Did you know that accounting professionals of all ages can learn a little something new every day? You don’t have to be an entry-level employee or young professional to develop and grow. CPAs of all skill levels should try and uncover a new best practice, technique or skill whenever possible. From stylish fashion advice to strengthen your professional image, to simple reminders of how to present yourself in the workplace and during time spent with clients, crafting a sharp and sophisticated image can be part of one’s professional development.
From a recent article in Accounting Today, research from a study conducted by Hinge Research Institute states that “for accounting and finance services, when asked about the best way to reach a buyer, 37 percent of buyers and 33 percent of sellers recommended developing a personal relationship, 21 percent of buyers and 10 percent of sellers recommended education, and 11 percent of buyers and 19 percent of sellers recommended developing a reputation for producing results.” Personal relationships are obviously a very important part of business. As this research states, it’s the most important way to reach a buyer.
Being able to successfully create and maintain personal relationships with potential and current clients is not a skill that everyone possesses. Some are very introverted and shy, and networking and relationship building may not be a strong suit. There are many ways to work on these skills, so consider taking a public speaking class, joining a professional group, or attending a few networking events to become more at ease.
Consider that relationship building requires many of the soft skills employed to find success in business. These can include skills of negotiation, active listening, dealing with conflict, and problem solving. Unless you can do these things well, it’s hard to maintain a successful relationship with someone!
For more insight into client relationships, check out this helpful article by Jean Marie Caragher, Twelve Steps to Better Client Relationships. Caragher’s recommended steps one and two—“be prepared and be thoughtful”—can actually relate back to your appearance! Dress for your client or prospect. For example, if you know that your client or prospect is more traditional or conservative, plan your attire accordingly to show you respect their values and environment. There may also be situations where the client or prospect is more casual and their office environment more relaxed, so in this case, your attire should reflect that.
Research shows that clients are most comfortable when business professionals are dressed in a way that they see as appropriate to the meeting or situation, and in line with their own dress code. The most important thing is to put your client or prospect at ease and build their trust so you can manage a mutually beneficial relationship.
Presenting yourself appropriately is necessary in your efforts to build relationships with those whom you hope to do business. A little thought and preparation can help you “dress the part” and provide you with the confidence necessary to feel at ease in any environment.
Have a unique dress code situation you’ve experienced or a specific question to ask? Feel free to post your comments or questions on the Accounting Today Facebook page to get involved in my next blog!
Emily Burns Perryman is a State University of New York Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and started her career in New York City working for companies including Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni, Christian Dior and Jones Apparel Group. She is now e-Marketing Communications Specialist for Freed Maxick CPAs in Buffalo, N.Y., and was named the Association for Accounting Marketing's 2011 "Rookie of the Year." Follow her on Twitter @FreedMaxickCPAs or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.