How to answer clients' questions
July 20, 2015

Famed entrepreneur Arthur Sheldon once said, "He profits most who serves best." By that, Sheldon inevitably meant that any business, from an ice cream shop to the highest level accounting firm, can't be successful unless it's in service to its customers. Central to that level of service is how businesses approach questions. And in the field of accounting, it's not always queries about which form to sign or where to submit paperwork; instead, if people are to trust you with their finances, they'll need to know who exactly they're in business with.

Here are areas of interest you might expect from curious clients:

Your own insight
Perhaps it's best to start by understanding how a potential client approaches choosing an accountant. According to a survey from the Hinge Research Institute of both buyers and sellers, the following factors were of the most interest to buyers: 

  • Overall expertise (46 percent)
  • Cost and terms (30 percent)
  • Good reputation (13 percent)
  • Flexibility and responsiveness (7 percent)

Background and education
When choosing you as their an accountant, individuals and businesses are, in many ways, entrusting you with their livelihood and future. They want to know just how qualified you actually are, and it's your job to make them feel as comfortable as possible. Go beyond just mentioning where you went to school, and expand with some details from your academic career. Additionally, share any special licenses or industry awards you've received, which further bolsters your profile. The same applies to any internships or special programs, like a semester abroad studying in Europe. And if you've maintained your education, possibly through post-collegiate classes, these further demonstrate a commitment to your chosen industry.

Guidance and leadership
Accountants are seen as guides in the financial world, and they're here to help beyond the day-to-day minutiae. Clients might want to know, for example, how you can improve their overall earning potential. Or, how they can reallocate wasted resources. It's your job to be an invaluable resource in these fields—someone who is as invested in the company's long-term goals as the client is. Of course, if this kind of sagely wisdom isn't your firm's main focus, share that as well. People need to know whether to rely on you and your firm as either a financial mechanism or a greater collaborator. 

Finances and prices
Just because you're the financial expert doesn't mean a client knows the difference between an IRA or a 401(k). The aim is to try and approach any financial topics as directly as possible. Potential clients want to know just how much your services will cost them and how they will be billed. Speaking plainly helps people to feel at ease and understand the scope of their investment, both financially and with you as their partner. 

Time investment
Similar to finances, people want to ensure their business is a priority. It's difficult to give specific allocations of time, especially since complications with other accounts might arise. However, it's important to be direct regarding how much time each account receives, especially for those in the small business community. As an extension of that, you'll need to be direct in terms of your overall availability, detailing what times people will have access to you for various questions and concerns. They may not feel as if they're a central focus, but being above the board with your schedule can prevent any missed communications. 

Final notes
Other interests or questions clients might have include: 

  • Referrals: Have a few colleagues available who can back up your claims.
  • Technology: With cloud and digital accounting experiencing a boom, people want to know where your firm stands technologically. 
  • Who you really are: Beyond skills, people may want some level of personal connection, like shared interests/hobbies. 
Nexus: G-WEBCD3