Ask Judi: Should You Continue to Quid When There’s No Quo?


Q:  How do I initiate the ‘conversation’ with the CPA or attorney who happily receives all my referrals, but never refers anyone in return?

A: Quid pro quo business arrangements are tough. Even when both parties are acting in good faith, things happen. People get lazy. Or business goes cold. Sooner or later, you’ll probably have to have this conversation, especially since financial advisors’ clients always need a CPA or estate attorney.

Make sure from the outset that you’ve clearly outlined your expectations. If you established that referrals were supposed to flow one-for-one, you’re on firm ground if the ratio slips to two- or three-to-one, or just plain something for nothing. But no matter how out of whack the arrangement is, be tactful:

“How’s it going? Can we talk about the referrals I’ve been sending you? Were they good fits for your business?”

Not confrontational and considerate of their point-of-view. Now for a deft pivot:

“I’m trying to acquire “Client X” (insert your ideal client definition here). I wonder if any of your present clients would be a good fit for me. I’d like to work with other professionals to whom I can refer my clients and who refer business to me. If that doesn’t work for you, I totally appreciate that fact.”

No bridges burned, but this approach doesn’t hide the fact that you aren’t satisfied and are happy to dissolve your unofficial mutual obligation. Meanwhile, you put in a plug for your ideal client and brand. Give the other person time to process your message, and move on if necessary.

BUT: What if you referred CPAs and attorneys without the quid pro quo? You can still build trust with your clients by having a referral on hand. Once you’ve defined your target market, however, you’ll likely find other professionals who overlap and may be better candidates for a referral relationship. This choice can be liberating.

If you target working mothers, you could approach the owner of a nanny agency with a business development idea. Does your ideal client love dogs? I’ll bet the local vet or groomer has received exactly zero calls from financial advisors about potential collaboration and sharing referrals. Targeting triathletes? A running supply company might be an ideal partner. Get creative in your thinking. Define your target market and you may discover many unlikely business allies.

Judi Rosenthal

Judi Rosenthal is a New York-based financial industry consultant and self-promotion coach renowned for her ability to win sales in any situation. She is also a recognized authority on niche marketing and coaching financial advisors in the techniques of amplifying sales through a well-engineered personal brand.

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Judi Rosenthal