Getting clients to use accounting software

Imagine how efficient you’d be if clients used your preferred accounting software. So how do you get them to switch?

An accounting firm’s client moving their documents to cloud accounting software

Why you want more clients on your preferred accounting software

Your favourite accounting software is your favourite for a reason. It helps you do excellent work for your clients, which is great for them. But let’s be honest, it’s good for you too. Your software probably:

  • automates labour-intensive tasks
  • reduces manual data entry and time spent fixing mistakes
  • makes it easier to collaborate with clients
  • streamlines reporting

Those efficiencies can:

  • maximise billable hours
  • shorten your workday
  • give you the scope to add more clients
  • give you the time and tools to offer advisory services

When clients use a different package – or no software at all – you lose these efficiencies. So how do you get them to use the accounting software you prefer?

Develop your strategy

Managing change isn’t easy. You need to be convinced your preferred software is the right thing for your clients, and be sure of an ROI for your firm. If you’re confident it’s the right thing, then make a plan.

Start by asking:

  • Which clients are you going to approach? If you have a lot to switch, you might want to do it in groups
  • When and how will you talk with your clients? It might take a lot of conversations to convince clients, so think about how you’ll warm them up to the idea
  • How will you pitch the benefits? Your clients need to see a big upside or else their heart won’t be in it
  • How will you reassure your clients that the transition won’t be painful? Change causes anxiety so you’ll need to address it

Some clients may be perfectly happy with their existing system – even if it’s paper-based. They probably don’t know what they’re missing. Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine what their workday looks like. List all the ways that using accounting software will help their specific situation.

How do you know the time is right?

You’ll have some clients who are open to a switch right now, and others who will take more convincing. Consider grouping them into categories and moving them over in groups. For tips on taking a staged approach, see our guide to helping move clients to the cloud.

Clients will be more open to switching accounting systems at the end of the fiscal year. It’s an opportunity for a fresh start. You can start seeding the idea whenever you like but schedule your campaign so that it peaks as the year clicks over. Use tax season as an opportunity to explain how software will make compliance easier – and help them avoid an end-of-year crunch.

Starting the conversation

Getting clients to use accounting software – or switch software – is a process. You’ll need to mention it several times, in multiple formats.

Talk will only take you so far, however. Nothing beats a demonstration, so plan on meeting with clients to take them through the switch in detail. It’ll probably be more efficient to start with an event, where you can bring together multiple clients and speak to them collectively.

Show, rather than tell

An in-person event is rated by marketers as the most effective way to relay new information.

It doesn’t have to be a big affair. Keep it simple and to the point, with a one-hour meeting for a small group of clients before or after the workday.

  • It can be at your office, a nearby cafe or bar, a restaurant, or event space
  • Cover only the major benefits (you can get into the detail later)
  • Give live demos of what it’s like to use the software
  • Point out that you use the software for your own record keeping
  • Explain the successes you’ve had with other clients
  • Consider asking a client who already uses the software to come and speak

After the event, follow up quickly with attendees to try and move the process forward. Maybe they’ll be ready to commit straight away, or perhaps they’ll want a one-on-one meeting. Whatever the next step is, try to take it as soon as you can to harness the momentum the event generated.

What’s in it for the client?

You need to be clear about what the software will do for your client. Don’t overcomplicate this message. Smart accounting software has dozens of features but many of them are nice-to-haves. Focus on the must-haves.

Explain how business transactions will flow directly into their ledger without any data entry. Show them how they'll be able to check their cash flow situation whenever they want.

It’s often the most basic features of accounting software that will change a client’s life. You just need to make sure they appreciate how much it will help. Make it easy to relate to by recounting past situations when using accounting software would have made their lives easier.

The cost of using accounting software

For clients who’ve used spreadsheets up until now, accounting software will be a new cost. It might only be a modest monthly fee for online accounting software, but any good business client will want to understand the return on investment. Walk through the cost-benefit equation and point out the scenarios where the software will earn its keep.

If you're moving to the cloud

Remember that many people don’t fully understand how the cloud works and so you may encounter misconceptions. Be patient and understanding. If people express concerns about data security, for example, explain that the technology is already used to deliver online banking.

It’s also worth spelling out some of the advantages, such as:

  • up-to-date information on the business’s financial position
  • digital records instead of boxes of paper receipts
  • an end to emailing spreadsheets back and forth
  • no need for software installation or updates

For your progressive clients

While you’ll need to focus on the basic benefits of software for most clients, some will be ready for a conversation about more advanced options. Tell them how software can integrate with other business apps and digital tools such as:

  • forecasting software so they can predict future business performance
  • point-of-sale and invoicing systems, so sales numbers flow straight into their accounts
  • inventory management tools so they can account for money tied up in stock
  • time-recording software so they can pay employees (and bill clients) accurately

These are just the tip of the iceberg. There are business apps for all sorts of functions – Xero, for example, integrates with more than 1000 apps.

Answering questions

Your clients are likely to have concerns about the switch, so be prepared to answer some common questions:

  • What will they need to do?
  • Will it be a smooth transition?
  • Will they need to learn the software?
  • Will you or your staff be available to answer questions?

These are all valid concerns that need to be addressed. Make sure you have a comprehensive strategy for the onboarding process so you can give them comfort that it’ll be well managed. Switching will involve work, and some inconvenience, so don’t try to skirt around that. But use these questions as an opportunity to emphasise the payback – a smoother, more streamlined business.

If at first you don't succeed

Some clients simply won’t be ready to start using accounting software, or switching to the package you like. That’s ok. It could take multiple conversations. Make sure you share the success stories of people who did switch, and try again next year.


Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

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