Posts

Be an accountant who is known for great communication (2 of 3)

The second hallmark of effective communication is the ability to listen – really listen. 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 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
    Wrong focus
  7. Gathering only facts
  8. Inflexibility while listening
  9. 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.
  • Provide clues that you are actively involved in listening.
  • Focus on content, not delivery
  • Avoid emotional involvement
  • Avoid distractions
  • Refrain from formulating an immediate response
    Ask questions
  • Use the gap between the rate of speech.
  • Be willing to accept revisions
  • Choose the right environment
  • 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 🙂

Until next time.

James E

How to get clients (2 of 4)

Let me say right up front – I’m not an accountant. My professional training is in the areas of economics, education & management. That being said I’ve been a keen observer of individual professional accountants, accounting firms (big and small) and their clients for many, many years.

The best way to get more clients is to think like a client. If I put on my “client hat” then I want 3 “things” from my accountant. Today’s post will talk about 1 of these, the next 2 posts will talk about the remaining things not just that I want, but the majority of business clients and owners out there want and need.

Leaving to one side the legal/regulatory need for businesses to comply – e.g. tax returns, audits and the like clients want their accountants to help them MAKE MONEY.

It is well understood that accountants, throughout the developed world, (usually) enjoy having a strong & trusted relationship with their business clients. Consequently, it will be safe to assume that the accountant has an intimate knowledge of the internal workings of their clients. In fact I have friends in the accounting profession that know their client’s businesses better than the owners of the business!

What a wonderful opportunity then to come up with ideas that can help your business clients identify new markets, explore different product or service development, uncover ways to more efficiently deliver outcomes to their customers or any one of dozens of ways to come up with avenues to help your client make more money.

Who better to help businesses come up with ways to make more money than you?

See you next post,

James E.

 

 

 

 

Listen more than you speak

The second hallmark of effective professional is the ability to listen – really listen. 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 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
    Wrong focus
  7. Gathering only facts
  8. Inflexibility while listening
  9. 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.
  • Provide clues that you are actively involved in listening.
  • Focus on content, not delivery
  • Avoid emotional involvement
  • Avoid distractions
  • Refrain from formulating an immediate response
    Ask questions
  • Use the gap between the rate of speech.
  • Be willing to accept revisions
  • Choose the right environment
  • 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 🙂

Until next time.

James E

The true story of two bananas

I was in a meeting with a top ten accounting firm recently.

The purpose of the meeting was for me to introduce a friend of mine who needed some specialist advice regarding an upcoming transaction.

My friend & I were on one side of the table; two partners on the other side. Lets call them B1 and B2.

B1 was engaging and attentive to my friend and the concerns of his business. He was a good listener and asked the right questions.

B2 seemed to be very interested for the first ten minutes of the meeting and then for some reason “turned off” for the remainder. In the following forty or so minutes he looked at his Blackberry about 10 times and sent at least 3 emails or txts during the meeting. He asked a few questions but gave the impression that he was too important for such a “small” client.

B2 is an absolute expert in his field and commands  high fees for his services. However, in spite of his technical prowess he didn’t get the assignment. I think my friend said it best shortly after we left the meeting… “what a w_ _ _ _ _ !”

What more can I say?

🙂

A checklist worth remembering

In the last post I was sharing with you the importance of getting the small things right when it comes to clients. Here is a checklist you might like to use so you don’t forget. That aren’t in any specific order of importance.

  1. Return all phone calls promptly. Try the same business day. If not the very next morning.
  2. Reply to all emails (depending upon the urgency) within 24 hours. If its really important reply as soon as you can – say 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Phone your client for no specific reason and arrange to have a coffee with no agenda and don’t charge for the time. This shows you are interested in the client and want to invest in the relationship.
  4. Do you know your clients hobbies and interests? If not find out and make a note.
  5. With the above in mind, from time to time send you client a small gift (something to do with their interest/hobby) for no reason. It just shows that you’re thinking of them. Sounds corny but it works if done in a genuine way.
  6. Ask your client the question, “What is the smallest change that I could make that would have the biggest impact on your business?” You might just be surprised at what they say. By the way … before you ask the question tell them that they are not allowed to say lower fees!
  7. Here is a big one. If you say you’re going to do something by a certain day/time then do it. If you can’t than make sure you tell the client ahead of the time the reason why.
  8. If you don’t know the answer to something then tell the client that you don’t know but you know how to find out. Clients want honesty not half-baked responses.

Well there you go – hope the above helps.

See you next post,

James E

Small things count

I had a meeting the other day with a CFO of a manufacturing company. Its a private business with an annual revenue of around $25m and employs about 80 people. Not a huge organisation but still a viable and solid client for any size accounting firm.

The CFO, lets call him John as in John Cleese (one of my favourite actors/comedians), told me that they had changed accounting firms recently. Given the work that I do, I’m always interested in the reasons why clients leave their accountants and use another firm.

When I asked John why the change I expected to hear him say things like lack of the right expertise, constant mistakes and the like. However, he said it was simple – they didn’t return his phone calls or reply to his emails. At first, I thought he was joking, but sadly he wasn’t. John was so angry at the time that he even thought about lodging an official complaint with the Institute of Chartered Accountants. What is even more surprising is that the firm in question wasn’t a 2-3 man shop but rather a CBD-based firm with over 60 staff! Surely it doesn’t take a genius to work out that small things count when it comes to clients.

In the next post I’ll be sharing with you a simple checklist you might like to ask yourself and members of your team every now and then. You might just be reminded of some basic small things that you may have forgotten!

See you next post,

James E

The human touch

In today’s busy business world we are often encouraged to be assertive, front foot forward and always, always looking for opportunities to promote ourselves. In the right context there is nothing wrong with these traits. However, I’m a big believer in the power and wonder of showing oneself to be more human.

In the great majority of my dealings with business owners, MDs, CEOs & CFOs I’ve noticed they tend to buy accounting services from people that they connect with, like and want to trust. Items like the firm’s brand and the individual’s technical expertise are taken very much as hygiene factors, that is to say, their importance and significance is only really noticed when they (the factors) are not present.

Look at your own behaviours when purchasing products or services. For instance, I live in a suburb in Sydney that has over 25 hairdressers/barbers competing for people’s haircare needs. My wife goes to a certain hairdresser, not because of their skilled staff, nice decor or cappuccinos – most of them have all that.  No, she goes to a particular one because she likes the lady who cuts and styles her hair.  They talk, learn about each other and have a laugh. I don’t think they have a lot in common in terms of their age and their interests, but they seem to have gotten to know each other and have developed a level of trust and understanding over a long period of time. I dare say that if Mary (the hairdresser) left that particular salon – my wife would follow her to her new one. My wife’s relationship is with Mary not her employer. My wife’s decision is not particularly influenced my Mary’s amazing skills or her stunning banter and repartee – my wife just likes Mary and trusts her with her hair.

Now I’m not saying to all you accounting professionals out there that when you leave your current firm your clients will blindly follow you. Notwithstanding the non-compete clauses in your partnership and employee agreements, clients will of course make their own decisions what to do. The take away lesson here is that by exercising the human touch clients tend to be more loyal and sticky with their advisers who treat them as people – believe it or not!

See you next post,

James

Why do accountants exist? (1 of 3)

Let me say right up front – I’m not an accountant. My professional training is in the areas of economics, education & management. That being said I’ve been a keen observer of individual professional accountants, accounting firms (big and small) and their clients for many, many years.

If I put on my “client hat” then I want 3 “things” from my accountant. Today’s post will talk about 1 of these, the next 2 posts will talk about the remaining things not just that I want, but the majority of business clients out there.

Leaving to one side the legal/regulatory need for businesses to comply – e.g. tax returns, audits and the like clients want their accountants to help them MAKE MONEY.

It is well understood that accountants, throughout the developed world, (usually) enjoy having a strong & trusted relationship with their business clients. Consequently, it will be safe to assume that the accountant has an intimate knowledge of the internal workings of their clients. In fact I have friends in the accounting profession that know their client’s businesses better than the owners of the business!

What a wonderful opportunity then to come up with ideas that can help your business clients identify new markets, explore different product or service development, uncover ways to more efficiently deliver outcomes to their customers or any one of dozens of ways to come up with avenues to help your client make more money.

Who better to help businesses come up with ways to make more money?

So the first reason why accountants exist, is to help their business clients make more money.

Tune in this Wednesday & Friday to find out reasons two & three!

All my best,

James

Marketing tips (3 of 3)

Here is the last installment of this 3 post series on marketing tips by Harry Kafka @ HDK Consultants.

How do you get prospects interested in changing over to your accounting services?

Let me dispense of a myth first: You don’t make a difference by using superlatives about your own skills and superiority.

See. EVERYONE does that already, so that’s NOT DIFFERENT.

Quite the contrary… by using the traditional marketing & presentation methods only serve to prove conclusively that you’re THE SAME as their current accountant.

He, too, did just that. He told them how great he is, how good his services are… and now the business owner KNOWS it was all “not true.”

What we have to understand here is that the human thinking evolves around self-made truths.

What’s true for him is true… and that’s the long and short of it.

The problem here is that if you try to reason with someone whose self-made certainty is based on a negative FEELING, they just refuse to accept “your truth” and the more you try, the more they’ll stick to their view… and the harder it becomes to convince him or her otherwise.

So the solution is that you DON’T try to “talk sense” to them at all.

Instead, you let THEM tell you how “useless all accountants are…”

The way this is done involves quite a lot of skill though. It needs to be done so that the prospect realises on his own a few things along the way.

See you next post,

James E

Marketing tips (2 of 3)

Following on from the last post, here is a continuation of the article by Harry Kafka @ HDK Consultants.

WHY THEY DON’T CHANGE ACCOUNTANTS?

As things stand, the “negative ignorance” out there about accounting ensures that business owners do NOT CHANGE accountants easily.

Let’s compare it to a car and the difference becomes evident. Everyone is eager to change their car, provided the car isn’t brand new and they can afford to change… and often even when they can’t.

Why? Well, because a new, better, bigger, faster, fancier vehicle represents POSITIVE things.

They UNDERSTAND the values that come with a better, newer model of an automobile.

Status, pride of ownership, pleasure of the ride, sense of fulfilment… all positive things.

Now, let me assure you that research shows most business owners are DISSATISFIED with their current accounting services.

And yet, they DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE ACCOUNTANTS.

Not only would it be “free of charge” (as the new service would not cost that much more than the one they’re already paying for) but the BENEFITS of a better service would far outweigh any problems of transition… you’d think, right?

But it’s not so.

It’s not so because they’re negative about accounting and emotions take over.

We all know that where people react emotionally, logic goes out the window.

We make silly decisions if upset… and some say we make equally illogical decisions when in love.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the operating principle with most business owners in this matter is…

“…better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”

Believe it or not, THEIR basic thinking is that “all accountants are the same so why go into the trouble and expense of CHANGING?”

“Once you’ve seen one accounting professional you’ve seen them all,” in other words.

This lengthy explanation actually shows WHY you (like most other accounting professionals) find it so very difficult to acquire new clients.

The problem is that you offer “an identical accounting service” (as seen by business owners) so they don’t see any reason to CHANGE.

You don’t change a dollar to a dollar… that’s the logic here on their part.

To create interest for your services in order to sign on new clients, you need to offer something BETTER.

One more post will round out this mini-series of marketing tips.

Bye for now,

James E