The Best Ways for Accountants to Get Referral Clients

If you are an accounting professional, some of your very best business should be coming from referrals, especially if you are offering premium services at premium prices. I’ve had a lot of conversations with accounting professionals and almost all agree that getting referrals is important, yet so many accountants feel they don’t get referral clients enough.

When I dug a little deeper, I found out that the reason accountants don’t get referral clients is because they’re not asking. It’s true that some of your clients will refer people back to you naturally, but most will not. They may have no idea that you’re actually looking to take on more clients, so it comes down to putting yourself out there and doing the asking!

Why Referral Clients are the Best Clients

Putting yourself out there, creating marketing materials, and placing ads all costs money. But when you ask your current happy clients for a referral, you don’t need to spend anything! It can take a little time doing the connecting, but even that shouldn’t take too long.

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’s coming from a trusted source. The individual is more likely to want to work with you one-on-one.

I do want to make note that t’s still very important to qualify your referrals. Not every single one will be a quality lead for you. And if they’re not a good lead for you, you can always refer them out to someone else who might be able to help them.

I’ve been in the situation before where I asked for referrals and I was being sent ones that weren’t my ideal client. At first I felt like I was wasting my time, but I realized that I hadn’t been clear on who I was looking to work with and wasn’t sharing this with people that were sending me referrals! It’s our job to make sure we are as specific as possible with who we truly want to work with.

It was a simple fix to let them know that I want to work with accounting professionals who offer a higher-level service, and have been in business for two or three years. Now, I am 10 times more likely to get the referral clients that I desire to work with! This same thing can be true for you.

Now that you know WHY you want referrals, I’m want to share The Pitch Queen’s VERY best ways HOW to get referrals.

1. Be sincere and direct

I like to do most of my sales calls face-to-face or over the phone. I find that I have the most success when I can see the prospect and they can see me. If you’re wondering how I do that when I work with accountants from all over the country…that’s a great question!

I do almost everything, whether sales calls or online classes, through the video conference platform called Zoom.

When I’m with a current client who is satisfied, meaning they’ve reached their goals, I will go ahead and ask them if they know of any other accounting professionals who offer premium services and have been in business for two to three years, but are struggling to bring in clients.

Always remember that people love to help other people, especially if they’ve received a positive experience from working with you. It is our job to ask! If you aren’t asking, think about how much money you’re leaving on the table.

I know some accounting professionals will say they’re too busy and have a stack of work sitting on their desk just waiting for their attention, but what if you slowed down, just a little bit?

Take out a sheet of paper and calculate how much revenue you’ve missed out on by not asking for referrals. This opportunity that you missed out on is what I like to call the opportunity cost.

Once you’ve completed the work for a client and you know that they’re happy with the results, ask for the referral. Don’t wait!

2. Have a referral incentive program in place

I love offering rewards to my current, happy clients to help increase the likelihood that they’re going to refer someone else to me.

I provide a financial incentive for every good referral that is a great lead and ends up enrolling with me. Once a new accountant has begun working with me, I will pay out $500 per referral.

That may feel a bit high for some firms, and that’s okay. If you’re just starting out, you don’t have to offer a $500 referral fee. You can provide other incentives that make more sense for you and your firm.

Some ideas I love are:

    • Visa gift cards
    • Gift Cards to your client’s favorite restaurant or coffee shop
    • Movie tickets
    • A favorite bottle of wine or liquor

If you’re not sure of any of these things, JUST ASK! I love to ask my clients what their favorite drink is, and if they say coffee, I’ll ask where they love to go for coffee. Then I’ll hop online and get them a gift card.

One important note: There are regulations in each industry as to how large of a gift you are allowed to give and your clients are allowed to receive. So, be sure your gift is legal so that NO ONE gets in any trouble! 🙂

3. K.I.S.S. — Keep it Simple Stupid

Some of you may love coming up with marketing materials. This isn’t ever a bad thing, but you want to keep it simple. You don’t want to go overboard!

Let me share an example of how I handled a referral request. A past student of mine, John, sent me an email to let me know he was in a room with over 100 CPAs who he felt were in need of my sales class to help build their confidence in their sales conversations.

I had an email stored in my “canned responses” folder that I quickly forwarded off to John. Within about 30 seconds John had all of the information he needed to start sending me referrals for my eight-week sales class for accounting professionals.

I made it super simple for myself and for John to refer people to me.

Another option is to have business cards on hand during in-person networking events. Or, you can even give a few of your business cards to previous clients, and ask them to hand them out if they come across someone who needs your help and also meets the criteria of your ideal client.

Just be sure that all of your email templates and business cards have all of your contact information; email, phone number, place of business. This way no one has to reach back out to get that information. Keep it simple!!

This is FREE marketing! Who doesn’t love free marketing!?

4. Stay Top of Mind and Follow-up!

I’ve come across many accounting professionals that do not have a follow-up system in place, so they’re missing out on A LOT of opportunities.

Once you bring a client on, your work isn’t done. Obviously, you’re going to be doing the work for them, but you need to check-in and see how things are going.

Maybe decide that every 90-days you’re going to block out some time and follow-up with your monthly clients. You want to make sure they’re following through on all of their work, and you also want to make sure that you stay at the top of their mind.

By staying top of mind, people are more likely to refer you out when a colleague comes to them looking for help with their accounting needs.

Plus, if you’ve been doing good work for them and they’re happy with what you’ve already done, you still must ask for the referral!

Personally, I always schedule reminders in my calendar to reach out to current clients. I want to ensure that I’m always on their mind and that they’re doing their work. The referrals that can come from doing this consistently can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars, and you don’t have to spend a dime on marketing.

5. Give referrals to get referrals (they will come back to you tenfold!)

I had a student, John, that had this really amazing idea. He calls it the hub-and-spoke model. John is the hub of the business, so when someone comes to him looking for a particular service he outsources it to a person who specializes in that specific area, such as Payroll, Insurance, Financial Services, etc..

For instance, if someone comes looking for payroll, he has a payroll company that he will outsource this service to. He also has a certified financial planner that he can refer individual clients to. John is always pushing out referrals and never asks for anything in return up until now.

What has begun happening, though, is John got super specific with who he wants to work with. He let all of his outsource partners know who he’s looking to work with, and now he has referrals flowing into him. But this took knowing who he really truly wanted to work with and also learning to ask all of his partners to send him referrals that met his criteria.

He gives constantly, so now he receives just as frequently.

Who can you give to on a daily basis? What referral can you share with someone else to help them out? Next time someone reaches out to work with you but doesn’t qualify as an ideal client, don’t just turn them away! Offer them as a referral to someone you know can help them, and that you trust to do good work.

When you refer people out, it’s going to come back to you. This just naturally goes hand-in-hand!

In Conclusion

Getting referral clients might be THE EASIEST way to grow your business. It just requires you to put yourself out there and let your current happy clients know that you’re looking for new business.

My goal for you is to get at least two new clients from referrals using my Pitch Queen referral system.

I’d love for you to share your referral experience in the comments!

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