Generating Business Through Referrals
When you need a lawyer, doctor, or mechanic, you probably turn to a friend, family member or other trusted advisor for a recommendation. The same holds true in the world of business software. When a company realizes that their current system no longer meets their needs, often the first place they turn is to their CPA.
This probably isn’t news to most Sage and Microsoft business partners. Many of you close a deal or two every year that came over as a referral from a CPA or accountant. But if you take a moment to think about the characteristics of these deals, you’ll discover that …
- The close percentage is very high. We’ve heard numbers as high as 90% conversion of referral leads from accountants or CPAs.
- The sales cycle is short resulting in a lower cost of sale and more profitable customer. It makes sense if you think about it. Your prospects are constantly inundated with marketing hype and they’ve become cynical about claims of product and vendor capability. However if they’ve been “passed off” to you by their trusted CPA advisor, it’s effectively an endorsement of your capability that cuts through marketing hype and makes them feel confident in working with you…thus shortening the sales cycle.
- The deals are not highly competitive. In some cases, you may be the only software provider they are considering (since you come so highly recommended!). Contrast this with a prospect that began their search online and will be evaluating 5 products with 15 vendors over the next several months … and throw in a 50-page RFP. Good luck!!
Expand Your Network
With that in mind, why not expand your referral network? Instead of relying on a small handful of relationships that send 2 or 3 leads per year, try and expand your CPA referral network by proactively reaching out to them much like you would a marketing campaign to manufacturers or distributors. For instance, you can buy a mailing list that consists of CPA firms within 25 miles of your office (check out www.infousa.com, select the Certified Public Accountants category, and plug in a radius around your zip code). Then mail them a letter, follow up with a call, stay consistent in your follow up, and voila! Now in instead of just 2 or 3 relationships, you have a group of CPAs in your community that have a place to send their clients when they ask for a recommended business software provider.
A Few Tips
Here are a few simple things to consider as you build your referral network:
Reciprocate – the best way to get referrals is to give referrals. If you have any existing customers that would benefit from the services of a CPA, make the connection. You’ll probably discover that the CPA then puts in a greater effort to seek out reciprocal opportunities for you in their client base.
Actively Manage the Relationship – help them refer business to you. Don’t just sign them up for your referral program and walk away. Make sure they understand what you do, what products you carry, what type of businesses you work best with, etc. You’ll need to actively manage the relationship and touch base with your alliance partners on a regular basis. Maybe a semi-annual lunch and learn (with CPE credit even!) or a newsletter to keep your name in front of them regularly.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask – don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. Especially with CPAs that have referred business in the past for which you did a fantastic job for their client. Ask to participate as a guest speaker at an event or provide them with letters or material that they can pass on to their clients on your behalf.
You may feel a little hesitant asking for referrals. It’s important that you do it in a way that’s comfortable for you, authentic, and doesn’t feel pushy. But once you develop a comfortable strategy, you’ll probably be surprised to discover how cooperative your alliance partners can be.
A Simple Approach for Building Your Referral Network
We know you don’t have time to sit around writing letters and developing telemarketing scripts to get your referral building efforts started. That’s why Juice Marketing created the Accountants Alliance Marketing Program that provides you with 2 business letters, a white paper (for Accountants), and a telemarketing script. It’s a turnkey approach that will jump start you’re alliance building effort!
Download the Accountants Alliance Marketing program brochure for details.