum always tells me there’s a good reason I have two ears and one mouth, so on the discovery call, I ask plenty of questions but then I let the client do the talking. They tell me about their business, their challenges and the support they need. This gives me an opportunity to sell our services, but also to talk about how our systems and processes will support them.  

I know that our way of working is different to that of many of the accountants our clients choose to move away from. So by telling our prospects that we’re different to their previous accountants, we create the opportunity to approach everything about our way of working differently. This starts with the onboarding process and I explain exactly how we will start working together. 

During the sales call, I set the standard for how we are going to work together, it’s the start of the client’s training. 

3. The first 24 hours

Everyone in my team knows their targets. Our goal for every new client is that they fall into our regular cycle of bookkeeping and reporting within one month. That’s the target: to be up to date and able to deliver the first set of management accountants within one month. It’s a full team effort. We do live proposals and on the sales call, the prospect has already been advised on how to provide essential paperwork. Once the client has signed their proposal, every member of the team is told. My team knows who the client is, what their business does, what the key people are like and what they’re likely to need support with. The client is allocated a client manager, and we agree which members of the team will need to join the client’s WhatsApp group. Our VA then sets the client up on our portal and requests the documentation we need. 

We have a target to turn this around within 24 hours, setting the expectations for our new client that we are responsive but they need to uphold their side of the relationship. 

4. Regular training meetings

We then move into a series of weekly meetings. The client takes responsibility for booking this meeting themselves, and uses the meetings to work through a checklist that starts with setting up software and training on using different tools, apps and getting paperwork up to date. We meet every single week until the client is fully onboarded. It’s intense for the client, but we quickly build strong relationships and using new tools frequently over that period solidifies the training for the client much more than if we only caught up once a month. Our aim is to prepare the first set of management accounts within the first month, and on the whole, we are able to do this. 

Building a bond

Our onboarding process might not be for everybody, but it builds a bond with our clients. Without question, they know that we’re there for them and part of their team quickly. I believe your onboarding process can be one of your unique selling points, so embrace the opportunity to do things your way and be proud of it.

Join the Bookkeeping Show, in association with FreeAgent, on 15 September where our panel will discuss how to successfully onboard new clients.

Replies (19)

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By Hugo Fair
12th Sep 2022 16:37

Sounds more like indoctrination than training - unless that's "training" as in teaching your dog where to do it's business.

I suspect it's a very effective process but not for the reasons stated ... it's a strong filter to ensure that anyone getting through the 'entry hurdles' is sufficiently compliant to be a 'perfect client'.
In which case fair enough, but be upfront as to the objectives.

Thanks (5)
By Paul Crowley
12th Sep 2022 18:14

Bookkeeping is a different animal to a small accountancy practice
This would not be helpful for small clients

Thanks (4)
By Open all hours
12th Sep 2022 20:36

Are you now, or have you ever been in the business of selling religion? This feels to me like you want members to sign up to your sect. Good luck if it works for you but it would give me the creeps.

Thanks (4)
By Winnie Wiggleroom
13th Sep 2022 06:26

"It’s intense for the client"

It was intense for me just reading it!

It works for you and thats all that matters to you and yours, I have always taken the view that I like to work with the client and the systems they already have and are comfortable with rather than imposing my own. Obviously we make suggestions for improvement if there is a better way but more often than not the best way is the way that works for them and not necessarily us and we gain more by being adaptable.

But I think the way you have set out your stall will attract a narrow certain kind of client rather than the wide variety we see in a small accountancy practice

Thanks (8)
Replying to Winnie Wiggleroom:
By Paul Crowley
13th Sep 2022 09:40

If what the client is doing works well enough for me to use it then any changes could lead to error and misunderstanding.
Having said that, there are always suggested tweaks that I make with new clients, and I regularly share my workings.

Thanks (2)
By johnjenkins
13th Sep 2022 11:14

I wonder if "clients" have a similar training program for Accountants. If not, Jo you could start one and amalgamate the two.

Thanks (0)
By Self-Employed and Happy
13th Sep 2022 12:07

Ah, we don't really give the client a choice of doing their own bookkeeping / bank reconciliations etc.

After finding out about them, whether they are up together with taxes etc we "sell" it as -

You do the sales invoices and matching money in, we do the rest so you can concentrate on the business. Minimal training required.

They either bring the expenses to us each month, or we go and collect, or they upload the photos.
The same process each and every month, all previous months bookkeeping for all clients is completed by the 15th of each month, which leaves the second half of each month for accounts / TRs / VAT / PAYE

Thanks (1)
By ArnoldBlack
13th Sep 2022 12:32

You lost me at "onboarding"

Thanks (2)
Replying to ArnoldBlack:
By johnjenkins
13th Sep 2022 13:20

Isn't that one of those new sexual fetishes?

Thanks (0)
Replying to ArnoldBlack:
By Southwestbeancounter
13th Sep 2022 13:47

Oh that gets me too - must 'touch base' with my clients to find out what it all means!

Thanks (0)
Replying to Southwestbeancounter:
By johnjenkins
13th Sep 2022 14:36

Touch Base, chew the fat and hang out. Yer man let's shoot the breeze, sink a couple and get wrecked. Or we could just go down the pub for a pint and chat.

Thanks (1)
the sea otter
By memyself-eye
13th Sep 2022 12:56

I'm 'onboard' but where are we going?
Down the cut I hope, now the kids are back at school the canals will be quiet, I can do some 'bonding'

(Mainly that loose forar'd hatch cover that needs 'glueing')

Thanks (1)
Replying to memyself-eye:
paddle steamer
13th Sep 2022 13:56

If it floats, rent it, otherwise varnishing becomes your reason for living.

Thanks (0)
By indomitable
13th Sep 2022 16:13

"How to train your clients"
I switched off immediately here. I am not sure my clients would appreciate being 'trained'
Didn't read any further

Thanks (3)
By Mr J Andrews
13th Sep 2022 19:06

Sit. Fetch. Paw please. Roll over.
This article generalises ''new'' clients with a clinical mindset. A big mistake in my book ; particularly point 4 and the weekly meetings. Get the way forward sorted at the outset.
I suggest the so called ''team'' be educated into treating potential clients as individuals rather than adopt this robotic four steps to heaven approach. You'll probably find these clients , knowledgeable of their respective businesses, a bit more clued in than the ''team'' members.
And if EVERY member of the ''team'' is aware of the new client's needs , hopefully the charge out rates and time costs have been spelt out.
The clue to this article's ridicule is of course the opening.........''IF YOU DREAD ONBOARDING A NEW CLIENT......''
If this is a problem , then surely it's time to call it a day.

Thanks (3)
By Postingcomments
14th Sep 2022 10:24

"there’s a good reason I have two ears and one mouth"............I'm sure, but it might not be for the reason that is convenient for this article - or that was for your mother when she wanted you to be quiet.

We can all misappropriate simple facts from the world around us to suit our ends. Is it helpful in advancing our knowledge as a species? Can we do that then say we have acted with honesty, integrity and good intent?

Btw - Your practice sounds exhausting to work with. Not sure I could cope with it as well as my own business.

Thanks (0)
By K81
14th Sep 2022 10:56

Clients Whatsapp account ?
do you set this up or are you assuming that they all have this.

my practice still does most things via paper & still file paper tax returns, not many but some.

Thanks (0)
Alison Bryan
By Alison Bryan
14th Sep 2022 18:27

Some great points made here Jo.
Setting a standard really does help. Clients come to bookkeepers for solutions and help. Sometimes they need some guidance to understand what they should do to make your, and their, life easier.
Some harsh comments below - unwarranted.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Flourish:
By Hugo Fair
17th Sep 2022 20:15

Not sure that opinions on an 'opinion piece' can ever be fairly described as unwarranted (lacking a good reason; unnecessary: Cambridge Dictionary) - especially those that offer constructive criticism.

But each to their own ...

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