If you’re thinking of going to the Accounting Business Expo (ABE) or any other finance industry event, you’ll probably be going for two key reasons, to learn new things and to meet new people. Many expos are now set up, not just to share their content, but to facilitate networking opportunities as much as possible.
You might already have a plan for which sessions you’ll attend, and which trade stands you’ll want to check out, but have you planned who you want to meet and why?
Of course, you don’t have to plan any of your meetings. That’s quite ok. However, if you are looking for potential referral partners, it’s a good idea to find out who else will be there and arrange some meetups beforehand. It’s also a good idea to know why you want to meet specific people and what you hope to get from forming a referral relationship with them.
Why do you want a referral partnership?
If you don’t already know the answer to this, now is the time to determine your driving motivator. Are you doing it for your benefit, your client’s benefit, or both?
Are you looking to have others refer clients to you or do you mainly want to have a select group of trusted professionals that you are comfortable referring your clients to? How you answer this question will determine how you approach your potential referral partners.
Using referrals to grow your business
Asking other finance professionals to refer clients to you can be a great way to grow your business – if it is done right. On the other hand, get this wrong and you could not only end up with zero results, you could also end up burning some bridges and maybe even creating a bad name for yourself.
If you’d like to go down this path, it’s important to look for people whose client profile is similar to yours. For example, do they mainly service start-up businesses, SME’s, high-end investors or self-funded retirees? What about their corporate visions and strategies? Do these sit well with you? Would you want to work with the clients they refer to you?
When you do meet up for a ‘coffee date’ with your potential partner, be sure to work out what your mutual expectations are from the start. Find out if they want referrals from you or if they are happy just to pass them your way. You can discuss things like:
· Referral fees – How much and how often?
· Kickbacks – What form might these take?
· Performance measures such as a minimum number of referrals per week, month, and so on.
· Whether the arrangement will be formal or informal.
· What your scope of work will be so that there is no overlap or conflict.
Once you’ve progressed passed your first date, you’ll need to work out a mutually acceptable action and communication plan. Who is going to do what? When, how, and how often will you communicate? How will you handle your legal obligations, such as maintaining data access and privacy? To make it easy for yourself and the other person, come prepared with a document that outlines what a referral looks like to you.
Not all relationships work out so, to avoid ending up in a legal battle (like you would in a messy divorce) it’s a good idea to plan a trial period and exit strategy beforehand.
Using referrals as a value-add for your clients
But, what if you aren’t looking for new clients for your business? You can still use your networking opportunities to develop a list of professionals to refer your clients to. This can even become one of your key competitive advantages. Say you are an accountant, you can say to your potential clients that working with you can give them access to the services of a financial planner, a lawyer, an insurance broker, an e-commerce expert, and so on. It does not mean they have to use those services, but, if they trust you, they are more likely to trust that your referral partners will also act in their best interests, too.
A good question to consider when evaluating possible partners is if you would deal with them yourself. If you wouldn’t, then why would you refer others to them?
So, the take home message is, when your out there on the referral partner dating scene, don’t rush into anything on your first date. Take the time to get to know each other a bit first and be clear about what you are both looking for. If you spot any warning signs, you can break things off early but, if the signs are good, you may just end up with your perfect match.
Call to action
If you are attending the Accounting Business Expo on 21-22 March, look out for Dave Boyar and his partner in crime, Paul Meissner, as they’ll be recording live From The Trenches episodes over the 2 days.
Paul and Dave discussed their thoughts on the pros and cons of referral partnerships in The Problem with Referral Arrangements and How to Fix It, Episode 49 of their From The Trenches podcast series. Tune in to it today to discover their insights.
Paul & David are passionate CA's who care deeply about the accounting industry. Paul quit his accounting day job seven years ago and now owns and runs the Melbourne-based firm, 5ways Group Chartered Accountants, and his online Freedom Accounting System firm which allows him to travel and work from anywhere.
For the last 4 years, David has worked as a Virtual CFO. At the start of 2016 he co-founded the Virtual CFO Association and in December 2016 his company, Sequel VCFO began franchising to mobilise the experienced work force of accountants in industry and bring their expertise to SMEs.
Together with their impressive list of guest presenters, Paul and David are the brave souls needed to fight through the noise and give accountants in practice the support and information they deserve.
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