“How many financial advisers do you think work within an hour radius of where we are sitting today?” I asked an accountant.
“Thousands,” he replied. “There are thousands of financial professionals out there.”
Then, I immediately asked, “Of all the thousands of advisers out there today, how many would you refer to your family, your friends, or your best clients without hesitation?”
He paused and then said, “Only about 2%.”
By this standard, to be referable to the clients of CPAs, you need to be recognized as being a top 2% financial adviser. It's a hefty statement and should make you ask yourself, “How am I ranked as a financial adviser in the eyes of CPAs that I know?” I have held countless conversations and meetings with accountants in an effort to crack the CPA Referability Code, and I am happy to share what I have learned.
Not surprisingly, I found that the judgment starts at the first interaction.
Similar to your first meeting with a potential client, CPAs begin evaluating advisers when they first walk through the door. How you dress, what you look like, and how you act in the initial meeting carries a lot of weight. When entering an accounting firm's office, I affectionately use the term that “we are a guest in their house.” You can never forget that no matter how friendly you become with your CPA partner, the CPA is always evaluating you and pondering the following questions: Are you worthy to meet with their best clients? Are their clients safe with you? Are you going to be a professional messenger for the services their firm is offering?
It is key that you introduce your CPA partner to your planning team. These are the specialists who surround you every day and help to position you to be seen as among the top 2%. Don't feel that you have to do it alone. Simply surround yourself with other talented professionals and introduce your CPA partner to the people who make up your team. This will go a long way toward showing that you are supported regardless of the complexity of the case or net worth of the clients with whom you hope to work.
Also, review how you plan to communicate with the clients of the accounting firm. Is your marketing message professional? Is it compelling? Does it motivate people to take action? No sense in being a top-2% planner if no one knows you exist.
We learned early on that if you can show a CPA that you are among the top 2%, then you are removing the barriers, you are removing the hesitancy, and you are increasing the CPA's confidence to put you in front of their very highest-net-worth clients. Without the CPA's confidence, and without you being seen as the top 2%, you are going to toil; and although you may have relationships with CPAs, you are going to be handling small IRAs and college funding plans, and not working on the larger planning opportunities. You will be working with the CPA's B level clients at best, with the hope that “someday” you will work with their A level clients. It's important that you project, loud and clear: “I am a top 2%er!”
Paul Saganey is founder and president of Integrated Financial Partners Inc., a firm that specializes in helping financial advisers build revenue-sharing relationships with accountants and attorneys. Paul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org