Seattle:  “I know there are some advisors who claim to get a lot of business from CPAs, but I don’t believe it -- I haven’t any luck,” whined Charlie during the lunch break of our Rainmaker Retreat, then finally asked the question that was on his mind, “Every advisor I know who has made attempts, even those who’ve conducted CE workshops – aren’t happy with their results – is it really possible to develop healthy referral alliances with CPAs?”

The short answer to Charlie’s long-winded “poor-poor me” question is “Yes!”  There is no question about it.  However, most advisors go about this completely backwards.  Elite advisors have developed a core of solid CPA relationships by investing the time, energy, and expense.  They have romanced each of these professionals into a healthy personal and business relationship. 

How is this accomplished?  By treating the CPAs you’re targeting exactly as you would a top client or an affluent prospect.  You’ve got to develop a  strong personal relationships.  I know, this might appear counterintuitive at first glance, but the reality is that the more personal your relationship with a CPA, the healthier your business alliance and the more referrals you get.

I asked everyone to complete an exercise that required them to take inventory of three CPAs from they would like to get more referrals.  The exercise was rather basic.  They simply had to fill in the blanks for each CPA they listed.  You can take a break from reading, and play along by filling the following condensed version:

·      Name:

·      Spouses Name:

·      Kids:

·      Hobbies/Interests:

·      Favorite Restaurants:

·      College Attended:

·      Favorite Sports Teams:

It wasn’t but a few minutes into this exercise when Charlie blurted out “This is embarrassing!” to which he received nearly universal agreement with every other advisor in the workshop.  From this platform I asked them to break into groups of three and have a peer-to-peer discussion on the topic.

I’m always amazed at this process.  This basic exercise followed by a peer-to-discussion always, and I mean always, comes up with the solution to getting more referrals from these CPAs.  It’s quite simple…

“We need to know more about them and take the time to develop a personal relationship.”

This isn’t complicated, but like any true romance, it requires an investment of time, energy, and money.  You can’t rush romance, but you can be fully committed to make it happen.  One of the advisors we coached romanced a specific CPA he’d targeted 18 months before getting his first referral.  Within a year, that relationship was a goldmine for the advisor.  And yes, we’ve seen it happen in less than a month.  CPAs are people, and people are different – no two CPA romances are the same.  Yet the same principles apply.

The following model illustrates the parallel tracks we recommend you take; 1) finding new CPAs to romance & 2) regrouping with the CPAs you currently work with.

MODEL

1)    New Partners

Rarely do these relationships begin with “colder” contact-methods; cold-calling, sending letters of introduction, dropping by their office, etc.  Let’s review two of the most effective paths to finding a quality CPA to romance:

Through Current Clients

·      Ask each of your top 25 clients if they recommend their CPA.

·      If yes, ask your client for a personal introduction in a social setting; lunch or dinner.

·      Incorporate meeting the CPA of every new affluent client as part of your onboarding process.

Through Other Professionals

·      Ask other professionals; estate attorneys, divorce attorneys, realtors, insurance agents, bankers, etc. “Which CPAs do you recommend when you have a client with complex tax issues?”

·      Each time you uncover a name, ask to be personally introduced in a social setting; lunch or dinner.

The idea is to cast a wide net and meet with a number of CPAs.  You’ll then want to funnel these new contacts into a handful with whom you will commit to romancing. 

2)    Existing Partners

In each of these instances you already have established a relationship at some level.  The idea is take inventory of the relationship, determine where you stand, and regroup accordingly.  Here’s 3-steps to follow:

1.    Take inventory – Determine how many referrals you have received over the past 12 months versus have many you’ve given to each CPA.  You also want to assess the frequency of contact.

2.    Do your homework – It’s never too late to develop personal rapport.  Find out more information about them; family, hobbies, interests, favorite restaurants, etc.  You do this in conversation and by searching online.

3.    Regroup – Arrange a lunch with the objective of laying the groundwork for a more effective relationship.  You’ll want to cover areas such as referrals/introductions given, communication frequency, knowledge sharing, your areas of expertise, your ideal client profile, and preferred social activities.

Managing Your Core

Your sole objective is to “manage your core.”  This means maintaining an ongoing romance by having a contact schedule and treating these CPAs like top clients.  Think in terms of personal and business contact.  Such as…

·      Invite them to your intimate client events

·      Treat them to lunches and dinners

·      Hold periodic review meetings

·      Keep them engaged!!

You can begin by delivering coffee and bagels or deli sandwiches for the office anytime during first 10 days of April (many CPAs are working weekends).  Another nice touch is offering to take them out (husband and wife) to dinner to celebrate making it past April 15th.

The time is always right in both initiating and managing a CPA romance.  

Matt Oechsli is the author of The Art of Selling to the Affluent.  His firm, The Oechsli Institute  does ongoing research  and coaching  for nearly every major financial services firm in the US.  To take the first step towards coaching, complete the pre-coaching business profile  for a complimentary consultation.