How often do you ask your current happy clients for a referral? Do you sit around hoping that they’ll just send people your way?
It’s time to change your thought process… Referral clients are GOLD!
Receiving referrals from current, happy clients also increases the chances that the referral will choose to enroll with you. People are more likely to buy from people they know, like and trust.
When a referral is sent to you, it comes from a trusted source. The individual is more likely to want to work with you one-on-one.
However, referrals will only come your way if you are direct and ask for them from your current clients.
In this episode of The Abundant Accountant podcast, Michelle shares The Pitch Queen’s top four ways to get a constant flow of referrals without having to waste lots of time or money.
(There might even be a BONUS tip for you!)
If you’re sick of spending money on marketing materials that rarely get used, then it’s time to start asking for referrals! This episode of The Abundant Accountant Podcast is a MUST LISTEN!
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Here are a few key secrets we talked about in this episode:
- Michelle shares why referral clients are like GOLD to your firm.
- When Michelle started asking for referrals, she did not clarify the type of client she wanted to work with, so she was getting referrals that were less than ideal clients. It’s important to clarify WHO you want to work with when asking for referrals.
- The number one best way to ask for referrals is to be sincere and direct.
- Many accountants say they’re too busy to ask for referrals after they’ve finished the work for a client, but if you take the time to schedule it in your calendar and then actually do the work to ask for the referral, your accounting firm is going to start exploding with business.
- “For every single client that you made happy, but you never asked for the referral, you’re missing a HUGE opportunity. It’s what I call, the opportunity cost.” ~ The Pitch Queen
- The second best way to ask for referrals is to have an incentive in place or a referral program, where if a referral comes to you and enrolls as a client, you reward the referrer for sending the individual your way.
- Referral gifts can vary; Michelle provides several great suggestions in this episode!
- The third best way to bring in referral clients can be explained with an acronym… K.I.S.S. This means, Keep It Simple Stupid.
- This means having prepared email templates that you can forward to a referrer so that they can share your information, or business cards are another great example. You want your contact information to be readily available and easy to locate!
- The fourth best way to get referrals is to stay top of mind and FOLLOW-UP.
- You absolutely must have a follow-up system in place. Michelle briefly shares her system in this episode.
- BONUS: The fifth best way to get referrals is to give others referrals. When you give referrals out to others, you are more likely to receive those referrals back, ten-fold.
- “When you refer people out to others, they’re going to send you your ideal clients. It goes hand in hand.” ~ The Pitch Queen
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The Best Ways For Accountants To Get Referral Clients
What Is A Referral?
I am happy to be here with you. We are talking about the best ways to get referrals from clients. Thank you so much for being here. A lot of my clients have asked, “What are the best ways to get referrals?” It’s a great question because referrals are crucial to any successful accounting firm. Referrals are like gold. In this episode, I will be giving you my four best Pitch Queen ways to get referrals so that you can feel confident about putting your name out there and taking your firm to the next level. With that being said, why are referrals important?
Number one, they don’t cost your firm any more money. It costs your time. If you do it right, it shouldn’t take you a lot of time. It also increases the loyalty of your original clients who referred you to that person because people buy from people they know, like, and trust. When you get a referral client, it’s already coming from a trusted source where they know, like, and trust you. You also need to qualify your referrals because not every single referral is a good quality lead.
Think about it, who has had a referral that was probably the worst referral on Earth? Let me break the news to you. It’s probably because you didn’t qualify your referral sources properly. I made this mistake. I work with accountants on how to not only charge what you are worth but how to have a sales process that’s consistent so you never have to wing anything ever. I did not tell one of my previous students, his name is Alexi, that I’m looking for accountants that I have been in business for a couple of years, “Maybe you have tried some sales techniques and none of them work out to how you want them. You keep leaving all this money on the table and you know that your value is so much higher than what your clients are willing to pay you.” I have a solution for that.
Asking For Referrals After You’ve Helped
I did not communicate well to Alexi that, “I’m looking for people that already have clients, that are selling some higher value level of monthly services. They are not just doing the cheapo work and looking for discounts left and right. They have been in business for at least 2 to 3 years. I forgot.” Because I forgot, I paid for that time. I spent an hour with the guy that clearly, wasn’t a right fit. With that being said, you always want to qualify your referrals. How do you qualify your referrals?
I’m going to go over the Pitch Queen Four best ways to get referrals for your firm. I do it once you have helped your clients. Let me give you an example of how I asked Alexi for that referral, even though I did a poor job of explaining who it is that I wanted to work with. Number one, you have to be sincere and pretty direct. I like to do it face-to-face as much as possible. You might be wondering, “How do you do it face-to-face?” That’s a great question. I do pretty much everything as it relates to my calls, my sales classes, and my online courses on video. I use Zoom.
When I am with people in person or on Zoom, I will ask my current client who is satisfied, meaning they have reached their goals and accomplished whatever it is that they engaged with you in your firm. Maybe you set out to save someone $10,000 on their taxes in 2017 and they finally saw the result in 2018. When they saw the result, that is a great time to ask for a referral. I ask for referrals about a week after the sales class as long as they have reached their goal. They have to have reached their goal. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense to ask for a referral.
People also like to help other people. Especially after a positive experience, it’s our job to ask. If you don’t ask, people don’t give out referrals like it’s just the people on the street passing out flyers. People don’t just dish out referrals. It’s our role to ask for the referral. However, you have to make sure that you are qualifying that person too. How many of you continue to leave money on the table by not asking for referrals because you got too busy and had a stack of paperwork on your desk? You had all of these deadlines for corporate returns, and then you have your October and April 15th deadlines, and you are always against all of these deadlines.
What if we slowed down a little bit and asked for the referral at the end when the client was happy or what if you scheduled it in your calendar? That could be another solution maybe contemplate and think about and write down later today or whenever you are reading this, how much revenue have you missed out on. I call this your missed opportunity cost. For every single client that you have had happy, but you never asked for the referral, this is an opportunity that you missed out on, or what I call the opportunity cost. The best way is to ask, once you have completed the work and you know that they are happy.
The second best way to ask for referrals is to have some referral program or incentive in place that becomes readily available for your current clients. I like to offer rewards and increase the referral likelihood in advance. Even when someone new is around or I started working with a new client, I let them know right away, “If you know somebody who is an accountant, who’s been in practice for 2 to 3 years minimum, or you know they have had a lot of sales conversations, but they keep getting told, ‘I want to think about it. You are too expensive. Why do you charge much more than the other CPA or accountant down the road?’ All of those conversations are the referrals that I’m looking for because I know that I can help them.”
What I do is give a financial incentive for every good referral that is a pretty good lead for the Pitch Queen. I pay out $500 a person. I do this immediately right off the bat, as soon as I know they are a good fit and they have enrolled with me. Maybe can you look inside your firm and with your current client base, where are their opportunities to pay out referral fees to the clients that you love, that they know, like, and trust you in return you are going to get a new great client?
PayPal transfers are the best. They are quick, easy, and your clients receive the money right away. Maybe you are not into paying out real money referral fees. Maybe you want to give out gift cards, movies, and dates. You could get like gift cards to your client’s favorite restaurant. Maybe in the process of working with a new client, you get to ask them a certain question like I was working with someone and they said what’s my favorite drink? I like espresso. If I were to drink an alcoholic beverage, it would be vodka. You could get brands like, “You like espresso. What’s your favorite coffee shop?”
If I said Philz Coffee or Blue Bottle Coffee, you could go online, buy a gift card in advance or have it noted so when your client gives you a qualified referral and that new person enrolls in your firm and they are a great business and now you are helping them with tax planning, tax resolution or you are doing their compliance work or you are doing monthly accounting services and bookkeeping. You can send this client a Blue Bottle Coffee gift card or maybe even a Philz Coffee gift card if you know exactly what your clients like.
If you have, let’s say, 10 to 100 clients right now, maybe survey each of them and ask them what they like before you start asking them for referrals so then you know what you can sync them with. When you thank these people with gift cards or referral transfers, it goes a long way. There are regulations and each industry too. Check what you are able to do legally first. I am saying in mind what I do since I don’t have a CPA license, that’s not my industry, but maybe there’s something nice that you can do in your industry that is legal. Think outside the box.
Keep It Simple
What is the third best way to get referrals? You might be wondering, I like to make it easy. I like to make it simple like when they say KISS. Have you heard the acronym KISS? Keep It Simple Stupid. I like to keep it like a little KISS. I keep it simple. You don’t have to get too crazy in what you do for your referrals. Come up with 1 or 2 ideas and that’s all you do. Some people and you might like this, create marketing materials or even a simple email that you can send to your happy clients that they can forward on your behalf.
I will give you an example. One of my past students, John and John, thank you much for this, sent me an email. It was like on a Saturday, “You showed me how to do the referral email. The one that you sent about your class, can you send it to me because I am in a room with over 100 CPAs and I have talked to a few of them and they need your help.” I’m like, “Sure, no problem.” I went into my email folder. I copied and pasted it. He had it within about 30 seconds of when he asked me for it. John was out there helping me get referrals for my eight-week class where I help other accountants and CPAs and EAs. I make it simple.
I make it simple for the people that are referring me to the business too, which is important for you. You can also have extra business cards if you are at an in-person networking event or maybe you are at a class where you need CPE credits, you are sitting there and you are sharing with another accountant that you specialized. One of my clients I worked with, Alexis, specializes in neurosurgeons because her husband is a neurosurgeon.
What if Alexis had extra cards on her and could share this quick simple email with another colleague, another CPA or EA that will send her the exact types of clients she was looking for? You can even get referrals from people that are not your clients if you are at these in-person networking events. It’s like gold. This is free marketing. Who doesn’t want free marketing? You have to have your scripts and email templates practiced and prepared.
I have my email templates so if any of my students email me at any time, I have my ammunition ready to go. I can copy, paste, and send it right away. I always like to say, “Have shareable and easy-to-forward content in your emails with all of your contact information so they don’t have to send, ‘I know you are the CPA or EA that specializes with neurosurgeons and you know all of the loopholes and all of the techniques to save them the most mountain tax, but what’s your phone number because it wasn’t in your email?’” You want to avoid all of those kinds of things. You want to make sure that you have everything concise and to the point in one single email. You will get great referrals.
Staying Top Of Mind
The fourth best way to get referrals is to stay on top of mind and follow up. A lot of accountants that I have talked to miss the boat on this opportunity. If you use a good follow-up system and stick to it like here’s an example, what if after you bring on a new client, you check in with that client every 90 days, or what if you have got a monthly client? What if you check in with them every month, five minutes where you block out on a Friday, two hours out of your Friday where all you are going to do is follow up with your monthly clients? Maybe you know the ones that you are working on annual big consulting engagements. Do you follow up with them every 90 days to see how they are following through on the work?
This is a great time to A) Stay top of mind with people and B) You can ask for referrals at these times. When you call these people, if you are having a good conversation, they are already happy and you have already done a lot of great work for them, it is your job to ask for great referrals and then also let them know what types of clients you are looking for. I always schedule reminders. I know who likes to schedule reminders in our calendars to do this type of work because you have a stack of other work and you’ve got deadlines to meet, but these referrals can generate much revenue. It can generate upwards of $50 to hundreds of thousands of dollars and you did not have to pay for that new client. You didn’t have to spend a dime on marketing.Referrals can generate so much revenue, and you don't even have to spend a dime on marketing. Click To Tweet
All you had to do was spend a little bit of your time on it. If It’s appropriate, you can use social media. I know a lot of you are on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to stay connected with your current clients and provide value and also get to know them in their personal life. Maybe you are friends with them on Facebook and you can see what they do with their family and friends. What was the last vacation they went on? LinkedIn is a great way to stay on top of your mind.
Let me give you a little bonus. My bonus is the fifth best way to get referrals because this one works. I know it’s not going to come as quite a big surprise for some of you, but if you network and give people referrals, it will come back to you. It’s like when you donate money and when you make donations, you tend to generate more revenue in your business because when you give, it always comes back in return.
Always be focused on making new connections and building rapport and great business relationships with people. If there are referrals that you can give out to people, it will pay you tenfold. Like my student, John, he had this cool concept in his business. Think about this. He has this hub and spoke model where someone comes into his firm and he outsources maybe some of his services to a payroll company. He has someone who’s a certified financial planner and outsources some of the services to the certified financial planner. John is always pushing out, giving referrals, and never asking for anything in return. One of the things John changed was he was sharing with his referral partners what it is that he’s looking for.
John’s looking for businesses that do $200,000, $300,000, or $500,000 net income. As long as John got super specific and told the payroll people and the CFP exactly what he was looking for. Then he had another person for insurance and told them exactly what he was looking for, this is how John can start building up referrals coming back to him because he’s giving all day long. When you keep giving this way, more keeps coming back to you time and time again. I like to call it what John called it, his hub and spoke model. You are the hub and you have got all these spokes around your circle. Who can you give to on a daily basis? What’s a referral that you can share with someone else to help them out when in return, they will help you? You don’t even need to ask.
I have got another example too. There was another student of ours, Matt. For clients that are not a good fit, for Alexis, let’s say. She’s only working with brain surgeons. If you are a veterinarian and you are not a human brain surgeon, maybe your business is set up differently. Alexis is a specialist in brain surgeons doing their taxes, planning, monthly bookkeeping, accounting services, etc. For the people that are not a good fit that Alexis turns away, this is a great time to give referrals to other people. What Matt was able to do is he found a CPA or accounting firm down the street for him and he started sending everyone that wasn’t a good fit for his firm down the street.
That’s great, but Matt needed to tell the firm, “If you come across any of these clients and here are my criteria of who I’m looking for, then that’s who I want to work with.” You can also give referrals for every client that’s not a good fit for you to work with. It’s a great thing to start practicing because a lot of times we say, “I guess we are not going to be a good fit to work together,” and you just say bye, but you don’t send them a resource. How can you give referrals and think of 1 or 2 people that you can refer that business to that is not a good fit to work with you?
Also, build relationships with other people in your industry like you are going to different events, you are getting CPE credits and you are sitting next to another accountant. Maybe they specialize in doing estate work or working with farmers in the middle of nowhere because they live in a rural town. You guys can swap clients and leads all day long because when you refer people to people, they are going to send you back people and it goes hand in hand. My goal for you is to get two referrals using the best Pitch Queen ways that we went over. I gave you five. Get two and try utilizing some of the tools that we talked about.When you refer people, they're going to send you back people in return. It just goes hand in hand. Click To Tweet
If you have a quick second, please leave us a rating and a review on iTunes and subscribe to the show because we always like hearing from you. One last thing before I let you go. If you have ever felt like you give away too much information for free, or you are tired of not being paid what you are worth, then you are probably like many accountants and you feel like you are on the cashflow roller coaster ride. I have a solution for you. You can join me and Denise over at Accountant’s Masterclass at TheAbundantAccountant.com to learn how to communicate your value, collect higher fees with confidence, and be paid what you are worth so you can work a little bit less and make more money. Thank you much for reading and have an amazing day.
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About Michelle Weinstein
I love selling…and I can help you love it, too. I’ve earned the nickname “The Pitch Queen” by helping entrepreneurs and accounting professionals learn how to sell high-value services to their dream clients – without feeling sleazy, pushy, or desperate. And I’ve even been told that I make selling fun! I show my clients how to have empowered sales conversations, own their value, and confidently charge higher rate so they can earn more, work less, and have the life of abundance they desire. My unique and proven sales system is currently helping CPAs add $10k to $50k in additional revenue every month. Over my 20 years in sales and entrepreneurship, I’ve sold everything from mortgages to paleo meatballs to million-dollar homes and have worked with multiple CEOs at billion dollar companies, landed contracts with national retailers like Costco and The Vitamin Shoppe, and even pitched my way onto ABC’s Shark Tank. My formula for success is a simple one: establish genuine and lasting business relationships, own your value and worth, and share your unique gifts with the world here!