CPA match becoming more critical
by Harvey Pollack, CPA, CEO
Harvey Pollack is the CEO of PT Marketing, Pittsburgh, PA. He can be reached at 866-727-4861 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statistics show that one out of every two CPAs will offer financial services in the future to remain competitive. How can you, as an agent, prospect successfully in the CPA market?
Over the past 10 to 15 years, larger CPA firms have incorporated insurance products and other consultative services into their practices. As a trusted advisor, a CPA giving advice about topics such as business succession planning, estate planning and the like has elevated the need for CPAs to gain additional knowledge about insurance options.
Larger firms have already established the insurance service in-house. Typically this occurs through some type of investment advisory group.
In contrast, smaller CPA firms don’t have internal insurance offerings; thus the opportunity exists for insurance agents to partner with this target audience.
History with a Twist
Previously CPAs would simply refer out all client insurance requirements to insurance agents in hopes that they would receive referrals. However, insurance agents have a difficult time recommending an accountant to a client, simply because those client conversations do not lend themselves to talking about those kinds of financial needs. Over time CPAs understood that they needed a different type of formalized partnership.
Proactive agents should evaluate ways to make the CPA partnership a reality. Agents need a proven methodology to introduce themselves to CPAs. Working with a verified appointment setting service is an effective way to jump-start the process.
Why CPAs are Good Partners
Best practices of the most successful CPA include the following: targeting high-net worth clients; leveraging existing clientele; offering a wide range of financial services and products; and utilizing outside consultants and resources. Most CPAs do not have the time or resources to provide the financial services that their clients are requesting. By partnering with agents, CPAs can leverage their time and expertise and offer additional services that will generate income at no additional cost.
Many CPAs are seeking a reciprocal business partnership; one where they still remain in control of the client relationship and the process.
Many CPAs have realized that it’s not only possible to expand services beyond tax, audit, and accounting, but it is very lucrative and encouraged by the American Institute of CPAs.
However, time restraints often prohibit CPAs from finding new revenue sources, thereby leaving significant dollars on the table. Exchanging referrals does not offer the financial gain to grow their business. Many CPAs are seeking a reciprocal business partnership; one where they still remain in control of the client relationship and the process.
Agents can offer a mutually beneficial relationship that positions the CPA as the primary advisor. CPA firms can easily understand that when they rely on outside providers for financial services they have much lower costs and therefore substantially higher profit margins. This is a perfect open door for an agent to walk through. Enter the agent.
Reaching the CPA market
Determining how to reach the CPA market can be simple or complicated. If you are already aligned with that professional group, create a reason to interact with this audience. You may first want to start with a coffee conversation, or if you are able to present your concept to several CPAs during an educational forum, you can establish yourself as a credible partner.
If you are not in the CPA circle, then you’ll need to determine what type of marketing initiative would work best for you. Step one of any campaign is to be sure the message is reaching the decision maker. You need a solid contact list. Then you can evaluate what methodology works best. This could be any variety of marketing strategies: direct mail, email blasts, radio, print advertising, public relations, or hiring someone to set appointments for you.
Selecting an Appointment Setting Service
If you do decide to team up with an appointment setting service, you should consider partnering with one that can successfully identify prospective small to mid-size accounting firms that are open to growth opportunities with insurance agents. As the agent, you predetermine what region you want to focus on for an “introduction” appointment.
Using an appointment service can streamline your efforts to reach the key CPA decision maker. Ask the service how they will represent you, and how they determine lead qualification. Find out if they maintain a Quality Department. On average you should expect to rank 80 percent of your appointments as qualified or highly qualified prospects. The critical outcome of any marketing initiative is to get you in front of the decision maker of the CPA firm.
As each insurance group has a different process, there are many ways an agent and CPA can work together, i.e. a joint venture or referral agreement. Any number of partnership agreements can result. The whole idea is to develop a working agreement that is mutually rewarding to both parties.
Don’t underestimate the time it will take to establish a partnership with a CPA. It takes a relatively long period of time to develop the trust. This partnership needs some courting time, and it is not a one-meeting close. The payoff is that a partnership with a CPA can be highly productive in the long-term.
Most CPA clients are part of a referral network. It is a natural referral chain that smart insurance agents like to build. A recent survey of high-producing agents indicated that 90 percent of their business is a result of referrals.
If an agent can present knowledgeably to a CPA who has a question, that agent has a greater chance to be on the “list” of who the CPA calls for help.
Many insurance companies have developed formal programs through which they encourage agents to work with other professionals. The challenge continues to be how to identify those professionals and how to get those prospects in your date book for a face-to-face meeting.
There are key advantages for agents to explore this type of CPA alliance building, and the more-experienced agent will benefit the most. Unquestionably, a CPA doesn’t want to have an inexperienced person in front of his or her clients. They need agents who have the ability to offer smart solutions directly.
Future of Accounting Firms
The American Institute of CPAs “Vision 2011″ Survey shows that the accounting industry is poised for widespread change, with dramatic growth in the number of CPA firms providing financial services. Surveys show that existing clients are interested in obtaining financial services from their CPAs.
Over 75 percent of the CPAs who provide or expect to provide financial services do so in order to better serve their clients. Today, an estimated 17 percent of CPAs have integrated financial services into their practice to keep pace with the business world, that figure is expected to grow to nearly 49 percent in three years.
Published in Life & Health Magazine, June 2008