“Accountants are great potential referral sources but are particularly weary creatures.” (John Jantsch)
Most professionals are weary. This is precisely the reason why you need to approach them the right way, if you want to build a productive referral relationship with them.
And who among us doesn’t want more referrals.
A long time ago, when I was practicing as a CPA, someone from my past called me on the phone. Turns out, this someone was selling insurance.
She almost immediately went into a diatribe about how I could help her by referring clients to her.
Without knowing anything about sales, marketing or referrals, I quickly interrupted her and told her that her approach was not going to work with me, or with anyone else for that matter.
Pretty simple, yet commonly misunderstood. She was all about her, yet was asking me to help. Even though we had a past, and actually a “friendship”, her approach failed to deliver what she wanted.
Maybe John Jantsch is correct. We accountants are “weary creatures”. But a better way to have approached me would have been to start the conversation by telling me that she had some clients she thought that I could help.
Now, to have made this work, her clients would legitimately be able to gain from my assistance. But that aside, the point is, when you are building relationships with other professionals, with the intention of fostering referral partnerships, don’t start with you, start with them.
The point is this, you as an accountant are weary, but so are a bunch of other professionals. Whether it be your peers in accounting or lawyers, doctors, dentists or financial advisors, when you approach to build relationships, start with them, not you.
My general opinion is this, professionals have a lot at stake. When they refer you, just like when you refer them, they need to know that you are going to make them look good by helping their clients. Trust is a big factor. So is credibility and integrity.
So, you can’t just call them up, give them a line, and think you are in. You have to build relationships based on give and take, trust, integrity, competence and more.
Three Tips to Help You Build Better Referral Relationships
- First things first. When you reach out to a professional, start first by indicating to them that YOU have some clients that need THEIR help. Be sincere and authentic. Make sure you actually know people that need the help of the other professional.
- Over time, give them information that makes their lives easier. You may even start creating content that helps other professionals or influencers. In fact, your blog is a great starting point to doing this. Sure, you want to write for your clients, but you should also be writing for influencers.
- Make sure, when you are identifying other professionals, before you engage, that you determine that the audience they serve is congruent with the type of clients you want to attract. Also, make sure that you have clients that they too can help. Goes back to number 1 in the list.
I realize this isn’t rocket science. But I am certain that you are probably not getting the most out of the relationships you have with other professionals. Naturally, this could also be attributed to the fact that you don’t actively look to establish these types of connections. That is a tremendous mistake, and a topic for another article.
Suffice it to say here that you need to do this for the health of your CPA practice and marketing plan. And then you need to do it correctly.
Here is a list of a few resources that will help you think smarter about your website as a marketing and sales tool.
Inbound Marketing is a great starting point to learning how to attract the right people to your firm. When reading this guide, add influencers as your target audience, and then follow the guidlines from there.