Do you consider yourself to be a confident person generally? What about in terms of your ability to attract and win over prospective clients? And to keep clients happy and willing to pay you the fees you deserve for the work you do?
Whilst many accountants I work with have a fair degree of confidence, there are also some I have mentored and coached for whom a lack of confidence was an issue. And it’s not something that ever changes over night.
I’ve noticed occasions when a lack of self confidence prevents accountants making decisions that are then continually deferred; it also makes them nervous about contacting certain clients and scared of quoting fully commercial fees. And, it can also hold them back from moving into a more advisory focused role too.
One of the great pleasures of my work is that with a degree of understanding and encouragement from me, I have seen these same accountants grow in confidence. After a short while they tell me how they are now able to quote fees they only dreamt about some months earlier and that clients are happy to pay them. They are proud to have refused to take on new clients who don’t want any advice; and they are excited by the future as they now know they can attract the sort of referrals and recommendations they always wanted.
There’s no magic involved(!) Building your confidence starts by accepting that you are better than you think when someone who knows you and knows enough other accountants (like me) tells you honestly that you’re at least as good as average – possibly better.
But you can also boost your confidence alone. Here’s a few tips I have encouraged accountants to adopt – and which, those who have worked with me, have told me worked for them:
- One popular technique is to get a character, toy or figurine to keep on your desk. Imagine them as your Positive Reinforcer (PR). When that negative voice in your head saps your confidence, imagine your PR guy/gal encouraging you onwards.
- Keep a note of every success. Each day, note down these Positive Reinforcements (PR) to remind you of when you make things go well, so that you can focus on these – and NOT on the times when things don’t go so well. Review your PR notes – especially before your next interaction with a client where your lack of confidence has previously weakened you.
- Celebrate your achievements so that you spend less time dwelling on the other occasions which didn’t go so well, but which contained valuable lessons. Note them down as Positive Reinforcement (PR) of lessons learned.
- Accept praise and compliments. You do deserve them. Do not dismiss them. The ‘imposter syndrome’ is very common in all walks of life. You do deserve the success you enjoy.
- If all else fails, fake it. Even if you don’t feel particularly confident, act as if you do. You may be pleasantly surprised at how positively this can affect people’s reactions to you. There’s also another good reason to practice faking confidence. I have also heard it said that the more you practice acting in a confident manner, the more it will increase your inner confidence. Just ensure you don’t come across as arrogant. And also be careful you don’t give definitive advice when you are not really confident it is 100% correct.
Confidence is self-perpetuating. Once you have it, you can use it to push yourself to succeed, which will build your confidence even further.
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My confidence in my own ability to help sole practitioners to become more successful has fluctuated over the years. I don;’t think I’ve ever been as confident as those who think they know me might expect would be the case. And I learned an important lesson soon after I started to operate independently in 2006.
When I first went freelance in 2006 I simply knew I wanted to focus on those elements of my career I had found most rewarding: Speaking writing and mentoring.
Many friends and colleagues boosted my ego by referencing my reputation, credibility and high profile in the profession. I was prepared to listen. I believed their compliments were genuine and there was also a part of me that wanted to believe it would be easy to succeed. It wasn’t. And it soon became clear that no one was beating a path to my door. My confidence plummeted.
Over the next few years I made mistakes and learned crucial lessons about promotion, pitching and pricing. All key skills that we each need to be successful whether running a conventional accountancy practice, an advisory focused practice or even as a mentor.
I have also plenty of successes and have became more confident about the value I deliver to sole practitioner accountants. This is one of the reasons why I offer a very low cost entry level facility to experience my style and advice. But equally I offer premium level 1-2-1 mentoring support and advice. Part of the value accountants get from me, where appropriate, is help, support and encouragement to become more self confident in their interactions with prospects and clients.
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