How to Alter Your Communication Style to Match Client Types

by Rachel Anevski, MAOB, PHR, SHRM-CP, Matters of Management, LLC | December 29, 2022

It is said that accounting firms have commoditized their services. Every firm can do “similar” compliance-type reports — tax returns and bank-required audits, reviews and compilations. But the difference, the unique competitive advantage, is YOU. You are selling yourself — and for you to be granted the ability to provide that commodity or service package to this new prospect depends entirely upon your ability to read and connect with them. And communication is the key to doing just that.

Do you know your style? There are many types of communication tools like Myers-Briggs, Strengths Finder, ELI or DISC, which stands for Dominant, Intuitive, Steady and Conscientious. DISC is one of the leading programs to teach us about our styles of communication and how to recognize the styles of others. When you can recognize how others interpret communication, you can monitor your own behaviors, flex your tones, deliver your words more appropriately and come to decision-making with a better understanding.

Here is an abridged version of how to use DISC with your clients:

  • Dominant type.“I before why?” This type is all about how something suits the individual. Dominants are driven by ego. They talk and walk fast and look good doing it. They are big-idea and bottom-line driven. They need to hear answers fast and delivered with confidence. They do not appreciate small talk; they prefer to get down to business. They are loud and proud, to the point, and can be abrupt and direct. They are leader oriented and typically in the roles of CEO or operations. You would recognize this type by how their office looks; a dominant prefers an “ego wall” (filled with accolades, accomplishments and “selfies”). Their biggest fear is being taken advantage of. The best way to sell to this type is to let them explain what they want first. Next, ask them to talk about how they envision the solution. Finally, quickly provide them with what they ask for and congratulate them on the win.
  • The Intuitive or team leader. “We before me.” This type wants to know how your solution can help the more significant “us.” They might take a while to stop talking before they are interested in what you are pushing. They generally enjoy getting to know you, and they like to talk about their team a lot. Often dubbed the “chatty Cathy” in the office, you will know them right away by their pictures of family and the way they show their love for people. Their biggest fear is not being heard or included.When you are ready to present to this type, be sure to become part of their team. Aim to be seen as collaborative, not unilateral. Provide them with details on how your solution makes the whole group more efficient. And don’t forget to get to know them first. The biggest sales tip when working with this type is to connect personally with them first. They rarely do business with someone they wouldn’t go to dinner with or bring home to their family.
  • The Steady Ready Eddies. These quiet and intelligent types are hard to read. They are most afraid of the loss of security. They want to hear words like guarantee, warranty, timeline, assurance and commitment. They do not like change at all but will change with consistent, constant reliability. They are your true supporter on a team and are notably dependable. You can identify them prominently by their clothes — mainly the firm logo — and their repetitive, systematic approach to completing tasks. Accountants are saturated with steadies; it’s a great profession to align with. It’s important to share the details of your proposal step by step, and then give them time to review and think about your proposition. If they haven’t responded to you, don’t take it personally. They aren’t ignoring you; they are thinking.Give the steady time to ask questions and respond, so schedule a follow-up meeting before leaving the initial discussion. Once they agree to your services, you can bet you’ve got a client for life.
  • The Conscientious. Just the facts, Jack! Unless you come with charts, references, guides, etc., you don’t stand a chance of winning this type over. They may not even give you a chance unless they’ve been referred to you by an old friend or a family member. This consummate introvert has difficulty balancing the heart and the brain; therefore, decision-making is tricky since they never want to be wrong. Often dubbed the perfectionist, they are slow to complete tasks, especially if it’s new, because they want to be sure it’s accurate. Fear of being wrong has this type gripped. This buyer, if engaged, already knows about you, your product and your company, so prepare for a quiet meeting of the minds. To be most effective with them, be respectful of their attention to detail and facts. Don’t share your emotions; stick to research and proof, and make sure you have back up. Signing a deal with this type may take several rounds, but if you can earn their trust, they will make you feel like the smartest salesperson alive.

In a perfect world, the you you’re selling is your authentic self. But to be great at selling your services, you have to be better than just yourself — you have to change your behavior and adjust to the needs of your prospect. Half the battle is being heard. 

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