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Are you able to have a conversation?

Are you an accountant that can easily have a conversation with anyone? I hope for your own sake that you are.

In working with accounting firms and individual professionals for many years, I have been somewhat surprised to learn a few things about Partners and staff.

The one thing that I have uncovered  is that a lot of senior accounting professionals (and lots of others for that matter) are not good at having conversations with prospective clients.  It may be that they don’t like being out of their comfort zone or lack confidence in building new relationships or they simply haven’t been given the necessary training. I’m just not sure.

One of my clients, is a senior partner with a big 4 accounting firm. A while ago I asked him what % of partners in the top 10 accounting firms within Australia, in his view, are able to proactively engage with prospective clients and build a mutually beneficial relationship. What do you think he said? 50%, 60%? He told me, in his opinion as a 30+ year veteran professional, it was around 10 to 20%. Wow! That is not good. I’m concerned that the professionals coming through the ranks – the graduates, supervisors, managers, directors and the rest not being shown good role models by their Partner-Principals.

Its not too late. Anyone – young or old, male or female, graduate or partner can change and improve the way they work. The first thing to change is to learn the art of conversation.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Come on James … you’re being waaaaaaay too simplistic!” With respect I don’t think I am. Sometimes I think that professionals be they accountants, lawyers, management consultants, engineers, architects, financial planners etc… tend to over-complicate their interactions with clients and prospective clients.

Let me leave you with this one thought –

There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.

This was a quote by the American author, James Nathan Miller who lived and worked in the late 1800′s.

See you next post,

James E.

The art of conversation

In working with accounting firms and individual professionals for many years, I have been somewhat surprised to learn a few things about Partners and staff.

The one thing that I have uncovered  is that a lot of senior accounting professionals are not good at having conversations with prospective clients.  It may be that they don’t like being out of their comfort zone or lack confidence in building new relationships or they simply haven’t been given the necessary training. I’m just not sure.

One of my clients, is a senior partner with a big 4 accounting firm. A few weeks ago I asked him what % of partners in the top 10 accounting firms within Australia, in his view, are able to proactively engage with prospective clients and build a mutually beneficial relationship. What do you think he said? 50%, 60%? He told me, in his opinion as a 30+ year veteran professional, it was around 10 to 20%. Wow! That is not good. I’m concerned that the professionals coming through the ranks – the graduates, supervisors, managers, directors and the rest not being shown good role models by their Partner-Principals.

Its not too late. Anyone – young or old, male or female, graduate or partner can change and improve the way they work. The first thing to change is to learn the art of conversation.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Come on James … you’re being waaaaaaay to simplistic!” With respect I don’t think I am. Sometimes I think that professionals be they accountants, lawyers, management consultants, engineers, architects, financial planners etc… tend to over-complicate their interactions with clients and prospective clients.

Let me leave you with this one thought –

There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.

This was a quote by the American author, James Nathan Miller who lived and worked in the late 1800’s.

See you next post,

James E.

Accounting standards should include listening

In earlier posts you would have heard me bang on about the importance of listening when meeting and discussing issues with clients and pitching for new business.

I was scanning the web recently and found an excellent list of barriers to effective listening and strategies to promote better listening.

Barriers to effective listening

There are many reasons as to why individuals fail to listen successfully, These include:

  1. Interrupting
  2. Faking attention and tuning out
  3. Becoming emotional
  4. Jumping to conclusions
  5. Getting distracted
  6. Pre-judging the subject
  7. Wrong focus
  8. Gathering only facts
  9. Inflexibility while listening
  10. Avoiding complicated subjects

Strategies to promote better listening

You can improve your listening skills by following some of the strategies mentioned below: Maintain eye contact with the speaker.

  1. Provide clues that you are actively involved in listening.
  2. Focus on content, not delivery
  3. Avoid emotional involvement
  4. Avoid distractions
  5. Refrain from formulating an immediate response
  6. Ask questions
  7. Use the gap between the rate of speech.
  8. Be willing to accept revisions
  9. Choose the right environment
  10. Stay active by asking questions for yourself

(Source: http://hubpages.com/hub/Importance-of-Listening-Skills-in-Professional-Life)

I remember my dad saying to me years ago … “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a very good reason … make sure you use them in the that ratio” It took me some time to work out that meant you should listen twice as much as you talk! Admittedly I was quite young at the time  🙂

Since then I’ve found out that the original quote was from Socrates –  “We have been given two ears, two eyes, and one tongue. This means that we should hear and see more than we speak.” Socrates (469 BC–399 BC)

So if you really want to stand out to your clients listen to what they are saying. If for example, a client asks you about collecting debt from their clients, by simply listening you can uncover a variety of issues. In this example cash flow would be an issue that you can certainly help your client with!

See you next post.

James E