In order to be a successful accountant, there are a ton of hard and soft skills you are required to have. Obviously, these include exceptional organization and attention to detail, as well as a mastery of mathematics. But how important is communication in accounting?
When taking the next step into managing an accounting firm, more skills are necessary that may not be immediately apparent to the average accountant or auditor.
Among these soft skills, communication is one of the most important as it can make the difference between respectful client relationships and a string of misunderstandings.
That’s why it’s concerning when many professionals neglect communication in their accountant training and education.
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Types of communication in the accounting field
You might be wondering:
Why do accountants need communication skills in the first place?
When considering the typical skill sets of specialized accounting experts, the stereotype is often that they’re much better with numbers than they are with words.
And while this may be the case for some entry-level positions in a typical accounting firm, it is far from the case when observing upper management.
Accountants looking to enhance their upward mobility will want to ensure they can embody the following positive traits.
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Verbal communication in accounting
From the managerial perspective, considerable emphasis is placed on verbal communication in the accounting process.
After all, the typical workload for a firm, whether at one of the Big 4 or a smaller organization, will inevitably involve several people working toward a singular goal.
For this reason, communication is mandatory in order to ensure everyone works in tandem.
The simplest method of ensuring that your communication is effective with immediate and tangible feedback is through verbal means, such as a conference call or meeting. This is crucial for upholding good working relationships.
Nonverbal communication and accounting report writing
Aside from verbal communication, the modern accountant in a management position or above also needs to be competent in written communication.
An email or internal memo can fill everyone in on any changes to a large-scale project or audit. Employing good written communication can save time and energy that can then go toward serving the needs of clients.
Additionally, one of the most important methods of nonverbal communication in accounting is report writing. This method of informing both fellow team members and clients of the exact state of things is important in an industry where even minor miscommunications can lead to major mistakes.
Marketing and communications for accounting firms
Accounting firms need to be competent in one of the most important methods of communication for any business: marketing.
Ultimately, marketing and communication are one and the same.
But why do accountants need to be good communicators?
They’re often the first interaction a potential client has with your firm. Whether it’s at a networking event or casual gathering, if accountants can sum up your firm’s differentiator and client focus, they can further spread your marketing message for you.
Client communication in accounting
What is the ultimate purpose of communicating accounting information?
To give clients a clear understanding of their personal or business finances. Bookkeepers, accountants, CPAs and other tax professionals need to communicate well with clients so that clients understand their own situation.
After all, the primary goal of accountants as communicators is serving their clients.
Fortunately, many of the aforementioned methods of effective internal communication can be easily used as effective methods of communication with clients, as well.
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How to improve communication with clients
As previously mentioned, in addition to using marketing communication to attract potential customers, it’s also important for accountants to effectively communicate with clients.
This is true for both verbal and non-verbal communication. Here’s how to excel in accounting client communications.
1. Effective listening
Why is effective listening important to an internal auditor? It allows them to accurately take stock of a client or business’s financial state.
Actively listening is not only crucial for ensuring the project is done correctly. It also builds trust between the firm and the client.
Similarly, for managers, effective listening allows them to ascertain the exact needs of their team as it relates to client work, and come up with the best methods of meeting those needs.
Listening is powerful enough to help you overcome the most common communication hurdles.
Next time you’re facing a tough situation with a client or team member, embrace effective listening and see if a solution presents itself more clearly.
2. Accounting report writing
Although effective listening is an extremely important aspect of communication in the accounting field, the next step is just as important.
Accounting managers and firms wondering how to improve communication with customers can see the most significant improvements by observing proper written communication that summarizes a project’s details.
Clients need this information to make important decisions for their business. The better these reports are written and communicated, the better experience your client will have. And thus, the longer and more trusting your relationship will become.
3. Checking in
From time to time, it’s crucial to reach out to your client to ask specific questions.
Being able to easily and quickly derive information can depend on how well you communicate with clients.
Set up preferred communication channels from the beginning so you know whether a call, email, or text will get to them fastest without halting their workday.
Then, use communication etiquette to ensure you’re maintaining professionalism no matter how you reach clients.
Tools for improving communication
Hopefully, this article has helped you identify your strengths and weaknesses in communication as an accounting manager, startup owner, internal auditor, or CPA.
At this point, the next step is to determine how to prioritize your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses. Fortunately, there are many convenient tools for accountants made expressly to accomplish these tasks.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
By now we know that marketing is an important aspect of external communication for any business.
In the modern information age, the primary method that individuals learn new information is through search engines.
Therefore, improving your ability to appear in search engine results for relevant keywords and phrases will vastly improve your marketing reach and effectiveness.
Suggested SEO tools: Ahrefs, Clearscope, Yoast
Although commonly used for improving internal communication, well-made productivity software can be effective for client communication, as well.
Tools such as Hubstaff allow for accurate time tracking and well-organized invoicing, making it much easier to get paid on time.
Organization software also vastly improves communication and productivity as managers don’t need to check in and disrupt work time.
Finally, location tracking and budgeting tools can ensure that managers are always informed as to which clients their employees are working with at all times — giving them the freedom to better manage workloads and future projects.
Suggested productivity software: Hubstaff, Quickbooks, Trello
The bottom line
It matters to accountants or auditors who are looking to improve their relationships with their clients and companies.
It matters to managers of startups and accounting firms looking to bolster their business and profit margins.
And it matters to the clients themselves, who want to work with individuals and organizations that can listen to their concerns and come up with effective solutions.
The first step to improving communication is by identifying strengths and weaknesses.
After that, it’s just a matter of finding the right combination of tools, talent, and training.
Keeping these tips in mind should lead to impressive results for your career and your company’s performance.
About the author
Bryce Welker is a CPA, finance & accounting thought leader, and CEO of multiple companies including Crush The CPA Exam.