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Top Tips For Building A Successful Referral Strategy For Accountants & Bookkeepers

When accountant and friend of Float, Heather Smith, asked the accounting and bookkeeping community for a collection of tips on building a successful referral strategy, she surfaced some incredibly useful insights. In this guest article, Heather shares those tips with you.

Referral: The act of directing someone to a person or business for information, or help, often to a person with expert knowledge.

When someone posts a question asking for a local tax accountant recommendation in our local Facebook group, a flurry of bookkeepers jump in to recommend Susan. Susan’s a brilliant tax accountant, a nice person, sparkly and easy to work with. She encourages businesses to maintain timely, accurate accounts and champions the need for engaging a bookkeeper. It’s a win-win-win outcome for everyone.

Referrals are a proven way to fill your sales funnel with new clients.

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to attract new business, and some accountants and bookkeepers report that up to 90% of their business comes from referrals by their clients. On the flip side, established businesses often have a trusted network that they turn to when they need to send work elsewhere.

So, whether you’re giving or receiving, it’s a smart idea to find out the dos and don’ts of referrals in today’s world.

Top tips for giving and getting referrals

  • Be excellent at what you do. Go above and beyond to become known as someone who gets the best results for your clients.
  • Get to know the strengths of other professionals. Learn how they operate, their depth of knowledge and specialities. That’s how you can be sure they’ll do a superior job if you have to refer a client.
  • Recommend good fits. If the client doesn’t like working with an accountant regularly throughout the year, there’s no point guiding them to someone who wants to have monthly meetings.
  • Consider a new client’s potential. Today they may be buying their first investment property, but a few years down the track, they could have another ten in their portfolio. Then you’ve got a substantial amount of work and a productive relationship to boot.
  • Remember that your recommendations reflect on you. Do your homework and be confident that you’re referring to a qualified business. Caveat your referral by asking them to let you know how it goes.
  • Proactively help during challenging times. It doesn’t help to panic or bury your head in the sand. Instead, use it as a time to learn and grow. Keep on top of developments, and make sure you bring your A-game to help your clients through.
  • Niche down. Instead of being a jack-of-all-trades, consider what you’re best at and concentrate on that. You might have a passion for working with small businesses in a specialist industry, such as hospitality or trade clients. Or you may opt to specialise in particular software, such as inventory management or eCommerce. When people need those specialities, other bookkeepers and accountants can point them in your direction.
  • If the job’s not in your skillset, pass it on. If someone asks you to do something you’re not familiar with, but you know experts who can do it better and cheaper than you, you could consider your options. You could refer the work out to the experts. Alternatively, if it is an area you’d like to explore, you could still refer the work on the condition that you remain involved. It’s an opportunity to learn on the job.

Build referrals into your marketing strategy

Satisfied clients and your colleagues’ respect are your biggest assets when it comes to referrals. They’ll recommend you to others in their circle if you’ve done a terrific job for them.

Build your network and get to know others in your area. You can be informal or join a structured group for regular meetings.

Look at the accounting apps for business too (like Float!) . They often have referral lists of accountants and bookkeepers’ partners who are skilled with their software and can support their clients.

When word gets around that you go above and beyond to ensure your clients’ best outcomes, referrals will start flocking in.

Further reading:

Lattice Career Paths, Shifting Economies, And Purposeful Work: How Accountants Can Leverage These Trends

Heather Smith

A technology and lifestyle accountant with a deep understanding of automated, integrated cloud business tools and how business apps can be utilised effectively to improve workflow and surface information useful for data-informed decisions. Through running a modern cloud-based practice for over a decade, she’s extensively shared her methodologies, business strategies and work-life balance practices through the ‘Cloud Stories’ podcast, writing multiple Cloud Accounting books, including Xero for Dummies, and publishing the Accounting Apps newsletter: HeatherSmithAU.com. A FCA, FCCA, FICB, commerce graduate, and accredited trainer.