How to Grow Your Referrals During the Off Season

Grow your practice, Practice Management Business team showing thumbs at camera

It must be tough being an accountant.

While you’re not competing for a popularity contest, when clients and others “like” you, you’re that much more likely to get more referrals for new business. Being experienced, tax-savvy and competent, not to mention having a strong financial mind and even a great personality, may not be enough in today’s competitive market. Now is the perfect time to make headway into developing quality referral sources, especially with current or past clients.

To build a loyal client base, what you need is better communication.

What You Offer. It may never occur to many of your clients to contact you for anything other than tax help. To help them understand what else you do, think about what you can offer beyond tax. For example, consider the following:

  • Advice on when to make major purchases and their tax implications.
  • Meaningful business insight based on their accounting.
  • Help determining when to grow.
  • Insight into improving their accounting practices.
  • Referrals to other professionals.

Sharing information like this helps you become their trusted business advisor.

Relationship Building. While this sounds like a daunting task, in order to become the trusted business advisor your clients are looking for, you must talk to them. It’s really about relationship building. You don’t even have to say much; just give them a call and listen.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Pull up your client list. I highly recommend having a customer relationship management (CRM) system so that you can track interactions.
  2. Pick a client. Be strategic about this; think about the opportunities you have with these clients. You may know someone who is thinking about expansion and you know how to help.
  3. Make the call. They’ll take your call; honestly, they will! You’re their accountant and they want to know what you want.
  4. Start a conversation. “Hey John, we didn’t get to catch up as much as I would have liked during busy season. I wanted to see how you’re doing, what’s happening with your business these days and if there is any way I can help.”
  5. Listen ….
  6. Here’s where your opportunity to add value comes in, either through a revenue-generating service or just plain old-fashioned advice.
  7. Repeat.

Do you have to call all your clients? It would be great if you did. However, you may not think you have the time. Let’s break it down:

  • There are approximately 261 working days in a year. Busy season is 91 days long. With an estimated two weeks for vacation, that leaves you with 156 working days during off-season.
  • If you have 1,000 clients divided by 156 days, you make about six calls each day.

If you can’t handle six calls a day, prioritize the list:

  • Call former clients who didn’t come back this year just to check in, and then measure to see if they come back next tax season.
  • Call your favorite clients – the ones you like the best.
  • Call the ones who have really complex scenarios that take a lot of time.

Now, send an email to the rest, short and to the point. Here’s some suggest verbiage: I just wanted to check in and see how things are going. Even if you use an email tool, such as Constant Contact or MailChimp, make it personal. Address the person by their name and sign yours. Don’t make it look like a mass email. Experiment and see which you get a better response from.

Will You Get More Referrals?

Building relationships with your clients is a big step in the effort to get more business for anyone, let alone tax professionals. However, your clients will be more loyal and apt to recommending you if you are in touch with them more often. They’ll begin to think of you when they have questions or concerns, and if they’re really happy with you, they may even promote you to their own clients or customers, or through social media and referrals.

What are you waiting for? Pick up the phone!

Editor’s note: Want to learn more on this topic? Read the Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Pro Center article on “3 Ways to Gain High-Quality Clients.”

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