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How to get more referrals for your accounting practice

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Sage Advice Podcast Interview-Business Integrity in Leadership

You’re good at what you do, and want to work with more clients.

Problem is, you don’t have a lot of time to market your accounting practice and don’t relish the idea of direct selling.

Thankfully, referral programs are an easy method to bring in new clients because they involve simple third-party introductions. And, referral programs are very inexpensive to execute.

Here are three strategies you can deploy to increase referrals for your accounting practice.

Get employees to generate referrals

Your employees could be a significant source of new client referrals.

Before you ask your employees to begin making referrals it’s important to define your expectations. Otherwise, you may expect too much from this strategy and be disappointed with the results. For example, would you be happy if each employee brought in one new client per year?

If referrals are an optional activity for employees and not a part of their actual job responsibilities, it may be wise to minimize referral targets. Before settling on a number, you may want to ask your employees how many referrals they think they can reasonably generate.

Next, supply the tools your employees will need to make referrals. It’s not enough to simply announce an employee referral program—you’ve got to equip your employees with tools and resources they can use to engage prospects, such as:

  • A prepared pitch. Write a short paragraph describing your practice, what it does best, and who it serves. Your employees will use this pitch material in their email messages, telephone conversations, and meetings so take some time to get it right.
  • Profile of your ideal client. Describe the type of client your employees should be looking to refer. (Use this Ideal Client Checklist).
  • Social media posts. Create short messages employees may post on their social media channels. Give your team a page of one-line messages or accounting tips they can tweet, post, and share across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other social media channels.
  • An exclusive offer. Equip your employees with a special offer for prospective clients, such as a free consultation, invitation to a lunch-and-learn event, or your exclusive accounting tips sheet.

Work with business partners

The best-fit referral partners for an accountant or bookkeeper likely include a lawyer, an insurance broker or agent, a banker, and a business consultant—although you may have your own ideas about ideal referral partners. The goal is to find other professionals who already serve the clients you want to serve.

Here are some ways to connect with potential business partners:

  • Tap into your professional network. Review your database of contacts to identify professionals you think you can work with. Set up a call or a meeting to discuss the idea of exchanging referrals.
  • Search LinkedIn. You can reach out to other professionals on LinkedIn. Look over your first, second, and third-level connections to identify appropriate contacts.
  • Leverage networking groups. Search for referral partners using your membership in local networking groups or business associations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Board of Trade or, Rotary Club.
  • Business connections who serve your target audience. Chances are your existing lawyer, insurer, and banker would be willing to work with you on referrals.

Similar to the resources you’ve prepared to support your employees to generate new client referrals, it’s in your best interest to spend some time to prepare appropriate content for use by your business referral partners. Why? Your partners may not describe your accounting practice the same way you would. Plus, you want to make it really easy for your referral partners to introduce your firm to potential clients. Prepare language about your practice that is easy to cut-and-paste.

Ask clients for referrals

Your existing clients’ connections are your biggest potential for new business. Problem is, most accounting professionals shy away from asking clients for a referral.

It doesn’t take much to ask a client for a referral—it can be as simple as saying, “Do you know anyone who might benefit from my services?”

Get in the habit of asking each client for a referral. If the client can’t suggest a name on the spot, give them a chance to think about it, and follow up in a day or two. Once a client agrees to supply a referral, offer to send some ready-to-share language about your practice—that way your client will present your preferred introductory language.

If the referral turns into a client, be sure to thank the referring client with a phone call and perhaps a nice dinner out. If the referral didn’t result in a new client, let the referring client know what happened and ask them for another referral.

Getting started with client advisory services

Are you considering shifting your practice to be more focused on advisory services? Here are our five steps to help you get started and prepare you for success.

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