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Two Skills You Need to Speak Your Client’s Language

Published by Tom Wadelton on Nov 30, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Have you ever heard the phrase “speak your client’s language”? You might think this just means avoiding jargon or speaking in a way that is a bit easier to understand. But actually, the phrase means much more.

In a recent webinar, I sat down with Geni Whitehouse, CPA, CITP, CSPM, Countess of Communication, to discuss a couple skills accountants should practice to speak their client’s language. First, you have to learn to identify the specific way in which your clients like to communicate. Each of your clients will have a specific “communication personality” and figuring out which one each of your clients have will set you up for greater success in your career. We have a bit of a cheat way that you can discover which personality each of your clients have which we will explain later on.

The second tactic you need to master is turning financial metrics into non-financial ones. Why? Because it creates a clearer image of what you’re reporting in your client’s mind. Do they need to generate $1 million in revenue? Most people won’t know what that means for sales, business development, or marketing. However, if you say that your client needs to sell 15 tractors to reach their revenue goal that suddenly makes the metric you are trying to explain much clearer.

Let’s dive into identifying communication personalities and converting financial metrics into non-financial ones.

Discover the best way to communicate with your client.amy-hirschi-K0c8ko3e6AA-unsplash (1) 

Finding the best way to communicate with a client starts with identifying their communication personality. But how do you do this? One way is by using the DISC assessment methodology. DISC is a personality assessment tool that is used to understand people’s work behaviors and styes. DISC stands for the four personality results a person may receive including dominance (D), influence (i), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness (C).

The DISC assessment can help you connect with your client and understand how they best communicate. Your clients don’t have to take the assessment, but you can use the knowledge you’ve gained during interactions with your client to understand which personality they likely have. The personality traits are often easy to see in your clients.

It’s a good idea to do some research into the four personality types so you can begin identifying the communication style of your clients, but below is a brief summary of each personality.

D = Dominance

Those with the Dominance personality type tend to be extroverts. They want high level info and prefer to get straight to the point during meetings. If you’ve heard the phrase “be bright, be brief and be gone”, it perfectly matches this personality type. It’s a good idea to have detailed information at the ready, but most clients with the dominance personality will appreciate a quick summary to start a meeting. 

I = Influence

Those with the Influence personality also tend to be extroverts. They are a bit different than their Dominance counterparts, though. They like to communicate in stories and make connections with the people they are talking to. They embrace pleasantries and like to take meetings slow. They prefer detailed information but would like the information presented in a story or other impactful way.

S = Steadiness

Clients who operate in the steadiness personality are just what they sound like—individuals who thrive on calm and steady environments. They like patterns and dislike irregularity. Creating a pattern in how you conduct meetings and providing an agenda to these clients will help you communicate in an effective manner.

C = Conscientiousness

A person with the conscientiousness personality likes all the details and information you can provide. While they are introverts, they will likely collect all the information you have for them and ask questions to dig deeper into what you’re telling them.

Depending on the personality type of your client, you’ll have to change your communication approach. It’s best to lead by asking yourself how your client would like to be communicated with. That will always bring you towards success. 

Use non-financial metrics to create a clear image in your client’s head.

Often, clients don’t know what to do with a financial statement or tax return. The information might seem like a foreign language or they might not know how to turn the given information into strategies for the future. That’s where you, as an advisor, come in.

The last thing you want is for your client to realize that a decision they made greatly impacted their taxes and they had no idea. By acting as their advisor, you can help your client understand their financials and use this understanding to create strategies to reach business goals. 

The building block of helping your client understand their financials and plan for the future is converting financial metrics into non-financial ones. Convert revenue into products or services sold. Help them understand the number of leads in their pipeline they will need to have to close a certain number of deals. Help them research the marketing investments they will need to make to reach a certain number of leads. While these are just a few examples of non-financial metrics, there are so many ways you could communicate a client’s financials in a way that they understand. Taking this non-financial metric approach is how you can truly raise the value of your services and become the advisor that your clients need.

And remember, if you don’t have all the information you need to translate financial metrics into non-financial ones, you can meet with different members of your client’s team to collect the necessary information. Someone has that input. You just have to do some digging.

Speaking your client's language isn't too tricky, it just means stepping into an advisor role and asking yourself what your client needs to know to reach their business goals and how best to communicate that information. We talk about this among other topics, in our Virtual CFO Playbook: How to Land $60K/year Clients and Provide a Killer Client Experience.



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