CPA's and Referrals

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etj4588's picture
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My partners and I have a number of relationships with CPA's and tax people.  Some of these relationships are long standing and some are actually personal.  We get along great with these folks.
One of our CPAs stopped by this morning, as he was in the building, just to say hi.  We chatted with him a bit about the current tax season, how it was going, yada yada yada.
 
We have only received a few referrals from him throughout the years (we've known and worked with him for about 10 years now).  Today, I asked him about referrals. 
 
He said, "I haven't had one client this tax season ask me for a referral to a financial advisor."  I said, "Why not?"
 
He says, "they're all spooked about the market".
 
I say, "Well, do they have a recovery strategy in place?  What are they actively doing to correct the situation?  Do they need a second opinion on their portfolios?  Hiding under the covers doesn't improve their situation."
 
He stares back at me blankly.  It's clear that they are not proactively asking the right questions to their clients... even after we've trained them to do it in a non-salesy and comfortable way.
 
I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what motivates these guys.  It's not money - tried that.  We've done a great job for every referral we've ever had from these tax people, so its not that they are afraid we will ruin their relationship with their clients.  They just seem extremely reluctant to provide a referral or introduction...  and I can't figure out why.
 
Any thoughts?  What works for you guys with CPA's?

stokwiz's picture
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Joined: 2004-12-04

I use a sheet that summarizes a list of life changes that I can help with:
Retiring soon or recently retired, recent inheritance, sale of a significant asset, new births, etc.
 
I email or fax at the beginning of tax season as a reminder of how I can add value to their practice.
 
Many CPA's are leery of liability for the referral so I show them a letter that is given to the client stating my recommendations are not those of the CPA, etc.
 
Stok

C_FA's picture
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Joined: 2008-12-07

I use the same thing, we have a very simple placemat-like sheet that works well for communicating what we can do. 
 
I have also found, they may refer you a smaller client first.  It has happened to me.  Give them the full package you would to someone with $250M or more.  Get them comfortable with how you do business.  Involve them a little bit, if that is their desire. 
 
I think the CPA who said "everyone is spooked" is blowing smoke up your butt.  Bull.   But, I am not sure of how easy it is to call BS on them.  Besides, a lot of them try to do the same thing now--hold business retirement plans, personal assets, etc.  If I come across prospects where the CPA does their IRAs or business retirement plan, I usually just let them go.  There are exceptions, for ex. some clients of mine, their CPA has the business ret. plan, because their old FA didn't ask them about it.  What I do is, ask for copies of statements, and then provide suggestions to them on how to improve it.  Gently.  But, I tell them, ask "CPA" if this is available, or this.  Probability is, the CPA won't have the time to become an expert on those things as you have. 
 
I have found a couple that don't do that; had lunch with a few, will probably send them something this week or next-sandwiches, something for the office that will help them out and hopefully keep me fresh in their mind.   
 
 

troll's picture
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Joined: 2004-11-29

etj4588 wrote:
Any thoughts?  What works for you guys with CPA's?
 
I grow weary of ANY CPA that has time to stop by your office to chat 1 week before taxes are due.

etj4588's picture
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Ominous wrote:etj4588 wrote:
Any thoughts?  What works for you guys with CPA's?
 
I grow weary of ANY CPA that has time to stop by your office to chat 1 week before taxes are due.He was 10 minutes early for an appointment with a client that has an office in our building.

etj4588's picture
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C_FA wrote:a lot of them try to do the same thing now--hold business retirement plans, personal assets, etc.  If I come across prospects where the CPA does their IRAs or business retirement plan,This guy does not do any of that stuff... know it for a fact.

anonymous's picture
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Joined: 2005-09-29

"I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what motivates these guys.  It's not money - tried that."
 
It is money.    He is referring business.  He is referring it to clients who are financial advisors.  He is referring it to people who refer business to him.   He is referring it to his financial advisor.  He is referring it to his boss's kid.  Where do you fit on this totem pool? 

etj4588's picture
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anonymous wrote:"I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what motivates these guys.  It's not money - tried that."
 
It is money.    He is referring business.  He is referring it to clients who are financial advisors.  He is referring it to people who refer business to him.   He is referring it to his financial advisor.  He is referring it to his boss's kid.  Where do you fit on this totem pool? 

We do refer business to him.  His boss does not have a kid in the business.  He is simply not referring clients and I can't understand why.  He is waiting for people to explicitly ask if he knows a financial advisor that can help with their investments... only no one this season has asked.
 
Can't quite figure out whats important to him or what will get him off his *ss and start asking his clients questions.
 

troll's picture
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etj4588 wrote: 
Can't quite figure out whats important to him or what will get him off his *ss and start asking his clients questions.
 
 
People are motivated usually by one of two things...
 
1) Money- you can't get something for nothing
2) Reputation, Ego, Self Worth etc. - the reaction from the community when someone gets the help they need
 
You said number one is out (but probably not completely). Then you look at #2. Find a way you can help his clients and make it look like he is the one responsible for it. Tug at his emotions and how much people need someone that they can at least ask questions without being bombarded with sales pitches. If the CPA thinks you are after 1) Money then he will be hesitant to refer business. From what he has already said to you, a door has slightly opened. Stop by a visit him every Friday and ask about the week and if anyone he worked with that week or in the upcoming week would like to come to a Q&A seminar that you will be hosting.
 
People helping people, it's a beautiful thing...
 
 

anonymous's picture
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etj4588 wrote:anonymous wrote:"I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what motivates these guys.  It's not money - tried that."
 
It is money.    He is referring business.  He is referring it to clients who are financial advisors.  He is referring it to people who refer business to him.   He is referring it to his financial advisor.  He is referring it to his boss's kid.  Where do you fit on this totem pool? 

We do refer business to him.  His boss does not have a kid in the business.  He is simply not referring clients and I can't understand why.  He is waiting for people to explicitly ask if he knows a financial advisor that can help with their investments... only no one this season has asked.
 
Can't quite figure out whats important to him or what will get him off his *ss and start asking his clients questions.
 
 
You are referring business to him.  He's not referring business to you.  He makes money from you.  You make nothing from him.  He has no reason to refer business to you.  Let him know that the referrals will stop unless he becomes a personal client of yours or he sends business your way.  As things currently stand, there is zero reason for him to send business to you instead of to others.
 
If I refer business to a CPA and they are not a client and don't send business to me, they are never getting a second referral.

Moraen's picture
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anonymous wrote: etj4588 wrote:anonymous wrote:"I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what motivates these guys.  It's not money - tried that."
 
It is money.    He is referring business.  He is referring it to clients who are financial advisors.  He is referring it to people who refer business to him.   He is referring it to his financial advisor.  He is referring it to his boss's kid.  Where do you fit on this totem pool? 

We do refer business to him.  His boss does not have a kid in the business.  He is simply not referring clients and I can't understand why.  He is waiting for people to explicitly ask if he knows a financial advisor that can help with their investments... only no one this season has asked.
 
Can't quite figure out whats important to him or what will get him off his *ss and start asking his clients questions.
 
 
You are referring business to him.  He's not referring business to you.  He makes money from you.  You make nothing from him.  He has no reason to refer business to you.  Let him know that the referrals will stop unless he becomes a personal client of yours or he sends business your way.  As things currently stand, there is zero reason for him to send business to you instead of to others.
 
If I refer business to a CPA and they are not a client and don't send business to me, they are never getting a second referral.

Agree 100%

DodgerDraftpick's picture
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I agree 100% as well.  As someone who works with a lot of CPA's I would be curious to know how exactly you are positioning yourself.  In other words what makes you different then ABC advisor down the hall at LPL, the RIA across the street, and the Morgan Stanley office across the street.  CPA's refer a lot of business but you need to have a very clear process and they need to know exactly how you can either help their business or help their clients.

etj4588's picture
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DodgerDraftpick wrote:I agree 100% as well.  As someone who works with a lot of CPA's I would be curious to know how exactly you are positioning yourself.  In other words what makes you different then ABC advisor down the hall at LPL, the RIA across the street, and the Morgan Stanley office across the street.  CPA's refer a lot of business but you need to have a very clear process and they need to know exactly how you can either help their business or help their clients.He believes in us.  We have shown him our process throughout the years.  For the handful of referrals he has given us, we have done right by those clients and even cemented his relationship with them.He just doesn't refer on a consistant basis.  What I'm looking for is some ideas on what we can do to improve the number of his referrals.Should we hold a client appreciation event for him?  We pay for dinner, do a quick market update, and get introduced to his clients?

anonymous's picture
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Joined: 2005-09-29

"He believes in us."

 
Is he your client?  If not, there is someone whom he believes in more.

etj4588's picture
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anonymous wrote:

Is he your client?  If not, there is someone whom he believes in more.He is a client of ours.  See why I'm frustrated?

Moraen's picture
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Joined: 2009-01-22

etj - he just sounds selfish.  he's only thinking about his business.  not yours.  he's also probably lazy and not quite proactive.

anonymous's picture
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Joined: 2005-09-29

"He is a client of ours.  See why I'm frustrated?"

 
Yes.  You just need to realize that some people aren't comfortable giving referrals.    When that is the case, no matter what you do, you probably won't get much in the way of referrals.  With that being the case, I would stop referring business to him, but I wouldn't say anything to him about it since he's your client.

DodgerDraftpick's picture
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When you say he's a client of ours do you mean  of  you or someone else in the firm?  Also are you Indy, Regional, how many years in the biz etc.  Next what his his practice like?  Busienss owner clients, corporate execs.  I need more information before I can give you some more specific advice.

now_indy's picture
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Joined: 2006-07-28

Here's a recommendation:
Take pizzas to your CPAs tomorrow or Wednesday, they will appreciate it.

etj4588's picture
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DodgerDraftpick wrote:When you say he's a client of ours do you mean  of  you or someone else in the firm?  Also are you Indy, Regional, how many years in the biz etc.  Next what his his practice like?  Busienss owner clients, corporate execs.  I need more information before I can give you some more specific advice.He is a client of one of our team partners - but we've all known him for years and years.  We are recently Indy, came from a regional wire.  Our team's junior member is LOS 9, the senior member LOS 25.His practice consists of individuals.  Not necessarily business owners (though some may be) or corp. execs (though some may be).  Most have investment accounts at ML, SB, etc..

etj4588's picture
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now_indy wrote:Here's a recommendation:
Take pizzas to your CPAs tomorrow or Wednesday, they will appreciate it.That's just it... do you have any idea how much money we've spent on feeding this guy and his office?  Sure, they have no problem coming to us for cost-basis, spin-off info, etc.., but refer a client?  You must be joking!

DodgerDraftpick's picture
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When you say team are you all equally splitting revenue from his own personal account and the referrals he has given you.  Or does just the one team member make the revenue?  Also what is your investment strategy ie  all asset allocated etf mutual fund accounts, SMA business, or do you guys pick stocks and invidual bonds?

now_indy's picture
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etj4588 wrote: now_indy wrote:Here's a recommendation:
Take pizzas to your CPAs tomorrow or Wednesday, they will appreciate it.That's just it... do you have any idea how much money we've spent on feeding this guy and his office?  Sure, they have no problem coming to us for cost-basis, spin-off info, etc.., but refer a client?  You must be joking!
 
Ask him if he's ever had a client appreciation event.  If not, offer to foot the bill at a nice restaurant/country club. Tell him that you will do ten minutes on the benefits of stretch IRAs (or whatever, but make sure it has a tax slant to it).  It will cost some cash, but getting in front of 100 people who trust this guy (who is implicitly passing that trust on to you by having you talk) could generate some referrals immediately.

anonymous's picture
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etj4588 wrote: now_indy wrote:Here's a recommendation:
Take pizzas to your CPAs tomorrow or Wednesday, they will appreciate it.That's just it... do you have any idea how much money we've spent on feeding this guy and his office?  Sure, they have no problem coming to us for cost-basis, spin-off info, etc.., but refer a client?  You must be joking!
 
Think of the business people whom you respect the most  and you are most apt to refer someone to their business.  How many of them feed your office?  Spending money on him and feeding his office will give you the reputation as being the person who feeds their office. 

B24's picture
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I sort of agree.  I shy away from doing the "feed the CPA office" thing.  OTOH, I have heard of it working for some people.  I think it depends on you and the CPA firm.  If it is sort of a rural/suburban laid-back practice, they might find it very nice.  But if they are focused, driven, and connected, the buying-pizza thing might be sort of a turn-off.
 
Think about it this way...if you had a very successful advisory practice, were connected with several CPA's, and you had some new CPA in the area start buying pizza for your office (obviously looking for you to refer business), would you think "oh yeah, this guy's gonna start getting my referrals"??  You might be thrilled to have pizza delivered to your office for free, but you won't be very impressed.

now_indy's picture
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I'm actually taking pizza to a group of CPAs today (third year I've done this for them). I've had countless referrals from them, including a lady who called me yesterday (referred from them) who has a 401k to roll over. I asked her the value on the phone, and she said "about half a million."  The pizza is well worth it. It just builds a friendship with the CPAs. Relationships are key.

anonymous's picture
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Joined: 2005-09-29

now_indy, the difference is that you are taking pizzas to a group of CPAs who refer business to you.

Ron 14's picture
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The best way to get CPA's to refer to you is to be the daughter of one. An all star that I had to hear about every other week at Jones was able to do just this.

etj4588's picture
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Ron 14 wrote:The best way to get CPA's to refer to you is to be the daughter of one. An all star that I had to hear about every other week at Jones was able to do just this.
 
Are you suggesting I get the guy to adopt me?

Ron 14's picture
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LOL, definitely if possible! It would be a great way to gain instant credibility in that field. Referrals galore !!!!

Borker Boy's picture
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Joined: 2006-12-09

Yep, there's a fella I've attended a few training classes with in St. Louis whose dad is a hot shot CPA.
He never prospects but is always exceeding expectations. Must be nice.

Ron 14's picture
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Joined: 2008-07-10

The thing is I don't hold it against the FA. If it is there for you take it. My problem was having to hear about it at every FA meeting month after month. A person with those connections is just not playing the same game. I guess it shouldn't have bothered me, but it did. Just like it bothered guys who were hitting 30 homers when Mcgwire was hitting 60.

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