Why All Accounting Firms Need A CRM
The better question is, why aren’t more accounting firms already using a CRM system? I’m pretty sure it’s because most don’t even know what CRM stands for, much less what the system does!
Customer relationship management began in the 1970s when companies started using customer satisfaction surveys and evaluating their customers’ thoughts. Unfortunately, at that time, the only real way to track and measure this data was through spreadsheets and lists. By 1986, the first CRM technology system called ACT! was released and built to act like a digital rolodex, and that started the trend to develop CRM systems. Over the last 40+ years, CRM systems have been enhanced and tailored for specific industries. Still, the main driver has remained as a way to track customer and prospect data to make better sales, marketing, and retention decisions.
So why would accounting firms need such a platform? While many different CRM systems on the market vary in functionality and price, the three main functions that can help a CPA firm are:
Data Management – One of the biggest keys to successful client service is knowing information about your client. CRMS let you store client contact information, interests, and interactions all in one place. Maybe you want to track all of your client’s birthdays so that you can send birthday cards. Maybe your client opens up and tells you about his wedding anniversary or that they are expecting their first child, or perhaps your client celebrates the anniversary of their business each year. Maybe you want to go a step further and track more important information that would help you tailor your messaging. If it is left up to your memory, it is highly unlikely that you would remember to wish someone a happy anniversary or send a baby gift because, let’s face it, we all have way too much to remember. That is the beauty of a CRM in accounting firms. Once you have that information, you can put it in your CRM and set tasks that remind you of anything you need to remember.
Secondary to this information, it also allows you to track your conversations, whether that is an email or notes from a phone call or meeting. When you start recording your interactions with your clients and prospects, you then have the option to reference that information before the next interaction. Maybe they told you about an important business decision they are considering.
If you include those notes in your accounting firm’s CRM, you can pull up the client or prospect before your meeting and review any previous communications to remember what you need to ask them or trigger a follow-up conversation.
The bottom line is when you use your CRM for data management; you house all important information about your clients and prospects to improve communication quality and frequency more efficiently.
Opportunity Management – In addition to data management, firms should utilize a CRM system for opportunity management. Opportunity management is essentially the process of tracking all prospecting and new revenue opportunities for the firm. First, it’s essential for any business, including accounting firms, to understand forecasting and pipeline management. When everyone in the business development process is utilizing a CRM to track opportunities with potential clients, the firm can better predict revenue and manage budgets. It would be a whole different article on forecasting the percentage at each stage in the sales process to forecast revenue correctly, but the point is when you utilize a CRM, this automates the process and produces forecasting reports for you to use in budgeting and revenue planning.
Outside of the leadership level reporting, it also helps individuals stay on top of each opportunity by tracking CRM tasks and automating some processes. Let’s say that you have been in talks with a prospective client and they told you that they have a big project coming up and to check back in 2 months to start the conversation. Using a CRM, you can either set a task to remind you to circle back or even automate the process. Additionally, when you manage your opportunities in the CRM, you should be tracking each of the conversations, so when the time does come to move forward in the sales process, you should have all of your notes from previous discussions in one place to make it easy to prepare for the upcoming meeting.
Client Service Management – The third-way accounting firms can utilize a CRM to their advantage is for client service management. If you are tracking data and your opportunities, you should be well on your way to getting client insights. When all of your client data is in one central repository, you can find your clients’ trends that will help you provide greater client service. These insights will help you become more proactive in your outreach and help you tailor the communications you send to current clients through automation. A good CRM gives you the ability to automate some of the lead nurture processes of a firm and stay front of mind of clients and prospective clients.
Lastly, A CRM can also give you insight into business development activities that are more lucrative than others to know where to focus your efforts. This can come from insights on your prospecting efforts in terms of where you are having the greatest success in finding qualified leads, or it can come from identifying opportunities in specific market segments.