How do you act when you’re around your small business clients?
Do they get to see the real you, or do you become a different person when faced with a client?
Many accountants still feel the need to adopt a ‘professional and detached’ demeanour with clients, even when they may have worked with this client for many years. And this reflex of putting on a ‘professional mask’ when meeting with, talking to and dealing with your clients still clings on tenaciously in many firms.
But, increasingly, what business owners actually want is a real, genuine relationship with their business adviser – one where the accountant they meet is the same as the person under the mask.
So, how do you learn to drop the mask and reveal the person underneath? And what are the benefits to your client relationships of doing this?
Drop the act – be real
For decades, it’s been commonplace for people working in professional services to adopt a certain kind of professional persona. But by putting on this ‘mask’ you’re actually hiding the real you from your clients.
Based on our own experiences of working with modern, forward-thinking accountants, it’s clear that you absolutely can be professional without also appearing distant and unemotional when talking to clients.
Modern business advice is all about building relationships and becoming a trusted adviser to your clients. It’s about getting to know clients as people and individuals, and tailoring your services to fit their own specific business and personal goals.
That’s an awful lot easier to achieve when your client knows the real you and gets to know your honest opinions on their company.
In short, it’s time to drop the act and let people know what really makes you tick.
Be open, share and build trust
You may be a people person, or you may be more of a numbers person. But there’s one key thing that will help you build a great working relationship with clients – to open up and make your conversations into a two-way street.
Tell clients what you’ve been up to and what’s going on in your life – and ask them about their lives too. If you can connect in more ways than just over the numbers then you’ll open up a window into their lives (and their business) that will inform the guidance and support you can offer.
It builds trust between you and it helps to increase the closeness of the relationship… and it’s a lot more fun than being the ‘stiff in the suit’ who no business owner looks forward to meeting!
Be knowledgeable, but real
You’re still the accounting and finance expert – that’s not in question. But you’re also now an accountant who has real personality for your clients.
It’s a great way to differentiate yourself and the wider firm, and it helps you to find and retain the clients who actually share your values, mindset and outlook on life (and those people will be a lot more fun to work with, believe us).
So, what’s driven this move to be more personable and ‘real’? In part, it’s down to the ways we communicate socially in the 21st century.
The lines between what’s ‘business’ and what’s ‘personal’ have become blurred, and this is especially true in social media. With multiple ways to interact with clients, peers, friends and colleagues, we’ve all learnt to share more about ourselves. Whether we’re posting a pic of our holiday on Facebook, or tweeting about a great business meeting, we show more of ourselves to the outside world.
And this openness and desire to share has allowed all of us to reveal more of the ‘real me’ to the world.
As Profitable Firm head honcho, Karen Reyburn, noted in her recent blog, there’s no clear dividing line anymore between ‘work you’ and ‘real you’ in the social media world. People buy from people – and social media allows you to connect and build genuine relationships with a huge audience of potential and existing business clients. The whole of the world is quite literally out there to connect with.
Throw that mask away
We understand that dropping the mask may be something you’re uncomfortable with as a concept, but it’s a mindset that could be costing you business in the long run.
If your prospects are looking for a real, genuine adviser to work with, they may well discount you if you persist with keeping that professional mask in place.
So, our advice would be to take that old, clunky professional mask and consign it to the dustbin. You don’t need it anymore.
- Be real – and let your clients know your true opinions.
- Be valuable – get to know them and become their trusted partner.
- Be you – be honest, open and let the real you shine through.
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