Are you speaking the same language as your small business clients?


“Strike a light, guv’nor! I ran down the old apples and pears this mornin’ and there was a letter from the bank. I ‘ad a butcher’s at it and it was telling me I’m skint. I’ve been stitched up like a kipper! Could you lend us a pony, geez?”

Confusing, isn’t it, when someone talks in a language that’s English but which seems to contain no words you actually understand. If you were left a little baffled by this intro – and if you weren’t then congratulations, geezer, you know some Cockney rhyming slang – then you’ll know how unsettling it can feel to read, or hear, the words but have no idea what they mean.

If you talk in detailed, impenetrable, technical language and jargon to your business clients, that’s exactly how they’ll feel.

Lost. A little confused. And definitely not feeling like you’re helping them.

Keep it simple, keep it real

Business owners know about making money, and how to run a successful business. What they don’t know (as a general rule) is the technical language of accounting.

When clients hear terms like ‘accrual basis accounting’ or ‘negative shareholder equity’ they’re more than likely to look at you blankly. They’ll recognise all those words in isolation. But the accounting terminology will MEAN very little to them, their business or their understanding of how you’re going to resolve their current financial issues.

Even your more ‘financially educated’ clients, who are comfortable with financial terminology, will still be extremely busy people who want to get to the point as quickly as possible. And most of all, understand what the point is. The client is thinking, “Okay…but what are you really saying? What do I need to do!?”

It’s important for a modern accountant to be real and genuine with their clients. It’s about dropping the mask of professional detachment and being real in everything you do.

One of the many factors that a potential client will judge you on is the language you use.

  • Do you seem friendly and approachable?
  • Do you sound knowledgeable?
  • Can they quickly grasp what you’re explaining to them?
  • Are you helping them UNDERSTAND more about their financial issues?

Don’t forget, when you meet a prospect they’re sizing you up and trying to imagine working with you. They’re considering putting their ‘business baby’ in your care, so they’ve got to trust you and feel like you’re the right person for the job – and that’s a whole lot easier when you speak their language.

When your clients quickly grasp the concepts and ideas you’re suggesting to them, you very quickly ramp up your position as a trusted adviser – something you can read more about in the excellent ‘The Visible Expert’ study from Hinge Research Institute, which is free to download from our Customer Hub here.

Use language that HELPS your client

An accountant that talks like an accounting robot – all abbreviations, acronyms and financial jargon – is definitely not going to come across as open and authentic to potential clients.

It’s important to ditch the jargon and ramp up the human, emotional side of your conversations:

  • Talk in real, human, plain English to your clients.
  • Remove the language barrier and have more productive conversations.
  • Use stories and analogies to bring these business chats to life.
  • Put cold technical issues into real-world contexts and see the client’s eyes light up.

And if you’re still wondering what that intro was all about, here’s the translation for you:

“Goodness me! I ran down the stairs this morning and found a letter from the bank waiting for me. I read the letter and it told me I had no money in my account! There must have been a mistake. Could I borrow £25 from you?”

I think you’ll agree that this version is a LOT easier to understand…unless you’re Danny Dyer.