The most common mistake accountants make that loses them key referrals

Jun 22, 2021 | Accountants, Lead generation, Networking, Referrals, Reputation

I wonder if you make an all too common mistake.

We all hope that clients will want us to provide a range of services to them. And we hope that clients will recommend and refer us to other prospective clients too…

But, as I frequently point out, ‘hope’ is not a strategy. What do you do to ensure that your clients are aware of all the services you offer?

It would be a mistake to run through everything you do at a time when you should be focused on your client’s needs. It would equally be a mistake to assume that clients will always recall all of your service offerings.

I know an accountant, let’s call him Andy, who explains to new clients that he can do much more than day to day bookkeeping and accounting. He says he doesn’t just deal with day to day issues. He also has expertise in inheritance tax and at such time as a client starts thinking about their will, Andy would love to help them.

Andy tells me that the relationship developed well with one client and he did some great work for them. As a result, he was really quite upset to find out, two years later, that the same client has taken inheritance tax advice from a tax specialist.

Andy wanted to know why the client had done this. I knew the answer as I’ve heard similar stories many times over the years.  But I didn’t think Andy would believe me so I suggested that he ask his client why they went to someone other than him for inheritance tax advice.

As I anticipated, the client was surprised by the question and even more surprised to learn that Andy could have provided the advice being sought.

Andy told me he was shocked to learn this. “But I told them I could advice on inheritance tax!”

The problem is that when Andy mentioned this to his client, they weren’t interested. They might not have heard him and they evidently didn’t remember it some time later. In my experience, few people remember things that they didn’t hear in the first place (names are another example).

You cannot afford to hope that clients will remember all the things you told them. Once. Twelve months ago.

Can you think of anything that you expect your clients to remember about your service capability, your expertise or your terms? Is it realistic to expect them to remember? Would it be better to do or say something, in passing, to ensure they don’t forget?

The same point is true as regards your service levels. You might have told clients what to expect but did they take it in? Do they remember? Managing client expectations means more than just telling them once.

And finally, the same point applies when it comes to securing recommendations and referrals. There is little point in hoping that clients will recommend and refer you for a wider range of services than those they received. Indeed they may be reluctant to ever recommend you for services they haven’t experienced themselves.

Whatever you do, you need to take a more active role if you want more recommendations and referrals. Don’t assume that everyone remembers what you do, who you do it for and who you want to be introduced to. Chances are you’ll be disappointed.

You need to take action to ensure that you will be Remembered as a likeable person, an accountant who enjoys doing what you do well and for the type of clients you can best help. Keep this in mind when you talk in terms of the type of clients you want.  This goes for your conversations with clients, contacts, friends, family and anyone you meet networking too.

I often mention that I have frequently been Remembered as being a magician as well as an accountant or tax adviser. That worked well with journalists and with conference organisers who wanted a speaker with something special. But my hobby was only ever a starting point. It helped make me memorable. But I also needed to work to be Remembered as a good source of insights for journalists, as an effective entertaining conference speaker, and as a well regarded and effective mentor for sole practitioner accountants.

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