What You'll Learn In Today's Episode:

  • Why advisors don’t receive referrals from CPAs.
  • How to avoid sounding overly pushy.
  • Why you shouldn’t assume people know what you do as an advisor.
  • Why CPAs feel hesitant to refer clients to an advisor.
  • How to bridge the gap between advisors and CPAs.
  • The best way to approach a CPA.

Most advisors are unable to get something that even resembles a referral from other CPAs. But why is that a challenge for so many advisors—and is there a change that can be made to your marketing efforts to potentially receive more referrals? Here to help break down this topic from the perspective of a CPA is Matthew’s brother, Steven Jarvis, co-founder, CEO, and head CPA for Retirement Tax Services.

Listen in as Steven explains the importance of communicating in full what it is you do as an advisor before making the assumption that everyone truly understands. You’ll hear about the importance of learning from other advisors and/or CPAs, how to sincerely approach a CPA, and how to create a relationship with a local CPA.

  • We hear all of the time being in the RIA space is lonely. It is hard to find like-minded individuals who want to help you to achieve success.

    And most likely, you often ask yourself the same question (we all do)  – Where do I start?

    The TPR’s Starter Kit offers you access to the One Page Financial Plan, 5 Mistakes Keeping You From Getting More Clients & How to Stop Playing Office, our most popular power sessions of all time!

Podcast Article:

Three Center of Influence Marketing Mistakes Every Financial Advisor Must Avoid

Center of influence marketing is the golden goose of client referrals—if you can avoid these three mistakes.

Center of influence marketing—connecting with CPAs and other professionals in hopes of a steady stream of client referrals—is frequently recommended as a way for financial advisors to achieve a constant flow of new prospects. However, in practice, very few advisors who implement this strategy ever achieve the success they’re looking for. So why does this time-honored strategy fail for so many advisors?

In this article, you’ll learn the three mistakes that are tanking your successful COI marketing efforts from a CPA who’s seen it all before, plus the real secret to lasting marketing success.

Action Items in This Article

  • If a COI doesn’t understand the value you provide—or what you actually do—they have no reason to recommend you to their clients.
  • Whenever you ask a professional to take time out of their busy day, offer to pay for that time. They may or may not accept your check, but the respect you show them will speak volumes about how you’ll treat their clients. 
  • Connecting with centers of influence is a way to solve your clients’ real-world problems. Lose sight of that and the entire process becomes a cheap marketing tactic your prospective COIs will see right through.

Three Mistakes that Tank Your Center of Influence Marketing Strategy

Steven Jarvis—Matthew Jarvis’ brother—is a successful CPA who’s been approached by all kinds of financial advisors, and he’s witnessed firsthand how a single mistake can derail a hopeful financial advisor’s attempts to woo a center of influence.

If you want centers of influence in your niche to send referrals your way, these are the three mistakes that Steven advises you can’t afford to make.

Mistake #1: Failing to Demonstrate Value

While it may seem obvious, people new to COI marketing sometimes forget you can’t just ask people to put their reputations on the line for you. They have to see how you could truly benefit their clients. And before you’re able to demonstrate the value you can provide, you’ll often need to start with what it is you as a financial advisor actually do.

The CPA designation is highly regulated and controlled; anyone who claims to be a CPA when they’re not faces stiff penalties. By contrast, the financial services industry doesn’t even agree on a standard-use definition for terms like “financial advisor,” “financial planner,” and “wealth manager.” No wonder CPAs often fail to see how their clients might benefit from an advisor’s services—it’s not always clear what those services really are.

If you want to reap the benefits of COI marketing, it’s crucial that you lead with the value you provide. As Steven notes, “Unless you help me understand what it is you do for your clients, I don’t feel confident making an assumption.”

Mistake #2: Failing to Put Your Client First

When it comes to approaching a CPA on a client’s behalf, timeliness is everything. It can be tempting to kickstart these connections by approaching centers of influence with a question based on a past experience you had with a client. But the most effective approach to cultivating a long-term relationship is to bring that CPA a client issue you are currently trying to solve.

Steven knows multiple CPAs who only ever refer their clients to one advisor. And in all of these cases, these repeat, automatic referrals came about after the advisor initially came to the CPA with a genuine desire to resolve an issue for their client. They weren’t trying to get referrals. They weren’t trying to network or build a relationship. They simply had a client whose needs they cared about being met.

Everyone loves being the best solution—and every potential center of influence loves an advisor who has their clients’ best interests at heart.

Mistake #3: Asking a Stranger for Free Time 

One excellent way to approach a potential COI is to meet with them face-to-face to learn more about their practice and see if any of your clients are a good fit. But there’s a right and a wrong way to accomplish this, and the wrong way is guaranteed to fail.

Imagine someone you don’t know walked into your office and asked you for an hour of your time. Would you give it to them? In the future, would you associate that person’s name with generosity or disrespect? Would you go out of your way to do that person a favor?

The best and only way to ask a busy professional for help is by offering to pay for their time. Whether or not they end up accepting your money, your genuine offer shows that you respect their time and expertise and immediately sets your relationship off on the right foot.

Be Patient!

When all the pieces finally come together, center of influence marketing has the potential to become the golden goose of client referrals. But to get there, you need to exhibit extreme patience. No professional is going to risk their hard-earned client relationships after a single meeting with you; expect to spend up to a year (or more) cultivating that relationship before it becomes a good source of business.

This may seem like a long time, but—assuming you plan to be in business a year or two from now—it’s an investment you must make today. As Matthew Jarvis says, “You can’t expect the golden goose to come out just because you paid for one hour of time. If this is going to be your strategy, it’s got to be a long-term game.”

Resources In Today's Episode:

Read the Transcript Below:

This is The Perfect RIA, in case you didn’t know. Bringing you all the strategies to help your business grow. Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Are you hanging on the edge of your seat? Sit back and listen in while you feel the beat. Another myth bites the dust…

Matthew Jarvis:   Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of The Perfect RIA podcast. I’m your co-founder Matthew Jarvis, and Micah this week is out at a hunting camp still. So, instead of Micah, I’ve invited Steven Jarvis, CPA, to join us today. Steven, how are you?

Steven Jarvis:     I’m doing really well. How are you, Matt?

Matthew Jarvis:   I’m doing good. I’m doing good. By way of introduction, Steven is, as I mentioned, a CPA. He is also one of the co-founders of Retirement Tax Services. And if you heard me mentioned his name quickly, you did notice that both of us have the same last name of Jarvis, not just because we’re big Marvel fans, right? That could be a thing, but we are in fact brothers.

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah, at least my whole life. Not quite your whole life, because you’re the older brother. I got more hair. You have a little more age. So, fair trade, maybe?

Matthew Jarvis:   Maybe it’s something to look forward to. Let’s start, Steven, by clearing up one thing right out of the gates, which is that while you are a CPA and while we are brothers, I have not gotten a single referral from you ever in your entire career or in my entire career. So, I mentioned that one, because it fits into the topic of our podcast today, but two, to clear up any, perhaps, misconceptions that while I get one-third of my new clients each year from CPAs, they are not from my brother.

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah. I was actually recently talking to an advisor who’s familiar with both TPR and RTS, and I made that comment and he said, “That can’t be true. Matt’s always talking about how he gets all these referrals from CPAs, but turns out his brother’s a CPA. That’s clearly where they all come from.” And it’s not. Not only have I never sent you a referral, I can honestly say, I’ve never really thought that hard about even considering it, and we can talk about why. It’s nothing personal against you.

Matthew Jarvis:   The reason I wanted to kind of highlight that is that early in my career, I belonged to an insurance agency and they had this whole big program about how to work with centers of influence. And they paraded all around the country this one insurance agent who was doing tons of business working with CPAs. And so I follow this system. It does nothing for me. It works terribly. But then I find out it was, in fact, that guy’s brother, and in that state, it was legal for them to share fees back and forth and share commissions back and forth and whatnot. And so basically, he had a business partner that was also a CPA, so I was pretty turned off by that.

But I almost got a burr under my saddle, if you will, or this drive to finally make CPA referrals work. And as I mentioned, one-third of my new clients each year come from CPAs, not from anyone I’m related to. But Steven, the reason we wanted to have you on the show today is most advisors are not able to get referrals from CPAs. They’re just zero. They didn’t even get a suggestion, like, “Hey someday, I’ll send you a referral.” So, we want to talk about that today, kind of understand from a CPA’s perspective, why that might exist, and then what advisors can change in their marketing efforts to potentially get referrals.

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah, definitely. I’m really excited to talk about that, because similar to you talking about the insurance group giving you all these suggestions about how to work with centers of influence, that’s also a common recommendation that CPAs get as they start their career, of work with centers of influence. And so on the CPA list of potential centers of influence, financial advisors are on that list, but usually we get to one networking event and we never want to talk to the advisors again, because they feel like pushy insurance salesman.

Matthew Jarvis:   That’s a good point, and so this gets us into whether it’s a CPA or an attorney or a client or anyone else, I think the number one reason they’re not sending referrals is you haven’t demonstrated to them how you’re going to deliver massive value. Now, part of the reason I didn’t ever get referrals from Steven is that he lived in a different area geographically than I do, and we worked in different markets. So, his ideal clients were not my ideal clients, and thus, we never had a discussion about referrals, but that doesn’t mean that we couldn’t. And now that you’re with Retirement Tax Services, maybe we will someday.

But too many advisors go to CPAs, go to centers of influence, and just say, “Hey, send me your clients. I’ll take good care of them,” or they say, “Hey, listen, I’ve sent you five tax clients, therefore you owe me, you owe me a client.” Steven, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that yourself or with other CPAs you work with.

Steven Jarvis:     Those two mentalities are probably the most common, of either, “Hey, just send them to me. I’ll take a care of them. We serve similar clients. It would be great if you sent some my way.” Or that keeping score of, “Well, okay, well, I’ve sent you this much.” Both of those are not going to get you anywhere.

I want to back up for just a second though-

Matthew Jarvis:   Please.

Steven Jarvis:     … because you said that a lot of advisors just go right to asking for referrals instead of demonstrating how they can deliver massive value. And I am all for DMVing. I love that as something that you guys push, but for advisors talking to CPAs, you need to start with, what is it you actually do? Because if you polled CPAs about what it is financial advisors do, you would get a whole variety of answers. Probably most of them, you wouldn’t really be that excited to hear the answer to, but before you even get to how I deliver this in a valuable way, you can’t take for granted that someone knows what it is you do as an advisor. Make it really clear.

Matthew Jarvis:   Steven, that’s a good point you bring up, and I think it stresses how different our two industries are, right? And we can look at this from lots of different angles, but the CPA industry is very defined, right? There’s very rigid rules. Titles are very defined. The CPA designation, unlike the CFP, which is just a trademark, it’s a copyright thing, CPA is a government issue, like the government controls that designation. There are criminal penalties attached to calling yourself a CPA if you’re not. Everything’s very defined, where in our industry, in financial services, we can’t even agree on what a financial advisor is versus a financial planner versus a wealth manager versus whatever.

And so it’s no wonder that if I go to a CPA and I say, “I’m a financial,” whatever I say, they’re going to say, “I don’t know what that means. I know what a CPA is. I know what an attorney is. I don’t really know what you do. I don’t know what you are. I don’t know if you’re going to sell insurance products. I don’t know anything about you.”

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah. Especially if we narrow down specifically on tax, because tax is just one part of accounting. Not all CPAs even do tax. Really, there’s two designations that anyone cares about, CPA and enrolled agent. That’s it. We’ve got two that are generally recognized.

On the advisor side, just this year, I’ve learned about new designations I didn’t know existed for advisors. There’s this alphabet soup that comes after advisor, and there’s a couple I recognize and can pick out. But again, even if you have that designation, unless you help me understand what it is you do for your clients, I don’t feel confident making an assumption about the services you offer.

Matthew Jarvis:   You know, this creates kind of an interesting dichotomy, I suppose. So, the one is that if you go to talk to a CPA, an enrolled agent, they don’t really know what it is that you do as a financial advisor. But the dichotomy there is, I guess, in a way, Steven, correct me if I’m … They probably don’t really care. If they’re looking on their list of things to do for the day, it’s probably number three, like, “Hey, I wonder what a financial advisor does? I really think I’d like to spend a couple of non-billable hours learning from this guy.” So you have this dichotomy of, they don’t really know what we do, and to be honest, they probably don’t really care. It’s not in their priority list.

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah, so really explaining what you do and explaining how you deliver massive value, that’s like 1A and 1B. They’re not completely separate things, because you got to quickly get to, why should I care about this for my clients?

Recently heard Tom Gau on a podcast say that investments are a matter of opinion and taxes are a matter of fact. Whether you agree with that or not, most CPAs probably would. And so, this is where you have another challenge between working with advisors and CPAs is that CPAs are very focused on tax compliance, and that feels a lot more black and white of, I have a service that I can deliver on and I can tell you, “Hey, it’s done. We’ve completed our work,” whereas especially for a lot of CPAs, financial planning, financial advising seems like this ambiguous, like, “Trust me, you’re going to get value out of this, but I can’t tell you exactly when that value has been delivered because we’re planning for the future.” Those are just kind of some of the impressions that a person might have.

Matthew Jarvis:   That’s an interesting example on the black and white. Steven, I was talking to one of the CPAs I work with who sends me quite a few referrals. We were talking about Roth conversions, and she says to me, she says, “Matthew, I’m so tired of hearing financial advisors talk about Roth conversions.” And I said, “Well, why is that?” And she says, “If a client has $100,000 in their IRA account today and they do a Roth conversion and now have 75,000, at what point do they have more than 100,000 in that account?” So, her point was just, in pure dollars and cents, a Roth conversion will always leave you with less money.

Now I get the advisors and listeners say, “Wait a second. No, no. What about the real value in taxes and all these things?” But wasn’t her point. She’s saying, “Black and white, I had more money before the Roth conversion than I do now. Therefore, black and white, maybe it was a bad deal.”

Now the other point I want to draw from this is, again, advisors might be thinking, “Well, hey, this CPA is not very smart.” Well, whether she’s smart or not … And she’s brilliant, by the way, at least I think so. She’s my personal CPA as well. That’s her take on that, and if I go in there and I say, well, if I’ve got contempt, “Well, geez, the CPAs just don’t get it. They just don’t understand tax planning,” while you would never speak that to them, people know when you have contempt for them. They know when you’re looking down on them, and they’re not going to do business with you if you think lowly of them.

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah, so maybe getting to, okay, so then how do we bridge this gap, because we’ve just talked, kind of just expanding this gap further and further as we talk. I love the phrase, help me understand. This is great when you have conflict with people, this is great when you’re trying to build a relationship with people, especially people who are experts in their field, and when there’s potential overlap between your two fields, so if we talk about Roth conversions.

So, even if you think you have your system for talking to a client about Roth conversions dialed in, there’s a good chance you could come across a client who thinks very much like your CPA does of, “Well, wait a second. You are telling me that I should intentionally end up with less money.” And so instead of just assuming that your approach has worked and always will work the same way, learn from other people who are in this tax base to say, “Hey, help me understand how you look at this strategy, or when this would make sense for a client, or when you would be excited to see a financial advisor had worked with your client on this.”

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah, that’s a variation of that question I always ask CPAs and centers of influence when I’m meeting with them, “Hey, can you give me some examples where a financial advisor made your job easier, and can you give me some examples where they made your job more difficult, where you really said, ‘Ah, I can’t believe they did that.'” And I really ask it that way, like, “Ah, I can’t believe they did that,” to try to make it a little more human, but having questions like that become very open-ended, it’s very inviting. I’m respecting their education.

And again, there’s some financial advisors listening that have advanced degrees. They have lots of designations. The CPA world lives on its pedestal, right, for better or worse. That’s a big industry, and it’s very education-focused, and our industry compared to theirs is really the Wild West. And so I need to come in there with a certain level of respect if I want to ever get referrals. If I want to go in there and pound my chest and impress them with how smart I am versus they are, I guess you can do that with your time. That’s not going to get down the path of referrals.

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah, and especially when it comes to getting these things done, because there’s a lot of great tax planning strategies out there that, honestly, advisors are in a way better position to identify them. But if they don’t get reported to the IRS correctly, they may as well have not happened. That’s a really critical piece of it.

And we’re not trying here to just compare the two industries, but let’s think about this for a second. Especially if you’re an advisor who’s been hesitant to try to learn from the tax professionals because they’re always historically focused and what do they know, they’re just lost in their forums. But think about it this way. CPAs spend most of their time on technical things. We kind of care a lot about our billable hours. It’s probably a downside of our industry, but we do. So, doing some quick math the other day, and I’m already over 20,000 hours of technical time that I’ve spent, like I said, in technical areas in my career.

Matt, you’ve been doing your job longer than I’ve been doing mine, but as far as just actual technical time, and you have a whole other podcast on why you try to limit that, but we won’t go down that route right now. But just my point in this is, as you look at CPAs, I mean, we’ve got a lot of really great hands-on technical experience that I think we can share some things from. So come into that, not just asking a question to patronize someone, but really willing to learn with that curiosity mindset.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah. I want to throw one more thing out on this, and then let’s pivot on how do we shift this dynamic from perhaps adversarial or just not knowing of each other to productive. But one other thing to keep in mind is, whose signature is going on the tax return? As the advisor, no matter how smart you are, no matter how many degrees you have, it is not your signature on the tax return. You are not the one that is liable for that return. Now, there may potentially be an E&O claim if this whole thing blows up, the client might come back against you. Unlikely, but it’s the CPA’s signature that’s on that tax return. They’re the person who’s really going to answer to that, not on a moral level, but on a legal level, so we need to have some appreciation and some respect for that as well.

All right. Well, let’s pivot just a little bit. So if we said, “Hey, going in, CPAs and financial advisors, they don’t necessarily understand each other. They come from different worlds. They have different priorities. They have different thought processes. How do we bring some alignment back to that?” And then I guess, Steven, how do we even start that process from your perspective? I’ve talked a little bit on other episodes and we’ll dive in it today. But as a CPA, if you had a tax practice in a random town, how would you want to be approached?

Steven Jarvis:     You know, I’ve listened to your podcasts a lot. I really love your suggestion to offer to pay for an hour of a CPA’s time. It shows a lot of respect for what they’re doing. The other thing I would recommend, maybe just right along with that, is come with specific client issues you are currently trying to solve.

I don’t know that you can flatter a CPA more than if you come to them with, “Hey, this is something I’m dealing with right now,” not, “Hey, a couple of years ago, I came across this situation and just thought it’d be fun to have this thought exercise.” I know multiple CPAs who, they only have one financial advisor they refer people to, and their story of how they landed on that one instead of their uncle or their second cousin or someone else who’s an advisor and always ask them for referrals is because that advisor brought them a situation where it was clear the advisor just wanted to find the right resolution for that client. They weren’t asking for referrals. They weren’t trying to network or build a relationship. They had a client and they said, “Hey, listen, here’s their situation. I want to make sure that this gets addressed. I see that this is an area you specialize in. What can we do to make sure my client gets helped?”

Matthew Jarvis:   But I really like that approach. And as you referenced, so my approach, again with CPAs initially, is to offer to pay for an hour of their time so that I can learn more about their practice to see if any of my clients are a fit for them. And that’s a sincere approach, because my clients need tax preparation services, and I want to make sure they’re referring to that one. Now, we’ve done entire classes and the backstage pass on this. We’ve done webinars and podcasts on this. I won’t go into great detail, but Steven, I love this idea of maybe in round two and round three, “Hey, listen, I’ve got this client situation. Here it is. I’ve redacted the tax return, whatever you need to do. Can I pay you for an hour at a time to get your thoughts on this?”

Steven, you actually had one recently on the Retirement Tax Services forum, where an advisor had a client who was married, but their CPA had filed them as status as single. And they said, “What do we do about this?” Now, what they do about it is one issue, but I immediately went on the forum and I said, “This is the best opportunity you’ve ever had in your life. Take this situation to every CPA you can find, offer to pay for an hour of their time and say, ‘What would you do here? I’m not the tax preparer. That seems really strange to me. What do you recommend here?'” This is a golden ticket to get in front of CPAs, as you mentioned.

Now, it doesn’t need to be something as crazy complex as that. It could be something as simple as, “Hey, I have a client who’s retiring next year, and that they’re thinking about Roth conversion. Can you help me with the math on this?” Or, “They’re thinking about doing big charitable contributions. Can you help me with the math on this?” Whatever it is, but I think it’s critical, Steven, put you back on this, it’s critical that you offer to pay for their time. That’s how their brains are programmed. For you to go in and ask for their time for free, I think, is very disrespectful.

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah, and to offer to take them to lunch, they’re just going to feel like they’re going to get sold. If it’s somebody you know, and you have lunch with already … but, I mean, that one’s kind of like, “Hey, okay, what happens at the end of the lunch? What are you asking me for?”

Yeah, Matt, that was a great example that came up on the forum. And I haven’t heard how that one got resolved in that specific situation, but when those types of situations come up, they’re great for going and learning from other professionals. And as you do this, as you take this approach, you’ve got to make sure you keep that curiosity mindset. You’re not going in saying, “Oh, I don’t know anything about this,” because that’s not genuine. Say, “Hey, I’m always trying to learn how to improve,” or “I’m always trying to learn how to deliver more value to my clients.”

You can take Roth conversions with the CPA you mentioned. Great. You do lots of Roth conversions. If they’ve got a different perspective, take the time to learn a little bit more. And if you have to pay 250 or $300 an hour for their time, that’s probably still well worth it. A lot of them might not even make you … or might not even cash the check. But if they do, great. Are you telling me you wouldn’t be willing to pay $300 to learn some great technical information about how to apply things in practice?

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah. I love it. It also gives me perspective on that CPA, right? So that CPA, they have a view on life, right? Everybody does. I have a view on financial planning, they have a view on financial planning, tax planning. As long as their view isn’t so different from mine that we’re incompatible, right?

But use the Roth thing. I have one CPA, she’s not a big fan of Roth conversions. Okay. We can make some numbers, arguments on Roth conversions, but you can make those both ways. So, now I know that when I’m working with her clients, I need to approach Roth conversions differently because of the way she views that with her clients. It helps. We always want to work with people that are like us. That’s true for clients. That’s true for professionals. We want to work with people that understand us and think similar to us, so the more you can do to understand that CPA’s mindset, the more likely they are going to do business with you.

Steven Jarvis:     Definitely.

Matthew Jarvis:   Steven, I have another funny example for you. A financial advisor that we both know here locally, and offline I’ll tell you his name, because it will make you laugh because I don’t think I’ve told you this story. He called this CPA that I mentioned, who’s a good client of mine and vice versa, and he called her and said, “Hey, I have decided that I’m going to develop a niche of working with women, and you’re a woman. And if you would send me,” listen to this, “if you would send me a list of all your female clients, I will call them all, and I will offer them financial planning services tailored to women.” Like I said, offline, I’ll tell you who it is, because you will laugh, because you know this person well.

So, hopefully all of your listeners are like, “Oh, my goodness, I can’t believe anyone would actually do this.” And there’s all sorts of angles, but the level of presumptuousness that comes into this to go to a CPA and say, “Hey, you should give me a list of your clients,” privacy violation, number one, “so that I can call and sell them something,” huge ethics … Why would they say “Yes” to that? Why would they say “Yes” to, “I want you to call and harass all of my clients.”

Imagine the tides were turned. Imagine that the local mortgage broker came to you and said, “Hey, Mr. Advisor, if you could just give me a list of all of your clients, I’ll call all of them and try to sell them a new mortgage.” Nobody wants their clients harassed. And we have to understand CPAs are not … Giving referrals as a big risk. If I give Steven a referral, I’m risking my credibility that he’s going to do a good job. That’s why most people don’t send referrals. Sorry, I kind of went all over with that story, but it’s a funny one.

Steven Jarvis:     Oh, man. That’s amazing. I guess just real quick, I had a story come to mind just so that we’re balancing a little bit that CPAs can make mistakes too.

I had an advisor reach out to me, actually, this might’ve been on the TPR forum, and say, “Hey, got a situation where the tax prepaper went back and amended a previous year return to take advantage of something that didn’t seem like it was applicable to that year.” And we won’t get into the details, but it was blatantly not applicable to that year, not remotely. And so we gave him all this … gave the advisor all these recommendations on how to approach this. They go back to the tax preparer to try to resolve this in a constructive way, and the tax preparer basically said, “Well, the software let me do it, so it’s fine.”

Matthew Jarvis:   Ugh.

Steven Jarvis:     So you’re a professional with a designation that is trying to have trust and deliver quality and all these things, and your answer was, “The software let me do it”? So, CPAs aren’t perfect either.

Matthew Jarvis:   No. It kind of highlights that on both sides they’re still human and we need to treat each other as human beings. This isn’t sort of like a playground thing, like being nice to people. But if you want to get referrals, you’re asking for the very highest level of trust to assume that someone gets referrals.

Let’s start to tie a bow on this a little bit, Steven. So, we talked about bad approaches. We started to talk a little bit about good approaches. If I remember correctly, Retirement Tax Services has a list of questions that you and I worked on together that myself and other advisors have used successfully, a list of questions that are good to approach a CPA with. So, on that initial meeting, you’ve never met before, you’ve never done business before, kind of a list of questions is a good starting point.

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah. And I mean, it’s just a one-page list. I mean, there’s what, maybe a dozen questions on there? What it does is it gives you a starting point and kind of a framework, because unfortunately, there are stereotypes about CPAs for a reason, and some of those prove to be true. And so, to go in and be respectful of their time and make sure you’re getting value, whether they ever give you a referral or not, having this list of questions to guide that conversation is going to be really helpful. Because for this to be a successful approach, especially offering to pay them for an hour of their time, you have to go in with this mindset of, “I’m going to learn from them and I’m going to vet a potential referral source for my clients, so if they never send me a referral, I’ve still won. It’s still a valuable use of my time.”

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah. Yeah. I do want to throw out, just as you were mentioning that, I do want to throw out kind of one expectation setting for advisors. I talk to advisors that say, “Hey, I took that questionnaire. I met with a CPA. It was a very good meeting. They haven’t sent me any referrals.” Of course they haven’t. Of course they haven’t. They’re not going to risk their client relationships after one meeting with you.

I typically find it takes a year to two years of cultivating that relationship before it can become a good source of business. Now, you might say, as an advisor, “A year to two years? I don’t have that much time to wait.” Well, I plan on still being in business a year, from two years from now, and once you crack this code of getting referrals from centers of influence, it is the golden goose. But you can’t expect the golden goose to come out just because you paid for one hour of time. If this is going to be your strategy, it’s got to be a long-term game. It’s not a quick thing.

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah. That list of questions is really just that first meeting, and then from there it’s, okay, how do you interact with them on a quarterly basis? How are you continually showing them what you do to deliver value to your clients? How do you keep them top of mind? When do you go back to them and try to learn more from them, to say, “Okay, hey, here’s this specific client situation I’m dealing with now. Can you help me understand what a great approach to getting this resolved would be?”

Matthew Jarvis:   I love it. Well, this podcast is all about taking action, and so let’s jump into a couple of action items, Steven, things that people can implement right away. So, first I would say, specific to that tax questionnaire that we just mentioned, I believe they can send an email to … What’s your email? They can get a copy of that.

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah. It’s advisors@rts.tax.

Matthew Jarvis:   I love that you got a .tax domain. That’s kind of a fun … So, send an email to advisors@rts.tax and get a copy of this one-page questionnaire. Actually, I remember too, related to that, any centers of influence that you’re hoping to establish a relationship with, either because you want to send business back and forth, or because you share mutual clients, you need to get in front of them at least twice a year. I would say ideally four times a year, but at least twice a year, you’re offering to pay for an hour of their time. Steven, I loved your example of bringing a specific client case to discuss with them, but you can’t think that just getting in front of them once every few years is going to be enough. So, put it on your calendar, when am I going to get in front of centers of influence, and how am I going to demonstrate massive value in that meeting?

Steven Jarvis:     I would add to that that you need to put a number to that as far as how many centers of influence you’re going to contact. This is a really easy one to leave ambiguous. And while I called one CPA this quarter, so I met my goal, so if this is something you want to, as an approach, you want to take seriously, this needs to be a certain number a week, a certain number a month. Put numbers to this so it’s a smart goal so it’s something that you can measure and make progress on.

Matthew Jarvis:   Yeah, that’s a good point. My number used to be 10 to 20 a quarter, so when I was in aggressive growth mode, I would have a list and I would try to contact 10, try to get in front of 10 to 20 centers of influence every quarter, which in my geographical area took some work. There weren’t that many of them, but we worked through it.

Okay, action item … I think we lost count. We’re at number three. If taxes are not your strongest suit … and they have to be. We’ve talked about it on this podcast. Tax planning is low-hanging fruit. It’s a easy way to differentiate yourself. Retirement Tax Services, you guys have two great webinars coming up. I believe one is October 27th for your members, and then you’ve got one for the general public on November 17th. How do people get registered for that, Steven?

Steven Jarvis:     Yeah, so if you go out to retirementtaxservices.com, we always have our next nation webinar available for registration. Go ahead and mark them on your calendar. For the nation, that’s November 17th at 8:00 AM Pacific, and for our members, we automatically register them for all the upcoming webinars.

Matthew Jarvis:   That’s perfect. Steven, any final thoughts on tax planning or the relationship between financial advisors and CPAs before we part ways here today?

Steven Jarvis:     Okay. The only other thing I’d say is if you listen to other things that the TPR puts out on tax planning, or if you listen to the Retirement Tax Services podcast, a lot of our messaging is about, hey, here’s what advisors need to do to improve this relationship. That is not meant to say that advisors are the only ones who should be doing something about this, but it’s all about what can you do and what can you take ownership of? Don’t sit here and tell yourself a story about how CPAs are antisocial and hard to work with. Maybe some of them are. In fact, some of them definitely are, but what are you going to do to make sure that you’re delivering massive value to your clients by embracing tax planning, and embracing these ways to grow your client base, and not just get referrals, but have great resources to be able to address complex situations that come up for your clients?

Matthew Jarvis:   Boy, I really love that, Steven. Really harnesses our … We’re big fans of Jocko and his Extreme Ownership, right? If I go into a CPA and I say, “Boy, that person’s a bum,” or, “They don’t get it,” or, “They don’t care,” or whatever negative self-talk I want to have, I have no power there. But if I go in there like you had suggest earlier in the podcast, I go in there with curiosity, I go in there with respect, I go in there to learn, now I have control. Now I can make great things happen.

Well, Steven, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Really excited to see everything coming out of Retirement Tax Services, and everybody, until next time, happy planning.

Steven Jarvis:     Happy planning.

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