For accounting businesses that have decided to partner with a lending specialist and have identified a potential partner, it’s time to get into the detail of how the two businesses will work together.
1. Get to know each other’s businesses
Before commencing a relationship, be sure to get to know the ins and outs of each other’s businesses and determine what you each expect from the collaboration.
If the potential lending partner is looking for a two-way referral, find out about which types of clients make the best prospects. This way the accounting firm knows what to look for amongst their own clients when referring. What to look for here are synergies between the two the business in both client value proposition and demographics.
2. Determine how to introduce the new service
There are many ways to introduce a combined offering to clients and prospects. For a strategic alliance or referral relationship, this could be as simple as asking the right questions and making quick recommendations when meeting with clients. A more complex partnership or integration model may require joint marketing materials, collateral and meetings. Changing the questions accountants have historically asked in a client interview can be the hardest part. The accounting firm needs to take the time to work with their lending partner to help understand the right questions, the right time to ask them and in the case of a two way referral, take the time to upskill their lending partner on how to introduce accounting services to their clients.
It is important to always be clear and agree upfront on how the lending specialist will make contact with clients and referrals. Whether that is a warm introduction or the passing on of the client’s contact details, this allows the accountant to let their clients know what to expect. The lending specialist (or their aggregator) can help with the required compliance documents to ensure the accounting firm is meeting any legislative expectations here.
3. Define processes
The most fruitful partnership arrangements involve defined and documented goals, best practices and repeatable processes.
Consider how to share client data, in order to speed up service times and make for a more seamless customer experience.
Once the process is defined, make the information readily available to everyone in the business, enabling them to communicate the basics of the partnership and how it works. This will ensure it is being actively promoted at every step of the service model, from the initial meeting to marketing and ongoing client services.
4. Share resources
When selecting a lending specialist, find out what resources they can offer to help the accounting firm explain their offering to clients - a summary of services, case studies and customer testimonials can all assist with the initial client conversation.
Some other resources which can support a successful working relationship include scheduled emails to promote the offering to clients, telephone and voicemail scripts for employees and a web page to explain the combined offering.
5. Follow up
Establishing a fruitful partnership takes time and ongoing communication, so the accounting firm needs to track the success of the combined efforts. Meeting regularly to share information will help to establish the best operating rhythm for both businesses.
Following up with clients is also an essential task. Ask clients how they rate the lending partner’s service standards and if there is a two-way referral arrangement in place, accounting firms should also ask their lending specialists to gather the same information on their accounting firm.
Whilst there is some work to do in getting the relationship working smoothly and successfully, lending specialists or their aggregator are a great resource to help you ensure you set the process up correctly up front.
Brendan Wright is the CEO of FAST Aggregation Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of NAB Group. Many FAST finance brokers have successful referral relationships with accounting firms and can help accountants offer a broader range of services to their clients. To find out more about how FAST can help your business visit www.fastgroup.com.au/numbers