Why you should engage with your prospect's CPA
Simon Singer, CAP, CFP
"I’m thinking of doing a retirement plan. Can you come to my office and help?"
THIRTY YEARS AGO, those words from a prospect would have had me at their office before they were out of the golf course locker room.
Today I say, “I’m not sure if I can do that.” I explain that we only work with specific clients, and with specific attorneys and CPAs. I ask if they have a tax attorney. The answer is usually no. “Do you have a CPA?” The answer is usually yes.
I then say, “Well, let me tell you what I’ll do. On my nickel,” inferring that I would normally charge them for that, “I’m willing to spend a half-hour with you on the phone. Based on the information you share with me, I’m going to ask you to engage me to talk with your CPA.”
The reason I want to talk to their CPA upfront, with an engagement letter in my hands, is because I want that professional advisor to know I’m a fee-based planner just like they are, and I want to talk to them about our mutual fee-based client.
I get a letter of introduction that says, “I’ve hired Simon Singer and his firm, The Advisor Consulting Group, to help us put together a more full and complete financial and estate plan. We want to assure you he has not been brought in to replace you, but we think he brings a unique skill set to the table and ask that you give him your full and complete cooperation.”
Armed with that letter, and with the list of goals and objectives I was able to get out of that half-hour telephone call, I have my conversation with the CPA.
I’ll say to him, “You probably know all these things about your client.” The answer is he probably doesn’t.
Next I ask, “What do you think we ought to do?” I’ll ask them about their opinions on various things, as opposed to saying, “I think your client ought to do a double reverse split dollar.” He doesn’t know what that is. Instead I ask, “What would you think about double reverse split dollar?”
In other words, I don’t want to back myself into a corner. What I want is to get information from him so I understand what they know and don’t know, and what they do and they don’t do.
I want to create a strategic alliance partner. I want to find out if I’m going to have an adversary as opposed to an advocate. If they’re going to kill my deal, I want them to do it now, not three months or six months from now.
By bringing the CPA into the course of play, I let them know I’m not trying to step on their toes; I’m here to help. I’m here to get them paid. I’m here to make things better for the client. I’m the last one on that totem pole.
by asking questions
In my first conversation with a prospect, I’m not selling anything. I’m not dictating anything. I’m asking questions. Always first create goals and objectives in detail. It’s your roadmap.
No strategies — none — until goals and objectives have been fully vetted and everybody has total and complete clarity.
If you don’t find goals and objectives when talking to a prospect or client, you need to bring them up. We lose cases to things they haven’t communicated to us. We lose cases to people who stop answering the phone and we don’t know why.
We lose cases to people who don’t share their objections with us, which means we haven’t done a good enough job in discovery.
I don’t want to go through an A-to-Z presentation and find out I lost them at B or C. I stop at every point and get clarification. If I’m losing them, I spend more time there until I get clarity, and then we’ll move to the next section. It’s a constant process.
But don’t just ramble. Ask questions. It helps in building rapport, in gaining confidence, in collecting more and better data. The best conversationalists are the people who ask the best questions, and it’s not just numbers on a page.