Eric Rigby’s Article In AICPA’s Seasonal Newsletter

28 March 2011

Eric contributes to the AICPA’s discussion about the value of tailoring and selling your services to your individual clients.

Read the full article below.

Originally published 28 March 2011 in AICPA

Seasonality Success: Client Services

Cross Selling and Feeling Good About It

It’s tax season. Do you know what additional services your clients may need? Many CPAs are uncomfortable selling themselves, but CPA Eric Rigby overcame his own reluctance by considering the ultimate benefit to the client.

“I focused on the fact that a CPA is a valuable resource and I can help them,” says the sole owner of the Rigby Financial Group in New Orleans. “I wasn’t contacting them to sell them something they didn’t really need. I wouldn’t do that. But I am providing them with advice that’s worth more to them than what they’re paying for it. I’m also asking them for referrals to other people I could help.” Rigby advises staying focused on your own perceived unique ability. In his case, he believes that consists of using his energy and enthusiasm to help clients create solutions that anticipate their future needs. To that end, he regularly meets with clients to ask them this question: What will have to happen over the next three years to make you feel like a successful person if we meet again in 2014? “That’s not the typical question that they expect to hear from their CPA,” says Rigby, who specializes in closely held businesses, medical doctors, dispute resolution and

litigation, pension plan audits and wealth management. “People like to talk about themselves. If you listen to what they are really saying, you can really make a difference for them.”

He opens up further discussion by asking clients to consider the greatest dangers to their financial situation, the most promising opportunities and the strengths they want to reinforce and maximize. “What legacy do you want to leave?” is another question that prompts thoughtful discussion. Rigby takes notes on their answers, then encourages them to prioritize their goals and begin to determine how to reach them. “We usually walk away with a new engagement,” he says. “If the client is part of the process they buy into it because it was their idea.”

Getting More Out of Referrals

Over the years, Rigby has taken various approaches to adding clients, including using marketing mailings and outsourcing the effort to telemarketers, but “by far the best strategy has been a face-to-face meeting with a client in which I ask if they know someone like themselves who I can help.” To make the most of these contacts, Rigby gives clients a referral form (see exhibit) that asks clients for contact information and details on how much the referral already knows about Rigby Financial Group. It also asks clients to mention three ways that RFG has benefited the client that might be of interest to the prospect.

Rigby has been most successful in gaining referrals in two situations. First, he uses the form when the firm has done something positive for a client that has solved a problem or saved them money. He also finds it can be effective with new clients. “They are often very excited because we bring more to the table than just traditional services,” he says, so it’s easy to broach the subject of referrals.

The Smart Strategy

In an uncertain economy, Rigby recommends new approaches. “Bidding on an audit in a recession is not the best way to get highly valued new clients,” he notes. He has found that expanding the range of services he offers to existing clients and taking a formal approach to generating referrals are the optimum strategies.

Originally published 28 March 2011 in AICPA