There are many ways an accounting firm (and other businesses) can win new clients and in an earlier article on accounting firm management I wrote about some of them. Today I want to focus on referrals – why they are important and what my recent experience with Steve the pool guy demonstrates in a powerful way.

So let me tell you about Steve the pool guy.

Kate and I recently moved house and for the first time own a house with a swimming pool. Having never owned a pool we had no idea what is required to look after it so I did what most people do in 2016, went to the internet to learn more. I searched on pool companies in the local area and found quite a few (We live in Queensland, which has a pretty large number of pools on account of the climate!) Having scanned all the websites, I felt comfortable that Steve’s business would be well placed to assist. They offered a service for newbies to do just want we wanted – to understand the responsibilities we had just taken on with pool ownership.

I rang Steve’s business and asked about the service and Steve said he could come out in a couple of days to review our setup and advise what needed to be done.

Two important learnings already from Steve:

  1. His website was relevant to my needs and painted a picture of a down to earth, genuinely helpful business – it attracted me to call –  the newbie pool owner service is an excellent product which meets a real need in the market.
  2. Steve told me up front what the fixed cost would be for his visit and advice and it was very reasonable and he fixed a time to visit.

Steve arrived as promised and was nothing short of brilliant. He patiently walked me through the different pieces of equipment we have in place for the pool and explained each to me and what I would need to do as part of a maintenance regime for the pool. He clearly knew his stuff and I did not hesitate to sign up for a monthly maintenance visit from one of his team. There was no hard sell, in fact initially he assumed I’d want to do it all myself. No chance! Again he quoted a fixed visit fee plus in this case the cost of any chemicals needed. (Pool chemicals are like printer ink I suspect – a great earner!)

So what has this got to do with referrals I hear you say! Well, here is the kicker. I was so impressed with Steve I thought surely he would know some other impressive people. We needed a plumber and an electrician and I had been quite underwhelmed by most of the websites I looked at so I thought who better than Steve to point me in the right direction.

Long story short, both the plumber and electrician have been excellent and both specifically asked how we came to call them. Of course we said Steve the pool guy recommended them. And there’s the thing. They were so prequalified by Steve the pool guy that we were happy to engage them and not look any further in the market. They did absolutely nothing to get our business other than be polite and professional on the phone when we rang.

If you can form relationships with a few Steves you are going to have a great pipeline of prequalified referrals coming your way. That is important because it is so much easier than many of the other ways you can win clients.

So who is your Steve? In my experience I have seen some accountants have a lawyer as their Steve and vice versa. But there will be others. Spend some time thinking about this with your team. Naturally you want to nurture the relationship with Steve and whenever you get a referral thank him for it and let him know how it all went. In some cases there may be some thank you gift involved but I am not a huge fan of referral fees as such.

Of course your existing clients should be great referral sources. If you look after them. Steve very quickly built my trust and gave me the feeling of being well looked after. Trust is key to the concept of referrals. When someone refers another person they trust that other person will look after the client well as it reflects on the referrer. So you need to build and maintain the trust of your referrers, whether they be clients, team members or third parties like Steve.

Do you think I will be referring Steve the pool guy to others? You bet I will.  And do you think Steve will continue to refer the plumber, electrician and others he trusts? Most certainly.

Go find your Steve!

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