Micala Ricketts
Micala Ricketts

Are you maximizing the potential that client referrals have for generating new leads for your accounting firm? Getting referrals from happy clients is one of the most effective ways for accounting firms to get new business—even more than social media or email campaigns. Word-of-mouth referrals are more likely to result in high-quality clients because your existing clients generally only reach out to their contacts they know will be a good fit for your services.

Even if you are convinced that referrals are a good thing for your accounting firm, it can be a challenge to generate those recommendations from your existing clients. In this post we go over a few ways to successfully solicit referrals to build a better clientele.

Satisfy your current clients

If your current clientele is not pleased with your services, there’s no way they will recommend your accounting firm to others. When your best clients are satisfied, they will be enthusiastic about sharing information about you. Remember that the best referrals come right after your client has had a chance to experience your exceptional services and recognizes the value that your firm delivered for them. When you exceed expectations, clients want to send their associates your way. If your firm underdelivers, clients will have negative things to say about you.

Don’t hesitate to ask for referrals

Your clients want you to resolve a problem they have, whether it’s assisting with income taxes or working through a tax resolution case. What they aren’t thinking about is helping you to grow your business, which means they aren’t going to give you referrals unless you ask them directly. When you can build the referral request into your customer service process, it becomes easy for them to provide contact information about someone who might benefit from your accounting firm’s services.

Make asking for referrals a personal event

When your best clients are satisfied with the work you are doing, it’s appropriate to incorporate asking for a referral after a positive development in their project. You’ll get the most benefit if you ask for a referral in a face-to-face conversation. While phone calls and emails are acceptable substitutes if an in-person meeting is not possible, a face-to-face request increases the chances of your client doing you this favor. Of course, never ask for a referral when you are discussing billing or delivering an invoice.

Create a referral script

It can be difficult to ask clients for referrals, so creating a referral script can reduce anxiety and help you get the results you want. Instead of bluntly asking for a referral, take the time to recap some of the ways your accounting firm helped relieve your client’s unique problem. Be clear about how your business relies heavily on word-of-mouth from happy clients and that you’d appreciate a referral to an individual or business that might benefit as well. State the ideal kind of client you are looking for to jog their memory and make it easy for them to provide you with the contact information.

Many firms use a brief questionnaire or form for this to capture the referral’s name, position, and company contact information, especially their email address. It’s important to note your client’s relationship with the referral as well to make your initial contact go more smoothly.

Reach out to referrals right away

Once your client has provided contact information for their referral, you should reach out as soon as possible. However, there are proper ways to do so without coming on too strong or alienating them. Your initial contact with them will likely be via email or a phone call.

In your verbal or written conversation, bring up your client’s name very early to establish trust and explain the reason for the contact. Talk about your accounting firm and what you do. Quickly segue into their needs and what they might want, rather than a laundry list of your services. This means asking them questions about their financial goals, current challenges, and what their priorities might be. Ultimately, your initial contact should end with a request for further communication.

Make plans for continued contact

Not every referral will convert to a new client right away. In fact, it may take some time before they feel the need to connect with you. That doesn’t mean it is a wasted opportunity. You must implement a plan to connect with all the referrals you’ve received at least once per quarter. Plan for ways to create face-to-face time with them, such as inviting them to community education events you host. Newsletters, social media, and other methods of reaching out to potential clients will ensure your firm will be in the right place when the referral finally decides they really do need your accounting services.

By getting referrals from your best clients, you’ll generate a lot of opportunities to build better clientele. By tapping into the power of word-of-mouth referrals, you’ll increase your direct connection to qualified potential clients that already have a built-in trust with your existing clients. Building the referral process into your current customer service process is well worth the investment of time and effort.

Interested in more tips for growing your business? Check out these four keys to building a lucrative practice from three tax and accounting professionals who have done it.  

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