Six Steps to Strategic Alliances with CPAs - Part One

This process will get you started on the path to creating rock-solid alliances

By Jonathan Powell

Key Takeaways:

  • CPAs are key drivers of new business for nearly 80 percent of financial advisors.
  • To create successful strategic alliances, you need a systematic, repeatable process.
  • Don’t pursue just any CPA firm. You want to work with a top firm that has the largest concentration of people in your niche in your local market.

Part one of a two-part series

Strategic alliances with CPAs are a great way to build your business. Introductions to prospective clients from other professionals such as accountants are key drivers of new business for nearly 80 percent of the financial advisors surveyed in CEG Worldwide’s latest study.

But how do you go out and actually create a successful, rock-solid and long-term alliance with a CPA?

The answer: Follow a systematic, 12-step process that we have developed at CEG Worldwide. Here’s a look at the first six steps.

Step 1. Identify appropriate potential partners. Don’t take the easy way out and just work with one of your clients’ CPAs. You want to explore working with a top CPA firm that has a large concentration of people in your niche in your local market. Start by making a list of the top local and regional CPA firms in your area. You can identify the top players in your area through your local business journal, or you can call the heads of your local and state societies of CPAs to ask for assistance.

Step 2. Narrow to five top candidates. Cut your list down to strong, highly respected firms that share your target market and that are entrepreneurial and marketing-oriented. Create a profile of what your ideal CPA partner looks like. Include factors such as the number of CPAs in the firm, the number of clients per CPA, the level of client focus the firm demonstrates and so on.

Once you’ve got the top five prospects, identify the most senior executives in those firms. Typically, the individual you will want to talk to is the managing partner and/or rainmaker, because he or she will understand your market and will be in a position to create a strategic alliance between their firm and yours.

Step 3. Gather CPA industry research. Compile some data and research on the current state of the CPA industry and the interest that CPAs have in working with other professionals. Essentially this is any data that helps support your position that a strategic alliance between a CPA firm and a financial advisor would be mutually beneficial.

Step 4. Make the initial call. Contact your targeted CPA prospects and set up appointments to discuss joint opportunities for working together. Your goal for these calls is to start exploring ideas about how a strategic alliance might be mutually beneficial.

Mention that you will share research about affluent clients and how to market to them more effectively and acquire them. The reason: CPA firms need help with business development. When these firms hear that you are exploring strategic alliances with CPAs and that you will share your valuable research, they likely will want to meet with you.

Step 5. Set the stage at the first meeting. Your goal at the exploratory meeting is to determine whether the other firm is right for you and whether you should continue the alliance process. You want to learn as quickly as possible whether the firm justifies spending the time with you that will be necessary to form a highly profitable strategic alliance.

Make it clear at this meeting that there is a tremendous business opportunity for revenue sharing if the firm is suitable as a strategic partner with your firm. It’s important to communicate this message confidently so the CPA firm sees the benefit of working with you. You’ll need to offer specific details on what you are going to do and what the CPA firm will need to do to uphold its side of the commitment.

Step 6. Interview the CPA. Tell the CPA that you would like a better understanding of his or her firm to see whether there is an opportunity to explore working together. Your goal is to uncover those key issues on which you should drill down in order to complete your assessment of whether you should continue to explore a strategic alliance with this CPA firm.

You will need to determine the questions that work best for you based on the CPA firm and your business goals. Examples could be: “Where do you think the CPA profession is going?” “What does your ideal client look like?” “How do you differentiate your firm from the competition?” and “What has been your experience working with other financial advisors?”

Then walk the potential partner through the research you compiled earlier. This will allow you to present a compelling case for forming a strategic alliance and to position yourself as an expert who takes a thoughtful, careful approach to serving clients well.

Next week, I’ll cover the remaining six steps to forming successful alliances with CPAs that will help you take your business to the next level.

About the Author

Jonathan Powell is a managing principal at CEG Worldwide, LLC in San Martin, California. Working with many of the nation’s top financial firms, he enjoys helping financial advisors transform their professional and personal lives by implementing CEG Worldwide’s research-backed principles.