Connecting With Clients Using 3 Basic Principlesby
In order for accounting professionals to create a successful client relationship, they must earn the client's trust and understand their concerns. Sonia Gibson, director of Accounting Heart, offers three basic principles that are key to building a longlasting connection with clients that prioritizes empathy over efficiency.
Solving problems and busting number riddles might thrill you if you work in the finance field, but for most of your business owner clients, this simply isn’t the case. In fact, many people go into business because they are talented at a particular practice, not because they have a knack for finances.
When it comes to accounting, many business owners prefer to outsource the entire process. That’s where you come in. To be successful, you need the client to understand their business finances and actively engage with you. How can you better connect with clients so that accounting is less cryptic to them and more collaborative for you?
1. Address your perspective on client work
Belief systems can be unconscious. Our views of the world can drive our actions. What is your belief system when it comes to client work? The unconscious biases and beliefs you hold ultimately contribute to the way you approach your work. Does it feel like a chore? Is it inconvenient? Or is it an opportunity to use your knowledge and skills to improve someone else’s life?
Introspection is not always easy, but it can bring a fresh approach to the way you handle client work. If you view client work as a project you were assigned, that’s how you’ll handle it. However, if you view it as a shared experience of guidance, education and instruction, it becomes more collaborative.
Taking time to foster this relationship with the client does not put you at risk of losing them; on the contrary, you are building the foundation for a far more effective collaboration in the long term. View it as a shared project, not an outsourced service.
2. Take the time to listen even when you know the answer
“The pause” is a trick from psychology to being a good listener. Listening isn’t about knowing what to say when someone confides in you; it’s about holding the space to allow them to feel safe while doing so.
Sure, you might hear the same problem from different clients over and over again, and you can respond similarly each time. It’s tempting to jump in and offer solutions, especially if you know how to address the problem. Consider, however, that this problem is a first for your client, and their experience is completely unique to them.
Put efficiency aside and take a moment to build a connection. The client has come to you because they trust your professional abilities. By listening patiently, you will also gain their personal trust. Instead of offering sympathy or advice, simply pause, listen and make eye contact. When your client is done speaking, wait for a pause, and make a broad suggestion, such as, “Let’s see how I can help you with that by looking at your finances.”
3. Offer solutions by giving limited options
Offering your client several different ways to solve a problem can sometimes cause them anxiety because the solution feels too open-ended. You want your clients to feel safe with you since you are working with their livelihoods. People often feel more reassured by a limited number of solutions rather than an open-ended approach.
Giving the client your top-three recommendations can help to narrow down a course of action, thereby giving the client the feeling that the problem is more contained and perhaps easier to solve. It might be merely psychological, but it inspires a sense of safety and makes the client more likely to feel connected with you.
Providing options reassures the client that they are in control of their business, while also demonstrating your value through solutions that actually work. Be sure to explain the potential risks and benefits of each option.
Finding room for “heart” in efficiency
Engagement is the key to client retention. Rather than viewing it as a task to complete, make it a way of being. Practicing a pause is the first step. If a client comes to you with a particular financial dilemma, there’s almost always an emotional objective behind it. Don’t brush their feelings aside; instead, pause to allow your client to explain why this particular dilemma is so important to them.
Develop the relationship so the client knows that you understand what matters to them. Collaboration is working together with a goal in mind, with each party understanding why it is important and invested in the same outcome. When a client feels like you care, they will keep doing business with you for a long time. That’s why it’s important for accounting professionals to view “heart” as an essential element in efficiency, not just an afterthought.