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The 10 Subtle Steps to Attracting Other People’s Clients

Jan 29th 2015
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People want what they can’t have. In personal relationships the initial passion often settles into a routine after courtship and partners feel unappreciated. Then along comes a new face that respects their current relationship while tactfully establishing themselves as the alternative. Whether it's love or accounting, it's all the same.

Seduction sells. Doesn’t your heart beat faster when you see luxury car ads on TV? As a CPA you don’t need to go over the top but you can get potential clients thinking about you as their next accounting professional.

Of course, it's not nice to poach—but we don't have to go there: Let's assume everyone with money or a business has an established relationship with an accountant. CPAs retire. They pass away. They sell or merge with another practice. They relocate to sunnier climates. Many clients are tight with their financial professionals yet maintain a “what if” strategy in the background. Your objective is to quietly establish yourself as the alternative. It’s done little by little over time.

Step One: Identify Your Targets. When hunting, work with a rifle, not a shotgun. Determine which people you would specifically like to have as clients. Put yourself in the same room and start becoming part of their circle.

Step Two: Establish Exclusivity. The wealthy want confidentiality and exclusivity. The near-wealthy want what the wealthy have. In conversations you are asked: “What do you do?” You specialize in a certain type of client. Coincidentally the description sounds like them.

Step Three: Discretion. The wealthy are private. They aren’t celebrities but they don’t want details of their personal life passed around. You socialize with some of the same people. They’ve never heard you gossip or discuss personal details. You won’t be starting now.

Step Four: Make Them Feel Important. Many people love to talk about themselves. The first rule of dating is: “The person talking is the one having a good time.” Listen. Ask questions. Be fascinated with their travel stories. It’s likely others have heard the stories before and tune them out. Not you.

Step Five: Establish a Rationale For the Relationship. It’s unlikely they are going to assume you want them to jump ship and abandon their current accountant. You see other ways you might be able to help that don’t impinge on their present relationship. They might serve on the board of a charity or a startup business. Their parents live independently and are advised by their son in financial matters. They have neighbors who might be divorcing. They are covered, but they might meet someone who needs some advice.

Step Six: Find Out What They Aren’t Getting (and Give it to Them). It’s likely they see themselves as “just another client” in their accountant’s practice. Everyone wants to be an important client. Position yourself as a professional who takes his business and clients seriously. Mention new tax law changes in simple terms and how they might affect some of your clients who are in a certain position. They will realize you are thinking about your clients. When you are late for drinks because you had a call from an anxious client, explain why addressing their need took priority over your personal life.

Step Seven: Establish Yourself As The Alternative. They really like you but are in a committed relationship with their accountant. Be respectful. You realize they already have a CPA. They’ve been together for a long time. They like their CPA. You respect that. "But if anything ever changes, please give me a call."

Step Eight: Be In Front of Them. The seed has been planted. Leave it alone. Say "hello" when you see them at social events. Remember details like the names of their children and where they have traveled on vacation.

Step Nine: Make It Easy. They aren’t going to leave their CPA unless their CPA retires or something equally dramatic occurs. However, they may come across a friend or neighbor who needs some advice. They bring up your name and ask if you can talk with them. They offer to make the introduction. You meet privately with the friend, provide advice and let them know the next steps and the costs involved if they work with you. They can implement the next steps on their own or become your client. You’ve done a spectacular job.

Step Ten: Show “Life As a Client.” By helping their friend you have provided a preview of the type of service and follow-up you provide. Your new client will thank their friend who referred you. Their problem was solved. You were priced fairly. They speak highly of you. One day, the trigger event happens. Their CPA retires or the practice gets sold. Their longstanding accountant is no longer in the picture or the relationship changes. They aren’t moving business away from their previous CPA, they are taking their business to you, the competent professional who tactfully stayed top of their mind.

Each step brought your target a little closer. You likely did business in Step Nine. You gained a new client in Step Ten. Over time you have been cultivating 30 or 40 people. The law of averages begins to work in your favor.

About the author:
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book "Captivating the Wealthy Investor" can be found on


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By Virginia Nicols
Jun 25th 2015 20:12 EDT

I read and enjoyed reading every step, and admire your slow and thoughtful approach to "becoming the alternate." The new business owner would have a tough time being that restrained, of course. I'll look forward to an article from you aimed at THAT person!

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By Bryce Sanders
Jun 25th 2015 20:12 EDT

Dear Virginia:
Thank you for your comments. Client acquisition in the HNW space is more about gradual cultivation and "seduction" vs. direct engagement. In life, love and business, people are often taken for granted in relationships. Establishing yourself as the alternative makes them feel desirable again.

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