In LinkedIn’s most recent State of Sales report, 79 percent of B2B buyers said that, no matter the product or service, it is “very important” or even “critical” to buy from a trusted adviser. Nowhere is that sentiment more applicable than when a company seeks an accounting professional – someone who essentially will serve as the gatekeeper of a business’s finances.
So, it’s no wonder that above all employees or vendors, corporate officials almost invariably consider their CPAs their most trusted advisers. And if you’re a payroll provider looking for leads, a reputable CPA can help open the floodgates to highly profitable new business – If you understand know how to effectively work with them.
Before they’ll refer their clients to your company, “accounting professionals need to trust you, see and hear from you, know what added value you can bring to them and their clients and know that their clients are taken care of,” says Rebecca Yinko, Managing Partner of Madison, Wisconsin’s Payroll Solutions, LLC, which she joined in 2003 after 11 years at ADP.
Yinko offers these three top keys to winning business through CPA referrals.
The Trust Factor
Statistics show that recommendations to senior executives by trusted advisers can afford you a close rate of 80 percent or higher and that these referrals are more likely to grow into long-term business relationships. But first, that trusted adviser must trust you personally and be comfortable with your firm’s offerings. Make sure he or she fully understands just what makes your company unique, what you can offer that your competitors can’t and – above all – why you should be entrusted with his or her own clients. Once you’ve landed the referral, know that the CPA wants you to succeed. After all, vouching for a third party potentially could affect the CPA’s trusted advisor status.
The Relationship Factor
In the State of Sales report, 39 percent of sales professionals who responded ranked trust in their relationship with a client as the single most important aspect of closing a deal. By comparison, only 33 percent of respondents were more concerned with being able to assure their client a return on investment, and just 13 percent felt price was key.
But in the case of a potential referral, payroll providers must first build a solid relationship with the CPA. First, be persistent but polite and be patient. Top payroll sales representatives typically schedule five to seven appointments before landing their first referral. Throughout this period, show respect by being punctual and to-the-point in meetings. Remember that CPAs bill by the hour and may charge upward of $250 an hour, so time is money. Schedule a 20-minute meeting and wrap it up in 15. Respect their time and profitability, and they’ll in turn respect yours.
Thoroughly research and immerse yourself in the CPA’s business to understand the nuances of their practice, their clients and their corporate culture so that you can best tailor a relevant and highly effective pitch. Also, make the potential for referrals a two-way street. Find out what services the CPA offers and what industries they prefer to work with, then refer clients and contacts of your own to the firm. Above all, be honest about what you and your firm can offer the CPA’s clients, then deliver at a higher level than the client’s expectations.
The Added Value Factor
Going above and beyond the competition, particularly if you’re a small or mid-sized business, undoubtedly will help land you CPA referrals. Treat the CPA and leads to lunch or dinner or host them at a local sporting or cultural event and pay attention to potentially actionable details throughout the conversation. Does the CPA mention his daughter takes dance lessons? Make a mental note to ask about or even attend recitals. Another great tactic: Have pastries and coffee from the trendiest local shop delivered as a surprise, particularly during tax time when CPAs are busiest and will be most appreciative of a quick respite.
Be proactive about meeting deadlines, pinpointing coming trends and providing industry updates. Also, provide reasonable access to Apex reports. This will help the CPA to feel he’s garnered your trust as well.
If all else fails, use the jelly doughnut approach. Deliver a box of donuts, along with informational materials with your company brand clearly visible. Place a single jelly doughnut on bottom and, when all top donuts are gone, that solitary, squished jelly doughnut will remain in the box in the break room for at least a day or two. Your company name and brand, already having lent a pleasant memory, generates lasting awareness.
Remember that accountants and other contacts refer you because they trust you, like you and are confident you will make their clients happy. Become a trusted advisor to the CPA and both of you will reap positive and profitable benefits over time.
This Apex blog post guest authored by Rebecca Yinko, Managing Partner of Payroll Solutions in Madison, Wisconsin.