While it may sound cliché, there’s no escaping the fact that regardless of whom you want to work with in life, everyone, CPAs included, wants to know first and foremost what you can do for them.
I visited with an advisor this week who called my office, frustrated in his attempts to get a local, well-known CPA to work with him. He talked for close to 20 minutes about the elaborate tax planning strategies and portfolio management techniques he had recently presented to this CPA. He thought that if he could just somehow wow the CPA with all he could do for his clients, the CPA would jump at the chance to work with him.
I’ve actually heard this same story before from dozens of advisors. Many have been taught that the secret to working with CPAs, or any professional for that matter, is to convince them that you’re the most qualified advisor in your market, and you know how to do things that no other advisor has figured out.
While the logic is certainly there (you obviously have to deliver quality advice for your clients), the problem is that when you go into your “I’ve figured out something no one else has” pitch, you sound just like every other advisor the CPA has met with.
I understand that many of you reading this blog do specialize in unique products, like annuities, and services, like estate planning, that CPAs need to be educated on. But to get them to tune in to your message, you always have to keep in mind everyone’s favorite station, WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).
Before you can get anyone to let you into their world, you must first demonstrate two things:
- That you care, and
- That you can provide solutions to their challenges.
We live in a society of takers. Everyone has their own agenda, and everyone is out to get what they can for themselves. This can work to your advantage, though, if you happen to be one of the few who understand that you have to give before you can receive.
A good friend of mine and top producer Rao Garuda always asks everyone he meets with (me included), “How can I help you?” Even though he asks me this every time we meet, I still appreciate it. Primarily because he’s the type of guy that you know means it when he says it. But imagine how CPAs feel. Many of them work as sole proprietors or for small two-to-four person firms. They are not only stretched thin by client demands, but on top of that, advisor after advisor walks through their door pushing to let them work with their clients.
But how many of those advisors do you think start the conversation with, “How can I help you?” The answer is, not many.
I know because this is exactly what I did in my own practice. With every CPA, enrolled agent or accountant I’ve ever worked with, I started out the relationship with the attitude of providing help and support to the CPA first and the client second. This shift in my focus and approach has had a huge impact on the relationships I’ve been able to form. Many of the tax professionals I’ve partnered with have even commented at different points in the relationship on how refreshing this approach was, with someone actually taking the time to seek out and understand their situation.
Isn’t that what we all want? Someone to come alongside us, recognize our challenges and help us solve them? CPAs are no different than you, me and everyone else. We all struggle to overcome challenges in our respective businesses, and if you’ll simply ask what those challenges are, you’ll be amazed at the information the CPA will share with you.
In my own practice, I did this by taking CPAs to lunch and “interviewing” them, getting to know their practice and where they feel they need help in their current stage of business. What’s remarkable is that each of them educated me on exactly how to build a plan to work with them.
It’s just like the client process. When you meet with clients, for the first hour you do nothing but ask questions in an attempt to understand where they’re coming from. Then, once you identify how you are uniquely positioned to help them, you can formalize a plan and implement it to solve their problems. That’s exactly what I’d encourage you to do. Schedule two or three lunch meetings in the next few weeks with CPAs, enrolled agents or accountants in your market, and ask them if you can buy them lunch in an effort to gain a better understanding of their business and what they do for their clients. Then, ask them about the challenges they are currently facing. Every business owner I know is always trying to overcome something; increasing client retention, finding new clients, increasing revenue, cutting costs, and on and on it goes.
For a Strategic Advisor, these are ways to help other professionals address their challenges and provide solutions, thus making yourself a real asset to their firm. And that is a powerful way to differentiate yourself from “every other advisor.” For more information and tips on this topic, visit our website at www.WinningWithCPAs.com.
For more by Brandon Stuerke, see:
- CPAs, Enrolled Agents, Accountants…What’s the Difference?
- Should I Build My Own Tax Practice?
- Referrals That Work