Remote business development: A new opportunity

August 18, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected how and where CPAs work. Always agile, small firms have been able to rise to the occasion, maintaining strong client service and adapting to changing business needs. Amid all the disruptions, it may seem tough to keep up with business development, especially without the usual chances for in-person contact. The good news is that remote environments can offer great opportunities to bring in new work from prospects and existing clients.

Develop new ways to make an introduction. Your prospects are all likely accustomed to maintaining remote contact in some way and there are many good ways to get in touch with them and introduce yourself. For example, consider inviting top prospects to a short online session in which you cover a relatively easy-to-explain topic that would be of interest to the type of clients you’re seeking, then discuss how you can help. Encourage them to invite others in their industries or ask existing clients if they have suggestions for business contacts who might be interested. Remember, your prospects may not be getting as much interaction with their peers as they used to and they may be eager for a short but informative update on a critical topic that’s delivered in a safe, online format. Call or email participants afterwards to ask if they have any further questions and if there are any areas where you can assist.

Create special information sessions for current clients. Try a version of the same approach with existing clients, customizing it to general business issues you know they are facing. For example, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness is a hot topic, so create an online session that gives clients the information they need and demonstrates your own knowledge of the topic. Clients may also welcome an update on unexpected tax issues they should be addressing or advice on reopening their businesses. As business owners navigate new challenges, CPAs are perfectly suited to enhance their knowledge and help them address their concerns. With both prospects and current clients, encourage them to ask questions so you can provide answers in your follow-up calls or emails.

In addition to one-time virtual meetings or webinars, some small firms have launched short weekly podcasts on subjects specific to the industries or types of clients in their firm. At first, these regular briefings from the firm can be exclusively for existing clients, then you can consider inviting others. You will be surprised at how many clients will really look forward to weekly communication from their CPA created just for them.

Keep up with those in-person referral groups. While your usual networking groups may not be holding networking events or lunches, find out what they are doing in a virtual environment. Use these virtual get-togethers to promote your upcoming events and be sure to help others promote too.

The advantages of remote contact

While this is a period of great disruption, it’s also a time of great opportunity to reach out to prospects and clients in new ways. This remote environment, I believe, can help solidify your bonds with clients and find new ones. First, any online presentations or meetings you do will be built around educating and helping businesses, which is what CPAs are all about. Instead of small talk at a networking event, you’ll be offering vital updates and advice. And second, if you’re an introvert, it’s the perfect environment because you can showcase your experience and expertise to an enthusiastic audience. In addition, your confidence and comfort level will increase the more you communicate remotely.

There are many new ways to maintain your business development efforts, so be sure to make the most of them. And remember that you can find a wealth of information and tools for your practice management needs, including PPP and reopen resources at the PCPS Resources for Firms and Small Business Clients site.

Carl Peterson, CPA, CGMA is the Association’s Vice President of Small Firm Interests. Have questions for Carl? Contact him directly at or 651-252-4618. And be sure to sign up for Carl’s Small Firm Update webcasts. The next one will take place on September 3 at 2:00 to 3:00 PM ET.