Why accountants need to plan their approach to the 3 Rs

Oct 5, 2021 | Referrals, Reputation

In an educational context we refer to the three Rs as being those crucial elements that all children need to master. That is, Reading wRiting and aRithmetic. This is somewhat ironic given that only one of the three topics actually starts with an R. (The phrase is used apparently because each of the three words, when spoken, has a strong R sound at the start).

Accountants keen to win more work would do well to focus on a different set of 3Rs.

You want to be Remembered, you want to be Referred and you want to be Recommended.

Let’s consider each in turn:

You want to be Remembered

This is crucial. If the people you meet with face to face and engage with online do not remember you, then obviously there is no way you are going to get referrals or recommendations.

You know you have work to do if no one seems to remember you (positively), no one gets in touch and no one follows up with you.

Hopefully though that’s not the case. You simply want to enhance the way that you are remembered.  And you want to be remembered as more than just another accountant. This is in your hands. It all comes down to how you describe yourself, what you say when you meet new people, what your online profiles say and how you talk about what you do and who you do it for.

Another good way to be more memorable for good reasons is counter-intuitive. Instead of talking a lot about yourself and your practice, develop a natural curiosity and interest in other people.

It can be really helpful to learn how to ask good questions and then to listen carefully to the replies. The more genuinely interested you are in someone else the more they will remember you as an interesting person. Yes, this means you talk less but your questions may themselves, if well worded, evidence your experience and credibility.

Beyond this you need to STAND OUT from the crowd and the pack. If you fall into the trap of assuming that accountants are all quite similar, you will struggle to be remembered. Keep in mind that you are very different to other accountants thanks to your background, your experiences, your client base, your style, your approach to fees and so on.  It’s only the accounts, tax returns and filings that may be much the same regardless of which accountant produces them.

You want to be Referred

You would like everyone who knows you to be in a position to refer prospective clients to you.  Many accountants fall into the trap of assuming all is ok here because they sense that many of their new clients are the result of referrals.  When we discuss this during mentoring calls though I frequently find out that they don’t get that many referrals and that many of those they do get are not for the type of clients or work they really want.

But let’s start with WHO could be referring clients to you.

Hopefully your closest friends and family will keep you in mind all the time. But the circle of people who know you and could refer clients to you is much wider than this. It includes more distant friends and family, neighbours, pals from pubs and clubs, sports and charities where you are involved. It also includes all the lawyers, financial advisers, bankers and consultants you meet along with everyone else you encounter at networking events – face to face and online.

If any of these people themselves needs a new accountant, you need them to Remember you. If they ever encounter someone else who needs a new accountant who can do what you do, you need them to Remember you.  If they don’t Remember you they cannot Refer anyone to you.

You can also make it easier for all these people to refer opportunities to you if you have make it easy for them to know what you would consider to be a good referral – and if this is also easy to remember when the time is right.

Or do you want to risk them wasting their time, your time and that of the person they refer to you. That’s what happens when you assume people know what sort of referral interests and excites you. If you are remembered for these interests and abilities you are bound to get more of the right sort of referrals.

You want to be Recommended

This will typically only happen once your clients have experienced your advice and can express an honest opinion about your work.  You may also get strong recommendations from clients, friends and regular introducers who have been repeatedly thanked by the people they referred to you.

Think about any service provider who has done work for you. If you are really pleased with their service you will gladly recommend them when someone asks you if you know a good decorator, plumber, mechanic, dress-maker or whatever.

Its the same with your clients. Those who really rate you will recommend you when they hear about others who need an accountant who can do what you did for your client. As and when they get to know what else you can do hey may also recommend you for those other areas of work that you can do – but which they haven’t yet experienced – and may never need from you.


I tend to suggest that a Referral is like a signpost as distinct from a Recommendation that is more of an endorsement. What’s most important is to recognise that there are differences between those people who have experienced your services and those who simply know you or know about you but have not experienced your services as an accountant.

The reason that is important is because you have to work harder to be Remembered by those people who don’t have direct recent experience of your work. And a strong convincing Recommendation is much more powerful than a simple Referral.

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