Accounting relationships are built on trust. Clients trust you with their business, their livelihood, and ultimately, their future. A successful client relationship can grow to be akin to family—but, like any important relationship, it takes work to get there.
One of the fastest ways to gain someone’s confidence is through a referral. If a potential client trusts someone who already has faith in you, then all you need is a referral to connect the dots.
Asking for referrals can be daunting, even a little embarrassing. But there is nothing shameful about getting your accounting firm out there. You provide a premium service; every new client brought into your orbit will be thanking those who lead them there.
Generally—especially with the shifted focus to remote work—emails will be the easiest and most common way you ask for referrals.
It can be as simple as setting up an email template, then reminding yourself to send it out.
Ryan Lazanis from Future Firm and Karbon partnered to deliver a private podcast series, The 7 Quick Win Marketing Tactics for Accounting Firms, highlighting quick (yet impactful) tactics you can implement today to grow your firm. In the second episode, Ryan discusses some best practices for requesting referrals.
Here are six tips to get the best results.
Adding a personal touch to your emails is a great, simple way to make your clients feel special. It emphasizes their value to you and makes for a warmer conversation.
And it doesn’t take much to personalize your emails. At the simplest level, you should be using their name, instead of ‘valued client’ or another placeholder. It is easy to do, and easy to automate with most Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. To streamline your process, you can use this dedicated template from the Karbon Template Library: Collecting Testimonials, Referrals, Ratings & Reviews
You can personalize further, but be aware that additional customization will mean more work for you or your team.
Finding new clients is a little like making new friends. If you want to expand your social circle, you’re better off meeting others through friends you enjoy spending time with, instead of through an acquaintance you don’t have much in common with.
The same goes for client referrals. If you enjoy working with a client, first of all, chances are they like working with you, too. When you ask these top clients for referrals, they will likely bring you similar sorts of people, leaving you with a group of clients you like, and for whom you can continue to do your best work.
It might seem obvious, but clients who have just had a win are more likely to give a good referral. Try asking your clients for a referral just after delivering a big job for them, or securing them a larger return than they were expecting.
Often these clients will specifically mention the good job you’ve done for them, and the referred prospect will see the value you could bring to their business.
It doesn’t take a lot to ask for a referral. All you need is an acknowledgment of how much you appreciate their business, followed by a request for the referral, and a heartfelt thank you.
People don’t want to read large blocks of text only to discover that you’re asking a favor. You’re better off being succinct and genuine—your clients will appreciate it.
Clients don’t want to be bombarded with requests for referrals, just as you don't want to be asking for them constantly. Clients will value the request a lot more if it comes infrequently.
Don’t forget tip #3 and make sure you pay attention to the status of your client’s account when asking for a referral.
Like a good cliffhanger at the end of a television show, finishing an email with a question is more engaging, and is more likely to elicit a response.
Here is a simple example from Ryan Lazanis, owner of Future Firm:
I’m just writing to let you know that it’s an absolute pleasure working with you and to let you know that we’re looking to have more clients like you at our firm.
By chance, would you happen to know any other businesses in your network you think would benefit from speaking with us to see if we’d be able to help?
In his request for a referral, Ryan:
Used the client’s name
Started with gratitude and acknowledgment
Finished with a question
Kept it short and simple
If you employ these email tips, you’ll begin to see a positive response to your referral requests.
The benefits of good referrals cannot be overstated when growing your accounting firm. They are a fantastic way to gain new clients, and importantly, the trust of those clients.
These six tips to get started with requesting referrals via email are quick and easy to implement, so you can get those referrals (and new clients) streaming into your accounting firm.