Financial advisors tend to see the relationship between advisors and CPAs as strategic, well-balanced and win-win. From your vantage point, you’re bringing value to the relationship by providing your services. And the CPA is bringing value to it when they refer you to their clients. Unfortunately, CPAs don’t usually see things the same way.
The reality is, CPAs often view forming a professional relationship with a financial advisor to have little to no benefit to them. From their perspective, there are too many risks and there is too little value to make the effort required to establish and maintain these relationships worthwhile
Some of the things CPAs have to take into consideration are:
- How well they know you. If you have a prior relationship with the CPA, this may not be an issue. If he/she already knows that you’re as good at your job as you say you are, she’ll be less hesitant to refer her clients to you. However, without that prior relationship, you may find that you have to prove your credibility over and over again, for months, sometimes even years, before you are given even one referral. CPAs work too hard to build trusting relationships with their clients to refer them out to just anyone that says they can grow their wealth.
- What could go wrong. You may advise an investment that goes south and loses a mutual client a lot of money. You may just have a personality that clashes with the client or have some other type of falling out. All of these things can reflect back onto the CPA and affect that CPA/client relationship negatively.
- You might be a con artist. This seems extreme but stay with me. The reality is that there are plenty of people out there who will do whatever it takes to make a few bucks. Now, again, if the CPA already knows and trusts you, this won’t be an issue. But if you don’t have a prior relationship, they really have no way of being absolutely sure that you’re not going to end up getting their clients stuck in some sort of Ponzi scheme.
Even though these may seem like relatively small risks to you, keep in mind that CPAs depend on getting and keeping the trust of their clients. Taking even small risks can greatly impact their relationships with clients so some CPAs won’t be ready to jump right into a working relationship with you. Be ready to answer any questions they may have about your education and experience. If possible, give them the opportunity to talk with current clients so they can get an idea of your personality and how you work.
You’ll also probably need to show the value that you bring to the table. Remember that while your services are valuable to the CPA’s client, CPAs often feel like they are not getting much (if anything) out of referring a client to a financial advisor. That’s why it’s so important to create value for the CPAs with whom you’re trying to connect.
There are a lot of different value strategies you can take, the most important thing is to get creative. Think about what you have to offer that could set you apart from the other 500 financial advisors who are trying to get in the door with the same CPA. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Send them clients – This is a no-brainer. They are referring their clients to you if they’re in need of an advisor, so you should be doing the same. The vast majority of your clients need the services of a CPA if they’re not using one or they need the services of a better CPA if they have one that’s not working from a proactive vantage point. Get in the habit of asking your clients if they’re satisfied with their CPA and if there’s any indication they’re not, be quick to pass along a referral to a more trustworthy professional.
- Provide other things they need – Do you have a conference room they could use for meetings? How about an office space they can use occasionally if they need a quiet place to work? Do you have a network filled with connections that could meet just about any need they may have? Remember at some point, everyone from a commercial office cleaning company to a travel agent to a worker’s comp insurance salesperson is helpful. Be quick to connect them with those they need to know. And don’t forget to invite them to join you at networking events if you’re confident the demographic of the group mirrors their ideal client. In fact, consider purchasing a ticket for them and sending it as a gift just to show that you’re thinking of them. Finally, if you see they’re looking to hire help, tap into your own network and see who knows who. A good referral can go a long way.
- Introduce them to key influencers – Do you have connections with marketplace influencers they need to know? Just yesterday, one of our vendors connected us with a professional she knew in our target market. Chances are, that connection will lead to profit for us and it will be a great resource (and eventual revenue-builder) for the professional, too. There was nothing in it for her, other than the fact that she was eager to help both parties succeed. That always looks good. Do more of it.
As we mentioned earlier, creativity wins. You’d be surprised at the things you may be able to offer that CPAs would consider added value to the relationship. Be sure to think through what type of value you can bring to the table before approaching a CPA. They will appreciate the forethought and the consideration of their needs, making it easier for them to make a decision. Alliances between CPAs and advisors can be strategic for both sides with the exchange of value is even.
Remember, CPAs tend to lean on the analytical side. No matter how much planning you do ahead of time or how many questions you answer, don’t expect an immediate decision. Building up trust takes time so if you’re not prepared to make that investment, you probably won’t get very far. Answer questions, and then provide the time and space for the CPA to make an informed decision and eventually, you’ll win.