Effective communication is crucial as an accountant, as important as understanding numbers, in my opinion. Many people find numbers daunting and they need you to put them at ease by explaining and communicating clearly.
Hi, I’m Anna Goodwin, your friendly finance mentor. With over 30 years of experience, I know how important it is to communicate well.
One of the main reasons I wrote Accountants don’t bite was because I was surprised at how much people didn’t like or understand Accountants. I think the main reason for this is because of communication. And yet effective communication is at the heart of an accountant’s relationship with their clients.
Remember communication includes emails, texts, phone calls, video calls and face to face. A rushed text or email in response to a client – and we have all done that at some point when a matter is urgent – can sometimes lead to confusion which takes even longer to clear up. When I email clients and colleagues, I always try to explain things clearly, but even then, sometimes they completely misunderstand.
Why it’s important to communicate
- Easier to work together
- Builds trust
- Clients appreciate it
- It is more satisfying for you when someone has that ‘aha’ moment because of something you have explained
- More productive
Let’s face it, many people have a block with numbers and find them difficult to understand, or had bad experiences in school and so have the mindset that ‘I don’t do numbers’. It is your job as their accountant to help them realise that this is not the case. Everyone can ‘do numbers’, they just need a bit of support sometimes. As for business owners, it is crucial for them to understand their numbers for their business to succeed. This is something else I feel strongly about and why I wrote Your Business, Your Numbers.
I have recently been mentoring someone who felt he was unsupported by his previous accountant and his existing accountant didn’t understand him. I worked in an intermediary capacity between him and his previous accountant so I could explain what the accountant meant to the client. He found this very useful. But really, should you need an ‘interpreter’ to understand what your accountant is saying?
How can you improve your communication?
With all the benefits that arise from being a better communicator, it is obvious that this is a skill that you need to nurture as an accountant. But how do you improve your communication skills?
- Think about what you’re trying to communicate; what do you want the person to understand?
- Can you express it more simply?
- What is the best way to relay the information? It may be a telephone call or video chat which gives the client an opportunity to ask questions is the best way to explain complicated information, rather than in an email.
- Practice before your session with your client.
- Be clear and concise in your message. Are you making assumptions of what they know?
- Be kind; don’t have a superior attitude. You may think that the information you are giving is obvious, but it may not be to your client. We all have different skills and talents!
- Keep emails brief and use bullet points. Read through what you have written before you send it and try to see it from the client’s perspective.
- If you’re not in the correct frame of mind, don’t reply. Do it later when you’re calmer!
Use these tips and watch your communication improve. People will react to you in a better way and they will appreciate the effort.
Next time we will be focusing on setting financial plans for 2022.
Anna Goodwin @2021 All Rights Reserved.