We often see Accountants working hard to bring on new clients through marketing and sales. They also invest in building teams to properly serve these clients.
That’s great… but client relationship management remains a really important activity if they are to satisfy these clients, retain them in the long-term, find upselling opportunities and get referrals.
Sometimes the owners of the firm are really good at client relationship management but their subordinates are less capable, either because they don’t have the skills or they just don’t care as much. Getting better at building great relationships can make a big difference to any business.
So let’s look at some important aspects of client relationship management.
1. Asking the Right Questions
Each client interaction will be different but you should understand the client’s “context” (or current situation), their goals, their plans, what’s holding them back, and the options they are currently facing. You also want to know what outcomes your clients will really value and how they will measure success. Asking questions in a systematic but natural way helps you support clients while gaining their trust.
Accountants often have a lot to say! They have knowledge and experience and sometimes want to share all of this information at once, even if it’s irrelevant to the client. A better approach is to listen carefully and organize the information then figure out a way to help the client. It’s been said that we have two ears and one mouth… and they should be used in that proportion!
3. Be a Sounding Board
Running a business can be lonely and you can support clients by checking in with them, helping them stay on track, and showing a genuine interest in their business. Do this by offering ideas and encouragement in a way that’s not intimidating. Clients who don’t have peers inside their business with whom they can freely speak will especially value support.
4. Understand Client Goals
Knowing where your clients want to take their business, like revenue, profit, value creation, and risk avoidance is critical. Likewise, understanding clients’ lifestyle goals like working less, creating wealth, or exiting the business is a foundation of good client service.
5. Challenge Yourself… and Embrace Differences
Many accountants (and many people for that matter) prefer to work with those with a similar outlook, personality, experience, and values. History shows us, however, that many partnerships have thrived where the individuals are quite different but share a common goal. If we can get excited by working with people who teach us new things and who have very different perspectives, we are building the foundations of highly productive and rewarding relationships.
6. Resolving Challenges
Some client relationships will not go well all of the time. In particular, things can be challenging at the outset. Clarity on the scope of work, roles and responsibilities, communication methods, and fee arrangements can avoid awkwardness. After that, putting time and energy into understanding the client better, finding commonalities, and learning from the client can smooth out challenging relationships.
7. Make your Clients Curious
You don’t need to tell clients everything. Some mystery is acceptable! You can also provide contrarian perspectives to challenge clients and provoke their thinking. In this way, you gain their respect and make them want to work with you.
8. Change Up the Environment
Don’t let client relationships stagnate. Change things up, whether it’s the communication style, meeting in a new location, including a new colleague in a meeting, or introducing a partner to stimulate relationships. Likewise ‘corporate entertainment’ enables you to interact with clients in a fun, unique way and strengthens relationships over time.
9. Invest in Soft Skills
Technical accounting skills are important but acquiring interpersonal, sales, and communication skills and then building habits around the skills will make a big difference.
To help you get more proficient in this area, the Panalitix LearningHub is full of interesting and powerful courses, and our offering on Building Brilliant Client Relationships is getting a lot of traction.
There are nine modules which can be taken in your own time comprising videos, exercises, quizzes, and a workbook. You can study these individually, in pairs, or groups and then enjoy building relationships for better client satisfaction, retention, upselling, and referrals!
Please get in touch to find out more.