A Tough Conversation Between Advisor and CPA

A Tough Conversation Between Advisor and CPA

Memphis: “I’ve sent this CPA three referrals and taken him to lunch five times, but I’m not getting anything in return,” complained Mike on a recent coaching call.  He continued, “I think today’s lunch will be our last.”

We’re sure many of you have shared similar feelings when working with CPAs.  Strategic alliances with CPAs gets more attention and frustration than any other topic in the industry.  You might even wonder – why do so many advisors still focus their efforts on CPAs?  Quite simply, it’s the most effective strategy, based on our 2013 research on elite advisors, for bringing in new $1mm+ relationships. 

There are really two ways to approach this strategy.  You can either regroup with existing partners in hopes you can get more from them or you can hunt for some new partners and start this process from scratch.  For most advisors, it’s some combination of the two. 

Mike was ready to cut off this CPA and move on to greener pastures, but we helped him “regroup” with this CPA and he’s beginning to see the fruits of his labor.  In fact, during this “regroup meeting,” this CPA offered up two referrals immediately!

Think through your current CPA alliance partners.  Are there any that have potential, but aren’t sending you referrals right now?  You may consider the following strategy for regrouping with these professionals:


Step 1: Make a List

Make a list of the existing CPA relationships that aren’t working as well as you’d like. Do not include those who have little potential of becoming an excellent long-term partner. This is a waste of your time and theirs.


Step 2: Arrange the “Regroup Meetings”

Now that you’ve identified the partnerships that need restructuring, it’s time to arrange meetings with these professionals.  The stated purpose is to regroup on your partnership with them. The following script serves the purpose well:

Hi (their name), it’s (your name). (Insert any small talk or business items you need to discuss with them). Also, I want to get together with you for a lunch - sometime this week or next if possible - my treat.  As you well know, we’re in the midst of a very fluid financial environment and I want to make certain we’re leveraging each other properly. I want your insights on things you’re seeing in your practice and I want to share some of mine as well. When’s a good time for us to get together?

You can achieve this by email as well, but we’d recommend placing a call. It’s more personal, makes scheduling easier, and enables you to answer any questions they might have.

Step 3: Conduct the “Regroup Meetings”

When you’re with your Strategic Referral Alliance partners at the actual “regroup meeting” over lunch, at your office, or whatever venue you choose, keep the following two objectives in mind:


Objective 1: Rapport Building

 Developing a personal connection with CPAs is of paramount importance.  Use your “regroup meeting” to start the process of getting to know each other better.   The secret is pre-planning some questions before each meeting.

Ask questions like…Are you still involved at XYZ charity?  How are your kids?  You have one in college, right?  You’re in good shape, what do you do for exercise?  Do you still get season tickets for the Redskins?  Is your daughter still considering joining your practice?


Objective 2: Restructuring

On the “business end” of things, the first thing you want to do is thank them for the hard work they’ve done for your clients.  Name the clients you’ve sent to them, one by one, to remind them of what’s taken place.

Then it’s time to address the fact that they haven’t sent any/many in return.  You can do this nicely or firmly.  It’s up to you.  Your goal is to find the root of the issue.  If you find out they send all referrals to their brother-in-law, they’re cut off.  If you find out they simply don’t refer, they’re cut off.  You don’t tell them they’re cut off, you simply stop the referral flow.

Hopefully, the outcome is positive, just like the meeting Mike had with this CPA.  By educating them on the types of clients you service best, and asking them directly about the referrals they can send to you, you’re hoping to breathe some life into this relationship.


Stephen Boswell  [6]and Kevin Nichols [7]  are thought-leaders and coaches with The Oechsli Institute [8],  a firm that does ongoing research [9]  and coaching [10]  for nearly every major financial services firm in the US.  To take the first step towards coaching, complete the pre-coaching business profile [11]   for a complimentary consultation.