Centers of Influence: Beyond Friends & Family Referrals
Not all referrals are equally valuable. If referrals from existing clients are yielding fewer prospects – or prospects that don’t fit your practice – it may be time to move beyond the friends and family circle and enhance your referral network with professional centers of influence.
Referrals from CPAs and tax professionals are often more valuable than those from existing clients. Their clientele closely matches the target clients of most independent advisors: affluent and high-net-worth professionals, executives and business owners. More importantly, these clients are comfortable working with professionals and have shown they are willing to take advice and guidance. As an added bonus, your relationship with a CPA or tax professional can lead to introductions to their professional associations and peer networks.
Here are five ways to build relationships with CPAs and tax professionals to create an effective referral network.
Ask your existing clients to introduce you to their CPA and tax professional, or ask if you can reach out and mention their names. Use social media to do your homework. LinkedIn is a great way to network with professionals in your area. It’s a numbers game, so put yourself out there.
Before you set up a meeting or make any calls, make sure you can clearly and quickly articulate your value proposition. Here are some questions you need to be able to answer:
* What is your unique value proposition?
* What makes you stand out from your competition?
* How long have you been in business?
* What services do you offer?
* Who is your target market? Who is your ideal client?
* What do you do to ensure your clients are happy with you and your team?
* What is your standard procedure when taking on a new client?
* What do you look for in a strategic partner?
Make the First Move.
Once you have your list of firms and a sense of how you want to stand out in their eyes, reach out. It’s best to start with the firms your clients already work with. Send an email or letter asking for an introductory meeting at their office – you’ll get a better feel for their practice while making it easier for them to accept.
To convince these individuals you are the right person, you need to know what they value. Don’t make any assumptions. Come into the meeting with a series of questions designed to better understand their practice. Talk to them about their business goals and how you might enhance their practice and provide a way for them to retain their clients. If the topic of revenue sharing is raised, offer to prepare a revenue sharing overview. Remember, this is very early in the relationship, so don’t make any promises or guarantees.
Immediately after the meeting, send out a thank you email and a postal note a few days later. In both your email and note, outline a few ways the two of you can start sharing referrals immediately. If it’s a good fit, start the process by recommending one person you would like to introduce to your new partner. Making the first move by offering them a specific introduction shows you are serious about the relationship.
Check in regularly. Make them part of your marketing process. If you send market update emails or newsletters to your clients, put the CPAs you work with on your mailing list and treat them like one of your top clients. When you do get a referral, make sure you follow up with the tax professional on how the meeting went. Remember, not everyone will refer a client to you. It’s a numbers game, so stay positive. Contact Iron Point for a no-obligation 30-minute coaching call on how acquisitions can help you reach your practice growth goals faster.