Tips for Successful CPA Meetings for Financial Advisors and Insurance Agents
Learn how to use pattern recognition, silence, diagnostic questions, and statements of expertise to have successful meetings with CPAs and move them towards mutually beneficial partnerships.
Hey, what's up everyone? Anton Anderson here. So I wanted to share a couple of tips today on how to impress CPAs in meetings. Just to establish some quick credibility in case you're not a member of our training program and you have no idea who I am, one of the co-founders of Elite Resource Team. Personally, I've probably met with over 300 to 400 CPAs. I've trained thousands of advisers how to do the same. Company makes between $3 million to $4 million a year through CPA partnerships.
And I've seen a lot of material out there which is, I don't know, probably created from somebody in a home office somewhere that's honestly probably never formed a successful CPA partnership and just creates this kind of theoretical concepts and gives these scripts to these advisers and agents and sends them off out there. It really frustrates me because I don't see any successful partnerships being built out of the majority of the CPA training in the country.
Here's a couple of things on actually how I would suggest approaching a CPA meeting. First of all, make sure you're prepared, like have a good idea of what you're doing and what you're going to say. Always try to meet outside of the CPA's office. So I would really prefer to either meet for breakfast or lunch because it's a neutral playing field, right? If I'm meeting at the CPA's office, they have way too much control over how long the meeting is going to be, whether or not we're going to be interrupted. They're also just inside of their safety net.
And so, I'm already at a little bit of a disadvantage. So I really like breakfast and lunch. I also would strongly encourage you, don't share anything about the meeting prior to sitting down. As much as possible, what you want to do is kind of come into the meeting on equal playing ground, because the reality is we both should be business owners. You're a business owner, I'm a business owner. We have problems in our business. If we can find a way to strategically create a win-win relationship, then at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what licenses I have or you have or I don't have and you don't have.
Really, like any relationship, it should be based on good mutual value coming to the table and creating synergistic results. So that's kind of leading up to the meeting. When you start the meeting, what you really want to do is, first of all, don't sell anything. Don't go there and definitely don't talk about products. Don't talk about anything that is going to sound like you're kind of throwing up on them at the meeting. I mean, it's very unattractive when you sit down with somebody and right away, they're just trying to sell you on something. It's like it's desperate.
And unfortunately, that honestly is what the majority of financial advisers and insurance agents do with CPAs and it's not only advisers and agents. CPAs are probably the most sought after strategic partnerships in the US. It's attorneys, it's real estate agents. It's business brokers. It's payroll specialists. So, don't sit down and start telling them about your product. Don't sit down and start telling them about the company you represent, about a client you helped. Don't tell them any of that.
What you want to do is sit down and start asking them questions about their business. You basically want to think about it, like I don't care if the CPA and I end up working together at all. I don't care if the CPA says, "Yes, I love you. This is the best thing since slice bread," or "No, thanks. We go on our own ways." All I care about at that first meeting is diagnosing the situation.
Try as much as possible to release the attachment to like a yes and I know for a lot of financial advisers, insurance agents like myself, we are trained to try to close. You have to let go of that with CPAs. I promise you, the more you can let go of that objective, the better. What do I mean when the objective should be focused on diagnosing the situation? That means focus on genuinely trying to understand the CPA's circumstance.
So prepare a series of questions. If you are already in our training program, you have these scripted out for you. But if you're not, let me just give you some examples. What motivated you to take this meeting today? Sometimes they might give you gold right out the gate like, "You know what? I work way too hard for the mount of money I make," or "My work-life balance is terrible," or "I need to scale and I have no way how to hire additional staff members." So what motivated them to take that meeting with you?
Another thing out I would ask is do you have any specific niche? A lot of CPAs, like a lot of advisers and agents but that's a video for another day, really have not put any focus into figuring out what their niche is and they've just kind of stumbled into it over time. Some of them haven't at all, and they'll just say, "No, It's pretty garden-variety, you know, most five, six-figure tax problem clients."
So do they have any niche? If they do, how did they develop that niche? How did they get new clients? Whether or not they have a niche, how do you currently get the majority of your new clients? Also, where do you see this going? That's a great question, and I like putting a time frame on it. So I would ask something like this, "So where do you see ultimately your practice in the next 12 months and 24 months?"
So what you're trying to do is ask some opening questions about where they currently are, how do you get your clients? Do you have a niche? What motivated you to take the meeting? Then you want to ask a question about what's their vision? Where did they see this going? Where do you see this in 12 months? Where do you see this in 24 months?
You want to ask some questions around how they currently build their clients. Really interesting to know. I mean, do they purely just charge on a tax return? If so, if you don't work with a lot of CPAs, I'll give you a little inside scoop here. That's a very outdated model. If CPAs are still just charging either by the tax return or by the hour, they're very behind the curve on where their industries are going.
Ideally, they are already aware of or maybe even implementing things like value-based billing, price packaging. Those are really the direction that their industries are headed. So, how do you currently bill your clients is a great question to ask. And then, I'd really like to slow down and have them open up with me about what their current problems are, and I would I ask it like this, "If you were able to pinpoint the biggest challenge that you're experiencing right now in your practice, what would that be?" And then silence.
And during the first part of the meeting here where you're asking the questions, you really want to understand and appreciate the power of silence. This is something that's taking me quite a while to understand but when you ask a question, do not help them out. Don't give them little tidbits. Don't do anything especially if gets uncomfortable. That's the best.
If it gets uncomfortable, you know you're touching on something that the 10 other financial advisers that reached out to them and had meetings in the last year didn't touch on because it means you're making them think about a question that they're not typically thinking about, and you're not predictable. And that's really when you think about the goal of your initial communication with the CPA, whether it's in this first meeting or even the first time you get introduced to the CPA. What you want to do is break pattern recognition.
Pattern recognition is something that all of us as human beings use by default. It's very effective. If you go back a few hundred years, pattern recognition would be, there's a lion. Lions eat people. Therefore, I'm going to run. I recognize the pattern of a lion. Automatically, I respond by moving the opposite direction. Same thing happens today. You're driving. You see a car swerve. Boom, you swerve out of the way. Same thing happens in communication.
So if you sit down and you start communicating with the CPA, just like every other financial adviser and insurance agent is communicating with them, pattern recognition, they shut you down. It's nothing new. They've seen it before. It's not even their consciously like processing whether or not they want to work with you. There's just no point, pattern recognition. So immediately you want to break that pattern recognition, again by not throwing up all over them, don't sell them anything, asking questions that other professionals are not asking them. And then using silence to allow it to be uncomfortable but for them to have to actually give you some honest answers.
Another thing that comes along with the silence is oftentimes 9 times out of 10, when you ask a CPA these types of questions and you haven't told them yet anything about what you do or why you're meeting, you're really dictating the meeting. And that's a little bit uncomfortable for them. It's like why are we here? Why are you asking me these questions?
You want to be prepared to answer that. You want to anticipate they're going to ask you something like, "Why are you asking me this?" And your response should be something along the lines of, "You know, very fair question. I've just got a few things I want to understand first about you and your practice, and then I'd be happy to answer any questions that you have about me. So," And then go right back into the last question that you left off.
For example, if I'm at the point where I'm going to ask them, "So, tell me where do you see this going in the next 12 to 24 months? I mean, what are your short and medium-term goals?" And then silence. And they say, "I don't know, I mean, why are you asking me this?" And say, "Yeah, fair question. I'm asking because really I'd like to understand a little bit more about you and your practice, and once I get through these questions, I'd be more than happy to answer any questions for you about my firm and my area of expertise. So, again, where do you see this going in next 12 to 24 months?" Right back in the question.
And that likely will happen a couple of times throughout the first I'd say, try to spend 15 to 20 minutes just asking questions and I can hear a lot of people right now listening to this video, if you have not done this with CPAs before, if you have not have these types conversations, I can anticipate you thinking BS. What a bunch of baloney? There is no way a CPA is going to sit down and answer those types of questions from me.
And all I can tell you is, yes, they will. And first of all, yes, they will if you're prepared and you do it right because you're just diagnosing the situation and you're asking questions that they haven't been asked before, and that is interesting. The other thing is if they don't and they're really ... because sometimes they won't. Sometimes people feel maybe entitled or maybe they're arrogant, they feel like, "Screw you. Who are you to ask me these questions about my business? Why don't you tell me your vision for the next 12 months to 24 months?"
I would, two times, I'd say, "You know, fair enough. Good question. I'd be happy to answer that for you. Before I do, I'd like to understand just a little bit more about you and your practice." So again, if you could name their biggest challenge, what would that be? So go right back in the questions. Do that twice. If after the second time, they do it a third time, I'd sit back and I'd say, "Let me just explain the way I'd like this meeting to go. I'd like to understand you and your practice, first and foremost. I have a few more questions I'd like to get through. Then I'd be more than happy to turn the table and allow you ask any questions you have about me, my practice and my area of expertise. Fair enough?"
If they say no or they give you any like pushback, then you simply end the meeting. You don't want to work with somebody like that. It's a bad sign if they're going to be too argumentative right out the gate. It means they're probably not going to be open to coaching or open to allowing you to lead the relationship. If they say, "No, it's not. Uh, no. I want to know why are we here." What do you do?
I'd just say, "You know, I appreciate taking the last 10 minutes to get together. I don't actually think this is probably going to be a relationship that's going to work out. So I wish you the best of time." And you can end the meeting there. If you've already done lunch or sat down for lunch or breakfast and you've ordered already, I just say, "You know, I don't think this is going to be a relationship that's probably going to work out. Since we've already ordered lunch, why don't we just talk about ..." and then whatever it is.
"Summertime plans, playoffs, basketball, travels, whatever that might be. Why don't just keep it light. We'll talk about that and then wish each other the best of luck." And that's it. What you'll often find is if you come back with that type of thing like you're willing to end it right there, then again, breaking pattern recognition, they're going to be much more likely to turn around and say, "What?" Like, "Okay, fine. What is my biggest challenge? My biggest challenge is," and then be open about it. Because again, it's very different.
One of the best complements that I used to get out of meeting with CPAs is when they would say to me, "I have never had a conversation like this with a financial adviser before." That's honestly the best thing I want to hear at the end of the first meeting.
What about the meeting? Let's get back on track. We ask the opening questions, about their practice. We ask the questions about where they see this going so where they currently are, where their vision is of where they want to go. And then lastly, we ask that question, what's the biggest thing holding you back? That's what's stopping them from A to B, and if you can get them to verbalize that, actually you have to get them to verbalize that in order for this to be an effective first meeting, because as soon as they verbalize that, that's where your questions stop and now, you're going to turn it.
The way you do that is, "Interesting. Okay, that's definitely something I can help with." You only want to use that line if genuinely, their biggest objective is indeed something you can help with, right? So if for example, they say, "My biggest problem is I've got 10 staff members and I need to hire two more," and you don't have any staff and you've never hired anybody, you don't want to say, "Interesting. That's definitely something I can help with."
You want to just say, "You know, I appreciate our time together. I don't think I'm going to be able to help in your circumstance. But let's enjoy the rest of lunch," something like that. Again, you're not trying to sell them something. You only want to move forward if indeed you can effectively diagnose their situation and actually solve their problem.
An example of a CPA telling me something that I actually could help with would be something like, "You know, honestly my biggest problem is I work way too hard for my revenue and the only way I know to increase my revenue is to bring on more clients. And the more clients I keep bringing on, the more I have to work and the more my expenses go up. So I feel like I'm in a little bit of a kind of a catch 22." That I would sit back and I'd say, "Interesting. That's definitely something I can help with."
Now, here's the trick. As soon as you say that, you're going to use silence again. "It's definitely something I can help with." What do you think they're going to say? "Okay, how?" So here's the pivotal point in the first meeting. You're shifting from you asking the questions and you're drawing out the information from them to now, the tables turn. You give them that little sentence about that's something I can help with, and then you go silent. And now they are the ones that are going to start wanting to pull out the information from you.
So as soon as you say, "That's something I can help with," and they say something like, "How would you do that?" Or, "Okay, can you tell me how?" And you say, "Sure." And then this is where you want to use a very well-prepared statement of expertise where you define how you are going to help the CPA. This cannot be something like, "I have access to proprietary annuity product," or, "I manage effective accounts and my AUM performance outperforms the S&P 500 index by half a percentage," or, "My fees are lower," or, "I represent ABC firm," or something.
That is not what you want to say here. What you want them to have is a very well prepared statement of expertise that actually talks about the benefit to the CPA. So I'll give you an example of the one that I like to use. It goes something like, "So again, I say that's definitely something I can help with." And then there's silence. Then they're going to say something like, "Okay, and how you do that?" And then my response would be, "Yeah, sure. So, my area of expertise is in helping CPAs to increase their revenue by allowing them to bring more proactive and holistic planning to their best clients," and then silence.
What do you think they're going to say to that? "Okay, how do you do that?" And again, now this is the second half of the meeting where they're just ... They're like chopping at the bit. They want to know what the heck am I actually talking about. So, I've broken the pattern recognition. I've diagnosed their firm to understand more about their circumstance. Then I've shifted the tables and started telling them a little bit about what I do and I let them sit there and start pulling the rest out from me.
Now, from there, you want to really think through the value that you can bring not only a client but the CPA relationship. I would encourage you not to make it all about sharing in commission or revenue. You want to really tie your value into what is their biggest problem. If you haven't met with a lot of CPAs, 90% of them are concerned with bringing more value to their clients but doing it in a way that doesn't increase their workload and at least doesn't reduce their revenue but ideally increases their revenue.
How you accomplish that, there's a lot of different ways depending on if you're at an RIA or a broker dealer, or you're a captive agent or you're only insurance licensed. There is a lot of ways that you can accomplish that. So, I'm not going to spend a time on this video breaking down exactly how in your individual circumstance. You can help them bring more value to clients and increase their revenue.
If you're already in our training program, just follow the meeting number one script from here. If you're not, then what I'd say is just take half an hour or an hour and think through like what is my unique value proposition. Not my products, not the company I represent, what is unique that I can bring to the relationship? And spend some time putting some words to that. And the more clear you can get in that vision, the more prepared you'll be for this type of conversation. So, from there, again, focus on what's the CPA's vision, what's their biggest objection or challenge, how can you help them get there. Allow them to pull that information out of you.
Then at the end of the first meeting, which ideally should be 45 minutes to an hour, if at the end of that meeting you feel like you've gotten to understand enough about their practice. Ideally, they have really good clients that are attractive for you to work with. Ideally, they have the trust and respect to those clients. In our training, we call it they are the go-to professional. And ideally, they see the value in potentially working with you. They're not fighting you the whole way, they have what we call the aha moment. If they are those three things and you've really appropriately diagnosed their firm and you genuinely feel like you could help that individual, then at that point you want to talk about scheduling a second meeting.
Again, don't try to sell them on anything at the end of the first meeting. All you're trying to do is what I just went over. Do they have the clients? Are they the go-to professional? Do they have the aha moment? Can you help this individual? If so, schedule a second meeting where you're going to go into more details about what the relationship could look like. If not, be honest and just say, "I appreciate our time together. I don't think this is something that I'm going to be able to help with."
So, that's it from me. I hope this kind of brief conversation about the meeting number one is helpful as you can tell probably in my energy as I start talking about the meetings. They are really fun. When you can get to a circumstance where you're confident enough to sit down next to any CPA, whether they're at a small CPA practice doing $250,000 a year of revenue or whether they're at a large CPA firm with 11 other partners doing $4.5 million of revenue, whatever CPA. And you know confidently that you've had enough conversations with CPAs, you've prepared enough with your value proposition. You have the scripts and the training to be able to effectively build this partnership, it gets really, really fun.
So, best of luck out there with the CPA meetings. Let us know if this information is helpful and I'll look forward to seeing you again in another video. That's it for me today.