Building a Profitable CPA Relationship
The financial advisor often asks how to build relationships with CPAs, hoping that creating a synergistic relationship can create new client business flow. Even though accountants do often make referrals to life insurance professionals, the life insurance professionals that are in this lucky group have actively developed and then managed their reputations with the advisor. To be on the receiving end of referrals, you must be:
- Perceived as a team player
- Positioned as client-centered and process-oriented
- Considered professional and low-key
- Demonstrate an understanding of the CPA’s business and culture
How do you build your positioning with CPAs?
First of all, you can’t appear as another “Me-Too” financial advisor. You need to create awareness about YOU, and it needs to be likeable, professional and differentiated relative to the competition. You need to create a consistent communication pattern — visibility creates credibility — but not appear to have your hand out. One report stated accountants say 90.8 percent of contacts made by insurance professionals are for the purpose of asking for referrals. The percentage of accountants who appreciated this type of contact was 0.0. They comment that advisors (the CPA) are well aware that life insurance professionals are interested in obtaining referrals from them. It is an issue that does not even need to be brought up. Candidly, bringing it up is detrimental and is not seen as a behavior focused on building a high-quality profitable relationship.
So, how does the insurance agent engage in relationship building actions that are welcomed by the CPA? First of all, your degree of preference will be determined by your frequency of connection. If you only “connect” two or four times per year, don’t expect much of a relationship, not one that will yield the results you aspire to. You need to connect frequently, continue to provide high-level valuable information, build confidence and become “likeable.” In other words, it will take a combination of actions, but if you don’t create a specific, consistent and manageable strategy, you will have little chance of attaining your goal.
A Strategy That Works
Here is a complete strategy for building a CPA relationship that if you follow, will work:
- Accumulate specific names of CPAs (or a CPA firm) that you would like to build a relationship with.
- Approach your “first choice” CPA (possibly over lunch), introduce yourself and offer to conduct a series of one or two-hour CPA Continuing Education sessions at 8 am, to be held in their office over the next few months. Most agents hold CPA CE seminars in a public place inviting all CPAs in a community. You will never get CPAs to ask personal questions about their clients in a setting like this, nor will they ask to meet with you after the session about a client they are thinking about. They will do both of these if you do your CE seminars in CPA firms! Plus, unlike holding general CPA seminars in the fall like many competitors and educational organizations do, CPAs will attend their own “in-office” sessions year round — yes, even in the spring and summer.
- Put your CPAs on a monthly email marketing list of some sort that is identified as coming from you (not your company). The format can be a newsletter of some type or an financial brief storyboard with a personal message that if they or their clients would like detailed information on the brief subject being sent, to feel free to contact you, etc. Whatever you send, personalize it with a note directed to each recipient.
- Schedule your calendar now to take the CPA out to lunch each quarter to build the relationship. Ask what additional information you can provide that would be helpful to them. Do not ask for referrals.
- On the day before tax deadlines (the day before is the most hectic), April 14th, August 14th and October 14th, take “box lunches” to their office. This will surprise and delight them (a “likeability” factor that differentiates you). Be ready for the “thank you” phone calls the next day. You will get them! Have a pre-printed note and attach it or insert one into each lunch. Have it read something like this: “Thanks for the value that you provide for so many of our clients. Without the CPA, our estate planning, qualified plan designs and general insurance and investment plans wouldn’t be nearly as effective. You make a difference in many lives. This is just my way of extending my thanks for your work and contribution to my clients. I know today is “taxing” on you. I hope this snack pack makes it a little more enjoyable. (Feel free to call me anytime I can provide you with financial or insurance information that you need for your clients.)”
Do the Unexpected
In summary, creating a brand (you) in the marketplace always begins by seeing what everyone else is doing and then doing what no one else has done. Your choice is to do the same old non-successful typical approach — find a CPA, tell them what you do (as if it is different) and then begin asking for referrals. Just don’t expect much to happen. Or, create a strategy that identity brands you as different and begin creating a compelling association between you and the CPA. Branding requires more than just a single item initiative. It requires that you plan a strategy of multiple items that differentiates you from the competition and creates “mindshare.” Now, carry through on your strategy in total.
We can guarantee that the eventual results will be far greater than the effort you will have exerted. If you’re interested in our digital email marketing platform, e-Relationship®, that can be used with clients, prospects and professionals — helping you build a distinction in your marketplace — just email us with a request for info. We will send you a FREE Email User Manual with sample scripts and phone techniques that will maximize your effectiveness . Learn More Here.