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Practice Management > Building Your Business

4 steps to building a referral-boosting CPA alliance

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Studies have shown that small-business owners and high net-worth individuals place a lot of stock in their accountants and consider CPAs to be one of their most trusted advisors. The agency/CPA firm alliance allows both producer and CPA to marry their unique set of skills to work for clients while yielding an impressive boost to their firms’ bottom line.

There are a few steps to follow in order to help guarantee an alliance is beneficial to both sides.

1. Determine what type of CPA firm is the best fit for your agency. An alliance program should be a selective one. Stretching your resources by taking on too many partners can undermine the benefits of a few very strong alliances. You need partners who are actively engaged in the whole process and are open and willing to let you market to their client base.

2. Set up a formal relationship. Your CPA partners should be an extension of your agency and you an extension of their firm. They have to be willing to expand what they do in order to incorporate your agency’s focus and needs. Both partners come into a relationship with a clear understanding of what they have to offer and what they are expected to do. A successful alliance requires the energies of the entire firm from partners to office staff.

3. Give CPA partners their well-earned due. Accountants shouldn’t feel as if you’re encroaching on their practice. The accounting profession is conservative, and many times we run into hesitation from CPAs who think we’re proposing changes that will erode the bond they’ve built with their clients.

4. Recognize the differences between CPAs and producers. It is important to remember that our businesses are based on developing relationships; CPAs, however, are different from us: their work is very solitary and straightforward. Their profession is very consultative and usually fee-based. While financial services professionals make money selling products and strategies, CPAs make money selling time. We’re prodding clients to make decisions. Accountants may prolong interaction in order to think things over. In our experience, those differences can be overcome with truly extraordinary results in the right circumstances and with the right alliances.

Editor’s Note: The preceding was adapted from “The right way to find a CPA” by John McGurran and Megan Thul. It originally ran in the May 2009 issue of Life Insurance Selling. To read the full article, click here.

To read last week’s Words from the Wise, click here.

For more advice on partnering with CPAs, see:

How to team up with CPAs

How to get referrals from CPAs: 6 components of value

Professional seminars build credibility, business


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