What do clients want?

It is more than likely that every accountant has asked himself or herself this every time they fail to sign a prospect or lose a client. What is it that the client is looking for, and what else can I do to attract or retain business?

On the surface it may seem that all a client wants is a good product delivered at a fair rate. Of course, this is generally true, but it is only part of the picture. Whether it is apparent or not, people weigh up a number of factors when deciding whether or not to engage or leave an accountant.

Since different clients have different requirements, it is not possible to say that one factor is more important than another. The point is to be aware that with each client or prospect any number of these factors could be influencing his or her decision and try to respond accordingly. To get an idea of why your clients have chosen your firm, just ask. This can be done on an informal or formal basis and may help you define key characteristics (or not) that attract clients to your firm.


Hard as it may be from your side, clients expect you to be available when they need you. Mostly this means returning calls promptly, but it also means giving the client quality attention from time to time. Remember, most of your work for clients is invisible to them and so has very little impact on their evaluation of you. This makes the time you spend in direct communication with them all the more important.

Industry background

Most business owners are absorbed in their field and tend to assume it is much more complex and difficult to understand that it really is. Moreover, because of the most part they do not understand accountancy they often overestimate the importance of the accountant’s being familar with the industry.

Whether or not this is a significant factor from your side, the important thing is that it is often perceived to be so from the client’s side. If you want to win major clients, therefore, you must demonstrate at least a basic familiarity with their sector.

Future orientation

One of the main reasons accountants seem to be living in a different world from their clients is that while the client is concerned with what is happening now and what will happen in the future, his or her accountant is busy producing reports on what happened in the past. Most clients would prefer their accountant to help them understand what dangers and opportunities lie ahead and advise them on possible courses of action for the future.


It is surprising what a difference an address can make. I know one firm located just inside a small town that is adjacent to a large city. He tells me that he has virtually all the business in that town because local business people would rather work with someone from the area than with a large city firm. Conversely, another firm that recently moved its office from an expensive inner city location to a less expensive site in a nearby town still retains the city name on their letterhead so as to continue to attract more affluent clients.

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