Most financial professionals know the importance of forming relationships with CPAs, attorneys, and other centers of influence, but most have difficulty making these relationships productive. They meet with CPAs. They take them to lunch. They even send them referrals–yet nothing comes back. Why is this? There are many reasons this can happen, but it usually boils down to two major categories: (1) referability; and (2) formalizing the relationship.
For anyone to give you referrals, they have to really understand the work you do, how you help your clients, and that they can trust how you will handle referrals they send your way. It’s all about trust. And it’s hard to establish trust quickly. Many financial professionals are unable or unwilling to take the slow approach necessary to building these relationships.
Formalize the relationship
Too many financial professionals assume that CPAs and others know when and how to give referrals in the most effective manner. They assume that when they give a referral to a CPA or attorney, that party will naturally reciprocate. The problem here is that financial professionals assume too much–take too much for granted–and never speak to their potential alliance about what the relationship will look like.
Here, then, is a three-phase approach to meeting and forming relationships with CPAs and other centers of influence. I’m going to use the CPA relationship as a way to explain my approach, but this will work for other alliances as well. Remember, it’s all about them understanding your work/benefits, trusting you, and knowing how to give you referrals.
Phase 1-Service to our common client
The best way to meet CPAs is through your clients. This is an easy referral for your client to give and it gets you meeting the CPA in the way they would prefer to meet you. They will return your calls when they know it’s about service to the client you have in common. Talk to all your clients about their relationship with their CPA. Is it an ongoing working relationship or merely a tax-time relationship? Do they like their CPA and why?
There are two ways to ask your clients for referrals to their CPAs. First, you can approach it from a perspective of working together with your CPA to do the best job possible–a team approach to their situation. Or, you can ask for a “professional” introduction to another financial professional. The first approach is better, because it allows the CPA to really see the work you do and how your clients benefit. Phase 1 is critical to building your initial referability.
Phase 2-Service to the CPA (or other professional)