How to make clients listen to your advice

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Mark Lee highlights 10 techniques accountants can use to improve the likelihood that will follow their guidance.

AccountingWEB’s Any Answers section regularly features accountants seeking guidance after clients have ignored or questioned their advice.

What can you do to avoid such situations?

Let’s approach the situation from another direction and assume you have approached another professional, but don’t like the advice they have offered. What factors affect your reaction?

Register for free with and log in to find out more about the 10 key factors for accountants who want to influence clients:

  • Questions
  • Evidence
  • Focus
  • Listening
  • Reflection
  • Experience
  • Confidence
  • Previous encounters
  • Space and time
  • Specific

Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB and writes the BookMarkLee blog. If you like his articles, do check out his blog and ebooks for accountants who want to stand out and be more successful in practice, online and in life. He is also Chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax specialists.

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13th Aug 2013 11:14

How to make clients listen to your advice

As a former lawyer with many years' experience in private practice, I can assure you that lawyers have this problem too! So much so that it is many years since I first heard the joke about a one-armed accountant  - only then it was a one-armed lawyer!  

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13th Aug 2013 12:51

Personality and keeping in touch is important...

An interesting article, Mark. I think the way one comes across at the first meeting with the client is key as Mark states 'First impressions count'.

Also how large your 'block' of clients is - do you keep in touch with them or do you just send an impersonal newsletter round every so often? I would submit that the larger firms by their very nature cannot keep in touch with each and every client - there are too many clients to look after. This is why many clients go to smaller accountants and this should be those firms USP - the personal touch.

My number of clients is small enough me to me to still have the personal touch. If I've not heard from one of them for more than say 6 months I ring them on the pretext that I am making sure I have their current details and to remind them (in other words nag!) to let me have their accounts on time.

My clients know on pain of death not to do anything financial or contractual without talking to me first - and I mean pain of death!


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13th Aug 2013 14:09

Superb Article


Why are all of your the common mistakes so familiar to me....?

Thanks for a top-notch article, very thought provoking.



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14th Aug 2013 09:13

No jargon. Use layman terms

In my 20 over years of dealing with clients, the most effective way of getting their attention was to use 'their language'. Therefore, it will be good if we expose ourselves to their industry and their lingua. I never use jargon. Most of the clients cannot differentiate between Dr. and Cr.; Fixed and Current Assets; Depreciation and Capital Allowance etc. Bring ourselves to talk in a language that they can understand and comprehend.

Your suggestion that we, accountants, are (seemed to be) indecisive. This is because we try to give alternatives. Thus avoiding being bias. That is not effective. We must always propose our 'solution', i.e. help our client to decide. That is what they are paying us for!

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By lme
14th Aug 2013 14:40

Thank you

Very helpful article

I find telling the whole truth helps build trust - even if its unpleasant to do at the time I make myself tell my clients if I find I have missed something previously, however small.

I am also learning to trust my gut - e.g. if I have a feeling that someone could be trouble even if I don't think the feeling is really justified I will be turning them away in future or making sure I factor in the extra costs of the hassle that will inevitably come - I can always do a lower bill if the hassle doesn't materialise. 






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14th Aug 2013 15:23

I agree trust is very important

What I was aiming to do in the article was to go beyond 'building trust' to 'increasing influence' although I accept that the two are closely connected.


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