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How to Say What You Want to Clients Without Being Rude

May 21st 2015
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Clients aren’t dense, but sometimes they are resistant to taking advice. They pay you to provide it, and it’s often billed by the hour. As a CPA, you intend to act in their best interests by making recommendations based on what you know at the time. How can you be direct without being rude?

Scenario No. 1: The Multiple-Choice Answer
Your client needs to make a decision. You have researched several alternatives, and each have pros and cons. They stand frozen like a deer in headlights. Often, we consider business owners as sophisticated decision-makers and members of the public as novices.

The wrong approach: “C’mon, make up your mind. I don’t have all day,” or “Here’s what I want you to do … .”

The professional approach: If you were presenting to your managing partner, you would say: “I’ve researched three alternatives: A, B, and C. In my opinion, we should proceed with C for the following reasons … .”

The personal approach: “We’ve looked at three options. All have their pros and cons. Let me make this easy for you. I think we should proceed with C.  Here’s why … .”

Rationale: Who doesn’t want something made easy?

Scenario No. 2: Getting a Future Prospect’s Contact Information
You are attending a college alumni event and meet a person who needs your help, but doesn’t know it yet. It’s serious. She is recently divorced and is planning to switch accountants. She is involved in a startup that’s moving from the conceptual stage to an incubator.

The wrong approach: “I think you need me. Got a card?”

The professional approach: If this was an interview for business, you would exchange cards before the meeting formally started. If not, try: “I often come across articles on the subject we discussed. I’m glad to send them along. What’s your email address?”

The personal approach: “I’ve enjoyed talking about X. I would like to keep in touch. How do I do that?” The person will likely offer a card.

Rationale: You have established your value or the rationale for keeping in touch.

Scenario No. 3: Competing for Business
You provide a service that’s similar to one provided by competitors. You know your firm is one of several being considered. You want to make a compelling reason why they should choose you.

The wrong approach: “We will be cheaper, I guarantee it. Shop around, and get the best price you can. We will match or beat it.”

The professional approach: “Our firm specializes in your industry. We’ve been doing it for 30 years. We have X businesses or industry professionals as clients. We understand the regulatory challenges unique to the industry. That’s the case for choosing us.”

The personal approach: “If you become my client, I will handle your account personally. It won’t be assigned to a junior member of our team. You will be an important client to me.”

Rationale: People will pay for expertise. Everyone wants to be an important client.

Scenario No. 4: Tactful Follow-Up
Clients make decisions on their timetable, not yours. Business owners are known for focusing on one problem to the exclusion of other issues that really need attention. You are looking for business.

The wrong approach: “You said to call in a month. Well, I’m calling. What’s the answer?”

The professional approach: “We spoke four weeks ago. I realize there are other issues competing for your attention. There have been some new developments in the meantime. I think you should know about them.”

The personal approach: “I’m following up. I hope you consider persistence a virtue.” Also: “There’s a fine line between efficient follow-up and being annoying. I’m trying to stay on the correct side of that line.”

Rationale: Bringing new information that will aid in decision-making has value. It reinforces the connection they learn something new and valuable each time they talk with you. They also know a decision needs to be made. In their own business, follow-up is probably a major failing of their subordinates.

Getting people onto your timetable is difficult, yet you can gently guide them by being careful in your choice of words.

About the author:
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book "Captivating the Wealthy Investor" can be found on


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