Chapter 5 might be the most requested chapter we included in the book. It’s all about how to get referrals and attracting the right referrals to your accounting firm.
If you’re just joining us, we’re going front-to-back celebrating the audio release of our best-selling book, Double Your Accounting Firm.
To refresh, here are the first three chapters:
Referrals may be your sole source of new clients at the moment. That’s okay. The question is whether they are the right clients for your firm.
In this audiobook chapter, you will discover:
- How to get quality referrals that you actually want
- Steps to nurture your clients so they want to refer you
- Actual scripts to have the referrals flood in
- 2 simple techniques to get more referrals
- How to build a referral-based firm (interview)
- How to ask a client for referrals without feeling uncomfortable
Your Unique Selling Proposition Gets The Right Clients:
Referrals are a nice and welcome surprise. Referrals are proven to require less “sales-y” approaches. Plus, they are faster to pull out their wallets. There are, however, two approaches to referrals. You could be passive or active.
Passive = “we get who we get”
Active = “we tell our clients who we want”
It all starts with your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Think about what value you bring to the marketplace. Be specific. “We do tax returns” is general. You must have a target market in mind so you can craft the right message.
Your market is the type of industry/service you wish to be an expert in. You might want to be the “go-to for construction companies.”
Your message highlights the results you bring to clients. “We help 6-7 figure construction companies automate their bank finances, so they can increase cash flow.”
That’s a USP.
If you’re unsure what your USP is, just ask your clients!
Questions you can ask them:
- What keeps you coming back every year?
- What do you enjoy most about working with us?
- What trouble spots have you found?
- How does your relationship with us compare to other firms?
Your ideal clients will have similar answers. Those are the ones you want to attract. The good clients attract other good clients and vice-versa.
When you meet with new referrals and clients, it’s these USP signs you want to look out for. “Will this new client have similar answers in 12 months as my top clients?” Obviously, you don’t have a crystal ball to know how a client will act. But it’s good to have these questions in the back of your mind.
Now, that’s the start of a relationship, but how do you actually start generating the referrals? That starts earlier than you think.
Nurturing Your Clients to Prepare for Referrals:
The start of getting referrals begins with how you treat those who will refer…your clients.
Clients don’t just keep coming back for your service. With something as intimate as their finances, they want a firm that connects with them. The way to do that is starting every day with the mindset of “How can I provide value to a client today?” That means going above and beyond your call of duty.
Here’s how to do it in 5 steps:
- Do something before a client requests it
- Make a special deliverable for them. Maybe it’s a piece of content
- Provide something that makes a difference in their personal or professional life
- Do something special that’s pro bono for them
- Duplicate across clients
The more a client trusts you, the more they open up to you. When you know them better, you can solve more of their problems.
Here are a few different ideas to add value:
- Invite them out to dinner one-on-one
- Send them a webinar invite
- Bring them along for a conference
- Plan a fun event
- Ask their opinion
- Follow and interact with them on social media
A surprise gift, even something like a book, can go a long way.
These are all setting the table for asking for a referral. None of what you’re doing is manipulating your clients. You’re making them more comfortable to recommend you. Everyone loves to give recommendations. How often do you try and get someone to try your favorite restaurant or listen to that up-and-coming musician you love?
It’s the same with referrals for an accountant except more complicated. Remember, finances are personal. Clients want to know you are someone to trust and recommend highly.
How to Ask for Referrals:
We’ve all heard we should ask for referrals. We dream about a situation where we ask and receive right away. Unfortunately, reality usually goes like this. “Umm…yeah…do you know anyone that needs an accountant? No? Ok, well, see you next time.”
Pretty bad, right?
We also hope clients will just always naturally refer us. You may get that now. But are they the best clients for your firm?
The worse way to approach referrals is directly. That’s a path to awkwardness.
The best way to approach is indirectly. You want to prep a client first. You may say something like “Asking for referrals is a bit uncomfortable for me? And it can be uncomfortable for you. How would you want me to approach asking you for referrals that you feel the most comfortable?” A question like this lowers the tension. Many clients just need to be asked before they freely open up their address book. Here you can ask them in a non-confrontational way.
The Different Referral Sources and How to Get Referrals from Them:
You will probably get referrals from all over the place — not just from clients, but family members, those people from church, etc. Let’s breakdown the type of people you may get a referral from and how to approach:
NON-CLIENT: These aren’t the most powerful referrals, but still possible. You would approach like “I’m working with construction companies helping with their cash flow. Do you recommend any person or company to reach out to?”
NEW-CLIENT (AGGRESSIVE): When a new client signs on the line, that is when you are aggressive and pounce. It’s bold but can work. “My clients refer me as thanks for the results I get them. For doing business with me, I require 3 referrals after I’ve proven I can give results to your company. That’s an aggressive ask, but that’s how confident I can help you. Will this be a problem for you?”
NEW-CLIENT (DISCOUNT): In exchange for 1-3 referrals, you offer a discount to a new client. “We can continue with our agreement per usual. If you are able to refer me 3 people, I am happy to chop the price down to $XXXX each month.”
CLIENT APPROACH #1: Here you have 3 business cards. You tell the client to keep one and give the other 2 to people that could be helped by your services. “If you know someone in the construction niche who needs cash flow help, give them one of my cards. Have them call or send me an email and I’ll get right to them.”
CLIENT APPROACH #2: Here, offer a free service in exchange for referrals. “I will train all your employees on QuickBooks for free if you send me 5 people who might be able to use my help.”
COMPETITOR REFERRAL TRICK: Work with your competitors to develop deals for sending over work. Here you send prospects who aren’t a good fit for another firm.
EMAIL SIGNATURE: Your clients are regularly getting emails from you. Why not add a slight ‘ask’ there? “Our firm is built upon referrals. If you know someone in the construction industry who needs help with their cash flow, we offer free consultations.”
Try some of these tactics. You’ll be surprised to see the referrals to start flooding in.