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Referrals can often be the #1 source of new business for many accounting professionals and CPA Firms, but these typically are “chance” referrals…you should have an idea on how to plan for growth because they’re typically “random referrals”. This lesson will focus on a few different referrals systems you can set up to systemize your referrals. You can swipe the examples below, or use them as a springboard for your own referral system.

Photo taken by charles henry

3 Referral Frameworks:

To help contextualize the systems, we’re going to place them in three buckets, per client meetings, initial value closer/delivery, and ongoing referral systems.

Pre-Client

If you offer a consultation, free guides, reports, or anything else before a client becomes a “client”, there’s a great opportunity for a referral.

The consult

For example, let’s say you have a consultation that gives a small business owner a “financial checkup” and even a ranking. You then explain to them how these areas can be fixed (yes, I recommend giving away the farm!), and then mention you, of course, could do this. The beauty here is that you’re completely transparent, the owner might be able to navigate the jungle and fix these items on his own (if he had the time, but who does!). And this is where the referral comes in…. If the business owner receives a lot of value from the small business check up, you can ask for a referral even before they decide to become a client!

For example, let’s say you have a 1-hour consult, the first 50 minutes are the consult, reviewing the score, and talking about how they could fix any potential issues in their business. At the end, you can say “Now Bill, we love working with small business owners like yourself, and as you can tell, this consult alone is really valuable for many business owners, and we’re not the kind of firm that is going to pressure anyone into doing business. With that in mind, do you know any owners that could benefit from a similar analysis?

The free report 

Let’s say you have a free report, or case study, or collection of articles you give to a business owner. This, again, is a great opportunity to ask for a referral, even a simple “Enjoy the content? Forward this to colleague” with a button to forward the email.

The goal is you must include the “ask” in your consult or lead generation scripts or outline. It’s too important to leave the ask to chance.

Initial Value Close

We call this the “initial value close”, and this refers to whenever the client receives the value of the service. This could be after month 1 (after client onboarding, initial calls, and first set up). It can be a simple phone call (recommended) or meeting (recommended) or an email. If it’s a phone call or in person meeting, I recommend setting up an outline, such as:

1. Introduction

2. Review of work done so far

3. Answer any questions

4. How they feel about the service so far // any feedback

5. Ask for a referral

6. Thank you and close

Now I know number 4 will get a few readers squeamish, so here’s an example statement:

“Well, I’m glad your experience with ABC Firm has been great so far; we really work hard to make it the best possible experience for you. With that in mind, you might have noticed that we really don’t do a lot of advertising, because we believe that the best business is built on recommendations. I was wondering if you knew of anyone that could potentially benefit from working with ABC Firm? Of course, they’ll get a free consultation just like you, where we walk through their important financial metrics (or tax information, etc) free of charge. Does anyone come to mind?

(If the client says “no”), then you can say…

“Well, that’s not a problem. If, by chance, you do think of someone, or someone asks, I’m going to give you a few business cards so they can contact me personally.”

Giving new and existing clients multiple business cards is a great, simple referral system to implement!

Ongoing Referral Systems

Ongoing referral systems is where you can really get creative… you can, of course, use the multiple business card approach, you can implement email signatures mentioning referrals, but here are some additional ideas for ongoing referral systems:

Create a yearly business and personal “Financial Bootcamp” for the local community. Invite your clients (free of charge) and give them up to 2 people to invite.

Host a “business mixer” for local business clients so they can connect. Same as above, give them the opportunity to invite up to 2 guests.

Call your best clients and ask for a referral! After all, they’re your best clients… typically advocates for your firm and are often well-connected. Have you asked your best clients for a referral yet?


As you can see,  there are many referral systems and tactics for your CPA Firms, Accounting Practice, or Bookkeeping business. Accountants often rely on referrals as the lifeblood of new business, so we hope this post illustrated a few systems you can implement quickly!

If you have any additional referral systems you use, please post them below 🙂

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