Thursday, March 08, 2018

Build Links with CPAs to Better Serve Your Clients

With the new tax changes, your clients will likely have many questions concerning how they can correctly file their taxes, or about investment strategies that may need to be reviewed and perhaps adjusted. Most financial professionals (FPs) are not tax experts and refer their clients to a CPA. But how well do you know the CPAs in your network? Strong working relationships with tax professionals can prove to be beneficial to all parties throughout the year. Clients of CPAs are often in need of financial and investment advice, and clients themselves are often looking for a team of professionals that can holistically address their financial needs. Getting to know your clients’ CPAs in terms of their approach to tax planning and understanding your clients’ tax situations will help you implement financial strategies that can help to maximize their tax benefits and minimize their tax obligations. Ultimately this approach leads to reciprocity in referrals and happier clients who refer their friends, family, and co-workers to you.

Here are some strategies that can help you develop better relationships with CPAs and clients when it comes to taxes:

With your clients’ permission, reach out to CPAs they are working with. Make it clear that you wish to collaborate with them to help your shared clients make better decisions and make the relationship mutually beneficial. Ask for their thoughts on each client’s tax situation and financial vehicles, including how the new rules may affect them. Share your ideas and ask for feedback. Ask how you can help make the CPAs’ lives easier during tax season, when their time is at a premium.

Be organized. Clients often deliver paperwork straight from their FPs. If you understand how tax forms are filed and organized and prepare your paperwork for them accordingly, you will make a CPA’s job easier and make them that much more likely to want to work with you and refer you to their clients. CPAs do not have the time or desire to work with someone that is creating work rather than streamlining the process.

Be available. When a client’s CPA reaches out to you, make the time to speak with them and answer any questions they may have about the client or other topics, especially during tax season when time is of the essence. These relationships are just as important as those with clients and you should make the CPA feel this way when they need something. When you are in need of something, including referrals, this approach will be remembered.

Be informed. Staying up to speed on key tax laws and deadlines and understanding how the investments and products your clients hold may affect their taxes are a couple of things you can do to improve the overall financial strategy and experience of your clients. CPAs appreciate FPs who take the time to understand what they can about taxes to help avoid basic issues. This understanding can help conversations go more smoothly. CPAs naturally want to work with FPs who understand what they do.

Be kind. Sending holiday cards or a treat to the CPA’s office for no particular reason is always a great gesture. Business is about relationships, and the best way to develop a relationship is showing kindness. Going out of your way to ask how the CPA’s family is doing shows you value them as a person, not just as a resource.

Understand that timing is very important. Don’t wait until tax time to take these steps. The CPA’s time is extremely valuable during this time of year and often the end of the year is too late to make important adjustments or decisions. Instead, conduct a post-mortem with your clients and their CPAs to discuss how things went and how things could improve next year.

Be helpful. If you see a tax-related article you think a CPA might be interested in or that you would like a CPA’s thoughts on, send it along to him/her. Encouraging them to think of you as a resource will set you apart from other FPs that only reach out when they want something.

Make smart referrals. Taking the time to get to know and work with CPAs will naturally lead you to those whom you believe are adept, hardworking, and ethical. This evaluation should also be based on feedback from your clients. These are the CPAs you want to refer to your clients. Referring to any old CPA or one whom you know from church or school without understanding their credentials, reputation, and working practices is not doing your clients any favors. And if a client’s experience is negative, you may even lose that client! Your goal is also to gather referrals, so once these relationships are formed your hard work should pay off with referrals from both CPAs and clients.

Always put the client first. Just because a CPA is referring clients to you, they may not be someone you feel quite comfortable referring back to. That’s OK. Keeping the client’s best interest in mind is your best bet. When you refer to a CPA, tell your client why you are doing it – explain what you like or don’t like about the CPA. The client will then know that you are really doing it to help them, and not to help yourself.

Mutually beneficial referrals are best obtained through relationships that develop organically. Over time, this commitment can lead to results that are fruitful in many ways. If you would like to discuss any of these strategies, please give me a call.

James Morris | Designated Supervisory Principal
Questar Capital Corporation Branch Office at AAAE
Ph: 800.321.3924 x159 | Dir: 734.786.6159

Securities offered through Questar Capital Corporation (QCC). Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Questar Asset Management, a registered investment advisor. Ann Arbor Annuity Exchange is an affiliate of QCC.

Designed for Financial Professionals.