Raleigh: “My relationship with CPAs is a one-way street,” started Jay as we wrapped up our coaching session. He continued to gripe, “I give referrals and that’s where it starts and stops. I’m starting to think CPAs are just a waste of time.”
Quite the contrary. CPA relationships can be a fountain of new business opportunities but they do require a considerable amount of work. The following are five essential strategies for maximizing these relationships. This is by no means a complete list, but it should provide a good starting point for getting the most out of these relationships.
1. Build a Social Relationship
We conducted a CPA and Attorney panel at one of our live events recently in a format that involved an interview by Matt Oechsli followed by open questions from the audience. This panel was in front of over one hundred advisors and the majority of their questions were of the theme “how to best build fruitful relationships.” A common bond echoed throughout the discussion; all the panel participants felt they needed to have a personal relationship with the advisor. One CPA said verbatim, “I have to go to a Padres game (we were in Southern California) with you or grab a drink after work. I already expect that you are good at what you do professionally. If we are going to be working together, we need to have a good relationship.”
Start by asking yourself what you know about your existing and potential referral alliance partners on a personal level. If you would categorize the relationship as “mostly business,” you have work to do.
2. Take an Interest in Growing Their Business
Let’s face it; most people are out for themselves. They want to know how you can help them. Your referral alliance partners are no different. Before initiating any discussion about your business, take an interest in helping them grow theirs. Ask questions to help determine the types of clients with whom they prefer working. You might ask:
· Are you taking on new client relationships?
· What are some of the main services in which your clients need your assistance?
· Do you work with a particular niche or target market? If so, what niches or target markets do you focus on? Why do you focus on these segments?
· What are some red flags I should be on the lookout for to help identify ideal clients for you?
3. Protect their Role as the Go-To Advisor
Most CPAs see themselves as the go-to advisor. It’s important to safeguard this role for them. We’ve seen plenty of advisors posture too hard to be the go-to advisor to CPAs. Advisors tried to build relationships with CPAs in an effort to impress them – and it backfired. Let the CPA be the expert and reinforce their role with the right questions.
· The truth is (Mr. CPA), your clients see you as their go-to advisor and they commonly come to you first with questions and concerns about their investments. What are some of the main concerns you are hearing from your clients today regarding their investments?
· How do you determine when it’s appropriate to bring in a financial advisor?
· What are some of the common mistakes you see advisors make in regards to taxes? What are some of the common misconceptions they have?
4. Paint the Picture of Your Ideal Client Profile
Your referral alliance partners need to know what to look for. If they’re unsure of the profile of the client you typically work with and the services you provide, how will they know when it’s appropriate to recommend your professional advice? Once you have developed your Ideal Client Profile (see Matt Oechsli’s previous article), practice explaining it in a crystal clear way. Finish the following sentences to practice explaining your ideal client profile to your referral alliance partner.
· Our best clients are those who…
· The type of people that typically hire us are…
Once you describe your ideal client, continue to describe the appropriate situations in which to bring you in. These serve as triggers for the CPA. Complete the following sentence to help develop your triggers.
· Think of me if you are meeting with clients who…
· A regular concern I am hearing from clients right now is…
5. Be Top of Mind
A meeting once or twice a year will rarely be enough to build sustainable relationships. You should strive to develop on-going contact throughout the year. This might include a monthly newsletter, a pertinent article, a social lunch, or a thoughtful gift during tax time. Also, connecting on social networking websites like Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook can help create additional touch-points as well. The bottom-line, develop a regular contact schedule and stick to it.
If you find yourself affirming that you fully adhere to the above, and no business has come your way, it may be time to move on and find a new potential partner. If you feel there are some areas in which you could improve, incorporate these strategies into your marketing plan this year.
Stephen Boswell and Kevin Nichols  are thought-leaders and coaches with The Oechsli Institute , a firm that does ongoing research  and coaching  for nearly every major financial services firm in the US. To take the first step towards coaching, complete the pre-coaching business profile  for a complimentary consultation.