By Ed Chan, Founder of Chan & Naylor Accountants.
Over the years of being a practicing accountant, I was always amazed at the number of clients who used to say that I was the only accountant that they could understand when I explained something to them.
Most clients would say that they simply nodded their heads so they would not appear stupid in front of their accountant but then walked out of their office not understanding a thing they had said.
It’s important that you understand your client in order to connect with him/ her.
You have to be able to communicate with them at their level. For example, if your client is a CEO of a business or someone in the financial services industry you can use terms such as Debtors, Creditors, Debit Loan Account, Credit Loan Account. However, if your client is someone who is not familiar with accounting terms you need to be able to switch to terms such as “people who owe you money”, “people you owe money to”, “money you owe the company”,” money that is owed to you by the company”.It’s interesting when you have a couple sitting in front of you and one works in the financial services industry and the other does not. You need to be able to switch language when going from one person to the other. The danger is you could accidentally talk down to one whilst completely losing the other. The skill is being able to switch from one to the other using appropriate language for each person and making them feel completely relaxed and at ease.
It’s one thing to master this yourself, but how do you ensure your staff is also communicating effectively?
Whilst accountants spend a lot of time ensuring their staff is technically well trained, they neglect ensuring their staff has the appropriate interpersonal skills. We are in a “relationship” business, and clients value their relationship with us. The only way to be able to grow your business is to ensure you have a team who is able to communicate with your clients.
Although we spend a lot of time and money attempting to attract new clients to us, we are unaware of the leakage that’s occurring due to inappropriately trained staff inadvertently upsetting and losing clients due to their lack of interpersonal and communication skills. Having the right team structure as well as the correct interpersonal skills training would ensure that the leakage is minimized.
Did you know that your staff is either a “Minder” or “Grinder”? Creating the right team structure can create tremendous leverage. We generally have our “Minders” act as “Client Managers”, dealing with the clients directly; they generally have great interpersonal skills and also good management skills to manage the workload and their team.
A typical Client Manager would be responsible for around $700,000 to $800,000 in fees and they would have 3 “Grinders” in their team. Typically the more senior “Grinder” would have around 5 years’ experience, the second “Grinder” around 3 years’ experience, and a graduate.
The Client Manager does no grinding work and their time is spent checking, communicating, tax planning and managing the workload and the clients. They are the project manager if you like.
Co-Founder of Chan & Naylor Accountants