Not everyone thinks financial statements, spreadsheets, and numbers are exciting. I know, weird, right?
Most of your clients are business owners with talents in other areas. They are not accountants; that’s why they hired you!! Giving a non-accountant a spreadsheet filled with numbers and raw data is a recipe for disaster.
To effectively communicate to your clients you must provide more than just raw data to your clients. It would be best if you gave the story behind the data. There is a delicate balance between
“Data, data, data. I hear that word used all the time. But data alone, if not understood, can’t improve your client’s results, help clients make better business decisions or differentiate your firm. What truly helps you and your client is what you do with that data that matters. “
-Justin Hatch, CEO of Reach Reporting
Let’s look at the following tips for the best way to communicate financial data to your non-financial clients. That way you never have to wonder “Are my clients confused?”
Become a Financial Story Teller
Stories are the most common way to teach. Harvard Business says, “Your goal is to influence your target audience (change attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and behavior). Information alone rarely changes these. Research confirms that well-designed stories are the most effective vehicle for exerting influence. When clients understand their financials you can help your clients trim their financial sails.
Transform that data into the company’s story by creating financial reports that do more than regurgitating numbers. Financial analysis is vital to compete in todays world and if you can’t understand your data how can you analyze it.
Keep the Financials Simple & Straightforward.
The most effective way to KISS your clients is to be direct and ask questions.
If you don’t know your client then you can’t tell them the right financial story that causes them to make better business decisions. What we are finding is that accountants are losing clients to financial storytellers.
Be Direct. Say it. Don’t drone on about things. Your clients are busy, and you have a life. They don’t know what they are looking for, so shine a light on it.
Always ask questions. The prospect of questions can be scary because you might get a question you are unprepared to answer. The upside is you will get to know your clients and your craft better. Another advantage is that they will feel that you care and are listening. Your word-of-mouth advertising will increase because you have turned your client into an advocate of your firm.
Know your Audience.
Each person receiving the report may have different needs and experiences. Don’t assume your clients understand their financials. Are you preparing statements for the CEO who has a financial background and knows what they want? Or is this for the sales manager who doesn’t?
By not making a cookie-cutter report for everyone, take the time to know what they want to understand and how much financial knowledge they already have. What are their goals? What information do they need to reach that goal? Answering these questions will better help you communicate with your clients, improving cash flow with actionable reports.
When you take the time to understand what motivates your clients, you will know better how to present the information to them. Explaining the WHY of the numbers is a sure-fire way to bridge the financial knowledge gap between you and your clients. You will be able to absorb data complexity and provide insight that makes a difference.
Know Your Financial Stuff.
Your job doesn’t end once you send over a financial report. Prepare yourself to answer the follow-up questions that will inevitably arrive. This simple step allows you to have the knowledge on how to have happy clients.
Let’s back up for a quick moment. A vital part of the accountant/financial advisor job is ensuring your clients know you want to answer their questions. They are not alone in the deep water of their financials without a life jacket. You cannot only answer questions but also want to answer their questions.
Also learn how to understand their questions by truly understanding what they actually mean. Never assume you understand if you don’t say “I don’t understand” more often in your follow-ups.
Being prepared and able to answer your clients’ questions will instill confidence in your knowledge and reports. In turn, building trust in the relationship. Think of the reports you create as the beginning of the conversation, not the end.
No, you do not need to be on call 24/7/365 for your clients. While you must be available to answer your clients’ questions (see section above), you do not need to be at their beck and call. That is not the kind of accessibility we are talking about here. But by being available you can turn from an accountant to a powerful financial advisors.
The accessibility we speak of is access to the information. If your client can access the reports when convenient for them, not when they have customers waiting or fires to put out in production. This practice can reduce their stress and give them time to absorb and read the statements.
Unless specifically requested, most reports in this digital world should be easily accessible by phone or computer. Within the easily accessible reports, there needs to be the data and the story behind the numbers. By doing this, you don’t have to be accessible 24/7/365. They will have what they need right at their fingertips.
Know Your Role
A clear picture of what your clients expect of you will play a massive role in how and what you present to them to help your clients see their financial data.
Were you hired to prepare and file taxes? Are you an accountant who keeps the books and prepares financial reports quarterly? Is your role in analyzing data and numbers to help predict the future?
Each scenario will dramatically change how and what you present to your clients. Don’t assume you know your role and what is expected of you.
The ultimate goal should always be to help your clients understand their financials. Your data may be spot on, well organized, and thought out, but nothing else matters if your client doesn’t understand it.
Make sure this is your ultimate goal with your clients.
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