How To Gain Clients Through CPAs

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During April, Americans become the most familiar with their CPAs, which becomes an opportunity for you to gain new clients through CPA referral relationships.

Many financial advisors and agents mention CPA referrals as among the easiest to sell products and the most affluent. Yet, getting a CPA to make a referral is often difficult. Attorneys are likely to refer, yet only 33% of the referrals they make end up booking appointments with the financial advisor. While 62% of CPA referrals usually end up selecting the advisor they were referred to. One reason for this is that attorneys recommend three possible financial advisor choices, while CPAs recommend only one. The problem with getting more referrals from CPAs is they aren’t always comfortable making referrals.

 Outline of a Typical CPA Practice:

1. They have more than 1,000 clients.

2. 10% of the clients are affluent and pay more than $10,000 in fees per year (often from business clients).

3. The largest percentage of their revenue occurs in 5.5 months followed by a severe drop off in sales.

Five Reasons Why CPAs Don’t Refer:
1. They are afraid of losing their client if the referral goes wrong.

2. They simply don’t know how to make the referral effectively.

3. They don’t know how to describe you to the client because they don’t know what differentiates you from other F/A’s.

4. They don’t know what separates you from other “churn and burn” brokers and advisors. They like independent producers that use conservative strategies, but don’t know any producers who specialize in this area.

5. They often already know two or three brokers. However, this is just an excuse since they don’t even refer to them.

Three Products CPAs Offer:
1. Tax Returns,

2. Tax and estate planning,

3. Miscellaneous, (Forensic Accounting, Corp Audit, Bookkeeping, and Financial Planning. Yet, CPAs often have the same three goals as you. They want to gain more affluent clients.)

The Key Goals of a CPA Are:
1. Grow their practice through service offerings, yet they don’t know how to sell them.

2. Avoid losing clients, but don’t have any systems that create loyalty.

3. Gain more affluent clients yet don’t have an effective plan to do it.

Here are a few techniques to get high-quality, affluent referrals from CPAs:

1. Never depend on only one CPA to give you referrals. Get names of CPAs from your clients. Tell the client you may be able to save them taxes if you can make contact with their CPA. Call the CPA and let them know that you share a common client. 75% of the time, they will meet with you to discuss the mutual client.

2. Ask about their practice. Ask how they plan to develop their business. Don’t pitch a referral arrangement. They need to be comfortable with you first before they will refer.

3.  Since CPAs often have poor sales skills and don’t know enough about financial planning to make a recommendation to a financial advisor, they are unlikely to give you referrals. To solve this, offer to speak at a CPA client dinner. Give the CPA a recording (or outline) of one of your seminars to make sure they are comfortable with your recommendations and expertise.

Only about 10% of the CPAs client base is affluent enough to be of value to you. Yet CPAs also want new referrals, while keeping the loyalty of the clients they have. Banking research has shown that one product engenders a 36% loyalty rate within five years, two products 56%, and three or more products 92%. Yet, CPAs usually only offer two products: tax planning and tax returns. If a client works with you through financial planning, it will allow the CPA to gain more client loyalty, building more products loosely linked to the CPAs since they control the relationship.

4. Ask the CPA to allow you to send a small dinner invitation to their top 10% clients. In the invitation, ask the client to bring a friend. Create an interesting retirement topic like, “The Seven Mistakes Retirees Make” or “Understanding Social Security.” Hold the meeting at a high class restaurant or country club. Offer a drawing and grand prize to those who bring a friend. Let the CPA speak first for five to ten minutes about tax law changes. Then you speak for 30 to 45 minutes about a retirement planning concept.

One of the difficulties you’ll encounter is getting the CPA to follow-up on the invitation by phone. An invitation alone will result in a 17% attendance rate, while a follow-up phone call will result in 60%. Offer to not only send the invitations out (keep control) but also follow-up on the telephone three days after the invitations are sent. A good idea is to provide them with a script of what will be said.

It may be tempting to split the dinner costs with the CPA, but don’t do it. At $30 per head, everybody in the room is a potential prospect. It would take less than one sale to break even. Most CPAs will not be willing to take the risk and opt out instead.

Expected Results
Over 60% of invited clients will attend if you make a follow-up telephone call after the invitation. 60% of the clients will bring guests. 60% of both clients and guests will book appointments with you.

Since the CPA will often be nervous about losing his clients, try to record your next retirement seminar presentation and give it to the CPA to listen to. It will likely calm them down and make them more confident in conducting a dinner presentation with you.

One of my coaching clients in Iowa developed a relationship with a CPA named Tina. While at first Tina was skeptical, my client John gave her a 45-minute recorded speech from a past retirement planning seminar. She became more confident when she had an idea of what he would say. Jeff sent out the invitations and Tina hired a temp to make the phone calls, paid for by the financial advisor. Out of 50 clients invited, 30 attended and brought about 15 guests. Tina spoke at the meeting for 10 minutes about tax rates and tax deductions. John spoke for 45 minutes about how to create a safe retirement. He booked appointments with 20 clients and eight guests. Tina booked appointments with 10 guests.


Kerry Johnson, MBA, Ph.D. is a best-selling author and frequent speaker at financial planning and insurance conferences around the world. Peak Performance Coaching (his one-on-one coaching program) promises to increase your business by 80% in eight weeks. Visit www.KerryJohnson.com/coaching, call 800-883-8787 or email sales@kerryjohnson.com for more information.

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