One of the best routes to market for a growing small accountancy firm is via referrals from introducers. In fact just a small handful of well-placed introducers can help your firm generate all the new leads your firm needs to hit its growth targets. However, in order to get this reliable stream of referrals you need to overcome 5 types of referral friction. This article explains how to overcome that friction.
Why is it difficult to get a reliable stream of referrals from introducers?
The problem is that you are probably one of many accountants that your introducer could send the referral to. Therein lies the problem. Particularly if you are a relatively new accountancy firm in your local area, and by relatively new I mean less than 5 years old. Many good introducers for your firm will have already got established relationships with your competitors. This means your competitors will naturally be at the front of the queue for any high quality referrals. This resistance to sending you referrals is called referral friction, and you will need to overcome this. Over the rest of this article I will explore the 5 elements of referral friction that you will need to overcome if you want to have a healthy flow of high quality referrals from your introducers
The local professional services scene is a hot bed of politics. Everyone knows everyone else. It's these politics which could be getting in the way of you gaining the referrals. After all, if firm A has always sent their referrals to accountancy firm B, it's not going to be easy to squeeze into that relationship. Even if you are proactively working with an introducer to generate referrals from their clients to your firm, politics still may get in the way. From the acceptable, "it's not the right time for the client", e.g. we have a big pitch on and don't want to confuse the client by talking about any other potential needs, through to the irrational, "I don't want to introduce anyone else to the client in case I lose it to them".
If you are going to get the referral from the introducer, they need to like you and want to help you. This takes time. Often we forget that referrals don't just happen as a result of a meeting or two. They happen as a result of a deep level of trust being formed.
No-one likes to damage their own reputation by making an introduction or referral which then goes wrong. Particularly if this introduction is to someone outside of your own firm. The reality is that if your credibility is not strong and your reputation not good, then it is going to be really hard to win work from the internal marketplace. If an introducer doesn't think you are credible, they are just not going to entertain a proactive conversation about introducing their clients to you on a proactive or reactive basis.
Time is not on anyone's side in the professions. If you want an introducer to have a conversation on your behalf or send a client of theirs an email written by you, this is going to take up their time. If they are working flat out, such as if they are a lawyer with a deal on, this may not happen any time quickly.
If your introducer doesn't understand the need for your services, say for example your advisory services, then they are going to find it difficult to make referrals to you. They also need to know what a Prospect for you may be saying or doing. It's pretty easy to make a referral when someone says "I need a new accountant", but what will your Prospects be saying or doing if they are a good candidate for your services BEFORE they say "I need a new accountant". This is what you need to educate your introducers on.
You may also need to educate your introducer why it is in their interest (and their clients' interest) to make the introduction to you. The best place to influence an introducer is when you can demonstrate to them a low risk, high return opportunity for their client. This is often where there is a regulation change which the client will need to respond to or a piece of tax advice which you can sell to their client on a share of savings basis.
How to overcome referral friction?
The first golden rule is don't be greedy. Don't try to be all things to everyone and don't feel as if you are entitled to all the referrals from an introducer. If you are going to generate a referral from an introducer with established relationships you need to prove that there is a real benefit to the client by YOUR firm servicing them. This means being known for a particular niche.
When you have a niche, and I mean I targeted niche, not a vague idea of who you want, e.g. "independent retailers rather than local small businesses" it becomes so much easier to educate your introducers on what will make a great referral for you.
The simpler you make it to refer work to your firm, i.e.
- Only looking for 1-2 different types of clients
- Being easy to work with
- Always delivering a great service to a referred potential client, even if you don't go on to work with them
- Keeping your introducer updated
the more likely your introducers will regularly send you work.