Ask for the specific type of referrals you want
By Sandy Schussel
Sandy Schussel, LLC
"It seems like you've already got nearly as many clients as you can handle," I declared to Victoria, a CPA who had just started working with me. "So, how can I help you?"
"Well, the truth is, Sandy, that none of them has any money," she confided. Victoria is 27 years old and has managed to grow her practice to its current level by giving terrific service to small retailers, most of whom are as young as she and are either just starting out or within their first two years in business. These clients are often struggling and can barely afford basic accounting services.
Invariably, after working with her, Victoria’s satisfied clients recommend her to their budding-entrepreneur friends. While she is grateful for their loyalty, she is frustrated about starting work with still more struggling small-business owners. I explained to Victoria that you can't attract what you want into your life — clients or anything else—unless you have a clear picture of it that you can share with people.
"It's hard for you to make the kind of living you want on these small clients," I acknowledged, "but who do you want to take on as a client?"
Victoria thought for a moment and then replied. "Well, I do like to work with 'Mom and Pop' business owners, but I wish I could be working with some that are larger and more established."
"Then tell your clients that's who you're looking for," I challenged.
"Just like that?" she asked. "I don't know…"
Two days later, Victoria called me. With excitement, she relayed a conversation she had with one of her small-business clients just the day before.
"I was finishing up paperwork with Tom, and he told me he had recommended me to a friend of his who had just opened a deli. So, I thanked him for the referral, but then I did what you told me to do. I said, 'Tom, you know I always appreciate your faith in me and will always take good care of anyone you recommend me to, but I do my best work with people who already have bigger, more established businesses.' Tom's wife, Marie, happened to be walking by while I was explaining this and said, 'Why don't we send her to see my uncle?’ Well, Marie's uncle owns a large, well-known furniture store the next town over. And, I have an appointment to see him next week!"
Victoria's accounts knew she wanted more clients, but they all thought she wanted more clients like them. Victoria learned that people don't know what you want until you tell them, and asking for what she wanted resulted in her landing exactly the kind of client she was hoping to reach.