President Perceptive Business Solutions Inc.
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Do Your Clients Know How to Refer Your Accounting Firm?

In the accountant’s fantasy, the business-owning client will deliver another business owner, walking them through your door. Unfortunately, that won’t happen.

Jan 2nd 2020
President Perceptive Business Solutions Inc.
Columnist
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“Just tell me what I can do to help.” Has a client ever said that? They sincerely want to help, but they don’t know how. Whatever you do, it’s vital they stay within their comfort zone. 

Let’s talk about that comfort zone for a minute. In the accountant’s fantasy, the business-owning client will deliver another business owner, walking them through your door. The new person will say: “I want you to be my new accountant. Here’s everything you need. I don’t care what it costs.”

That won’t happen. They won’t be your sales force. The most you should hope for is a person willing to take your call and talk with you.

Here’s another thing that shouldn’t happen. If you ran a business with a sales force, those men and women would likely be paid on commission. You are not compensating your client for sending business your way. That can go so wrong, especially if the friend asked: “What’s in it for you? Are you getting a finder’s fee?”

They also won’t deliver your value proposition, marketing statement or elevator speech on your behalf. The good news is, whatever they say will be sincere.

Strategy #1 – Find a Person with a Problem

You have good clients. Some came to you with a problem. You solved it or at least got them on the path to a resolution.  Remind your client how you helped them. Get them thinking about who they know that has the same problem.

Try to get your client thinking as follows: Problem – Solution – Action. You might verbally coach them how the conversation might happen:

Problem: “Tim, a year ago my widowed aunt was having a problem getting her finances in order and getting bills paid on time.”

Solution: “That’s when I met (accountant’s name). He met with her. They developed a rapport. Together they worked up a budget, her major bills became automatic debits and she is a lot more comfortable with her finances.”

Action: “It sounds like your brother-in-law is facing the same problem, now that his wife is in assisted living. I’d be glad to introduce you to my accountant, if you like. He helped my aunt. I think he could help your brother-in-law too.”

Strategy #2 – Who You Help:

As an accounting professional, you are many things to many people. Your clients probably know you in the narrow context of how you help them. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. This is the “Who do you know” strategy.

It might start when your brother-in-law asks “How’s business?” You relate a short, anonymous story about how you recently helped someone. Perhaps they were getting penalty notices from the IRS. They became a client and you intervened on their behalf. This should get them thinking “Do I know anyone like that?” They might even say: “I didn’t know you did that. I thought you only filed tax returns” 

You will need to do some prompting. Restate the scenario. “I’ve been doing that for years. It just never came up because you pay your taxes on time. Let me know if you know anyone who found themselves behind in their taxes and is getting penalty notices. I may be able to help them.”

Strategy #3 – The Introduction: 

Sometimes, the only thing you want is to get onto someone’s radar. You want to meet and shake their hand. There’s a recently relocated executive in the area. He could be a great client. Travels outside the country about half the year. It’s a startup, so the company isn’t providing end to end accounting services as a perk. Your client mentioned the guy joined the same country club. You also learn because he’s out here on his own, he sits at the bar and has dinner most nights.

You ask if your client would be willing to introduce you. You meet your client at the country club. He sees his new friend eating alone at the bar and invites him to join the two of you at your table. Everyone goes through “Where do you live?” and “What do you do?” You don’t push business, but are on their radar screen.

Strategy #4 – If You Feed Them, They Will Come:

There’s a great line in the film Crazy Rich Asians. “No one likes free stuff like the rich.” If your client has a friend who you could help, let them know you will spring for lunch or dinner as a way to meet them. Once they identify a problem, they are able to say: “My accountant has helped other people with that problem. She may be able to help you too. We are having dinner on Tuesday.   Why don’t you come along? She won’t mind if I bring a guest.” They have a problem. It needs a solution. You might be the provider. They get a free meal in the process.

These are strategies that should get your client thinking, yet keep them firmly within their comfort zone.

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