If you had asked me that question when I first got into accounting many decades ago (don’t ask how many) I would have fallen off my seat with laughter. Who in their right mind would want to see their accountant, let alone speak highly of them.

Accountants and ‘Raving Fans’, Is It Possible?

And yet, as I visit accounting firm after accounting firm, I am constantly coming across situations where clients cannot speak more highly of their accountant. They see them as an integral part of their business and decisions wouldn’t be the same without them?

So then, what is it that accounting firms are doing these days that puts them so far ahead of their ancient predecessors. Here is what I’ve observed over the past decade:

  • Accounting firms are adopting new technology and increasing their responsiveness to clients. Clients don’t wait weeks for a response.

  • Their value isn’t in the data inputting but rather the insight outputting. Reconciliation and data entry is easier than ever (automated in many cases).

  • They are more ingrained in the operations of the business presenting actionable insights and being involved in key decision making. Often providing the evidence.

  • Listening to the client. Now isn’t that a novel concept...

  • For many young accountants, getting to know the culture of a firm can be a major challenge. In today’s dynamic workplace, it is a new accountant's client development skills that will help him or her stand out from the pack and get on the fast track at a firm.

There are many methods to develop these skills including networking with fellow accountants, joining professional organisations and business development groups. 

An accountant's communication skills being verbal and written need to be fully developed for successful client relationships. You must listen to the client and determine what they need. The accountant must communicate the expectations of the services offered and how the results will be quantified. This will lay the groundwork for building successful, long-term relationships.

Communication is essential when following-up with clients and documenting the services your firm has provided and their results. If you fail to do this, the client may not see your firm's value, choose not to continue the relationship, and certainly won't refer additional work your way.

Many firms send employees to training to learn how to gain new clients and keep existing clients happy. Soft skills training on sales, marketing, customer service and leadership development programs specifically for accounting professionals provides valuable skills for managing staff and facilitating relationships with clients. 

Many firms place a high premium on mentoring and, as a new member of the team, it can be beneficial not to go it alone. Ask about mentoring programs your firm may offer and get paired up with someone who will not only talk to you about client development, but take you to meetings and show you how it's done.

To develop or enhance your client management skills, come along to our Young Guns Workshop on 30 and 31 March 2017 at the Hilton Hotel Surfers Paradise. Click here for further information and to register. Earlybird pricing ends 10 March.

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Mark Holton Smithink