Best Practices for One-on-One Communication

4 winning habits of top accountants.

Component parts of how the other person perceives your in-person communication
Component parts of how the other person perceives your in-person communication

By Martin Bissett

I’ve had the benefit of meeting, speaking and observing hundreds of very successful and unsuccessful partners over the last two decades and there is indeed a set of differentiating factors that set a partner apart from the chasing pack.

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Here are the four “best-selling behaviors” that I’ve observed:

1. Road tested

None of us can have a track record of partner level excellence on day one in the position but we can be road tested in four ways:

  1. in handling client affairs with integrity,
  2. in the proactive identification of commercial opportunities for a client,
  3. in the effective and successful handling of client crises and
  4. in a broad range of experience across multiple sectors. 

Clients can hear, feel and detect knowledge, confidence and experience. The more real-life understanding we have that demonstrates this, the more we can communicate with the client on their level.

2. Emotional investment


  • not all partners care about their clients.
  • Not all partners are motivated by a keen sense of wanting to support and assist their clients.
  • Not all partners can relate to, empathize with and think as their clients do.

If you can, you’ll stand out. That is easy to explain but difficult to consistently implement.

3. Sense of self-worth

Clients doubt the accountant who talks about incredible service on the website but discounts their bill on the first challenge from them.

  • That doesn’t speak of self-worth,
  • it doesn’t stick up for the work of the team that reports to the partner and
  • it sets a dangerous precedent with the client going forward.

It’s a sign of an insufficient understanding of one’s own value to the client’s business. To be assured is not to be arrogant or cocky but simply "proven." Clients will always pay a premium for "proven."

4. Joint accountabilities

People rarely blame themselves in a conflict and often blames another party; it’s just human nature. Through a lack of effective communication and the sense of self-worth described above, I’ve noticed that many elements of work carried out for a client are often left to chance.

For example, the accounting firm is often blamed when a client incurs a penalty because the client is guilty of not providing true, accurate and on-time information to the accountant. This has happened because the client did not fully understand the dangers of doing so. They are immersed in the affairs of their business. Often, they do not have a comprehension of the various financial reporting requirements on them. Often, they are not educated by their accountant either and it’s at times like this that "assumed knowledge" takes over on both sides.

The accountant has assumed the client would do what was required of them and the client has assumed you’d wave your magic wand and make it all right if they didn’t. Blame only travels in one direction in such circumstances and the onus, sadly, is on the accountant – who is the "expert" here, remember – to correctly educate and prompt the client to do their part WITHOUT taking the blame when they do not.

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