Episode #039 How To Consistently Generate Bookkeeping Referrals From Accountants and Clients With Sophie Hossack (Receipt Bank) [2017 Throwback]

​In the UK, back in 2011, Sophie was the first employee to ever join Receipt Bank, a company that now employs over 250 people. Sophie came to Australia to help found the Australian branch and spent 7 years Managing a team of over 30 employees. In 2018 Sophie returned to the UK, and is now working in the health industry. Although she no longer works for Receipt Bank she has left her mark on the hearts of those in the Australian bookkeeping industry.

In this throwback episode [2017], originally a recorded webinar, Sophie generously gave her time to share insightful and practical ideas on how bookkeepers can approach accountants (and clients) to ask for referrals.

Podcast Info

Episode: #039

Series: General

Host: Amy Hooke

Guest speaker: Sophie Hossack

Topic: Asking For Bookkeeping Referrals From Accountants and Clients With Sophie Hossack

Useful links

Get first 2 months at 50% when you join the Receipt Bank partner program for bookkeepers and accountants

https://thesavvybookkeeper.com.au/receiptbank

Read transcript

Amy Hooke: So okay, so tonight we have a very special guests with us. So we've got Sophie joining us. So you may know Sophie Hossack, she's if you don't choose the country manager for Australia at Receipt Bank. So Sophie is originally from the UK and now she works out of her Sydney office out of the receipt bank Sydney office, and she manages a team of around 30 people, almost 30 people. So I'll be invited her to join us for a few reasons tonight actually. So firstly I'd have to say that I've really enjoyed working with Receipt Bank and not just because I love the software. Of course. I've found a very handy to use it. It might be a business, but actually I really liked that humans. So basically when I first started my bookkeeping business in 2014, I joined Receipt Bank partner programme and I got to spend a little bit of time with a young man called Abhinav.

Amy Hooke: So what I noticed after a couple of training calls with Abhinav was that I wasn't just dealing with a salesperson or customer service person from a company. But I felt that every step along the way that I was working with someone who actually cared about my business. So for those of you who know my story, I've had a couple of difficult clients. You've heard a few of those stories on some of my webinars, and I had to actually start over. So basically I remember when I had a cold look with Abhinav and I was really excited about all of my new clients and then we booked in our second training session, maybe month late or something like that. And by the next time I spoke to Abhinav, I actually had no clients left. So when he called me, he said, Oh, has your business going and everything.

Amy Hooke: And I was actually embarrassed. So when he asked me how the business was. I was low. I didn't really want to tell him I didn't have any clients lift up. Obviously I had to tell him. So anyway, I was expecting to kind of feel a bit stupid, but actually what I got was the complete opposite. So basically he was extremely encouraging towards me and he actually gave me a lot of good bots and we chatted and everything about the business and then that way he even jumped on Twitter and tweeted out my website on Twitter saying that it was one of the best receipt names, partner pages that he'd seen before. So it was kind of like, Oh, that was really nice. So anyway, after I finished my training with Abhinav, I worked with a guy called Norman, and Norman was really helpful.

Amy Hooke: He was encouraging and also very patient with me. So every time we had an appointment booked in, and I would totally forget about it, I missed his call and they would have to call me back come later on. So he was very gracious and personate with me missing a lot of his calls. But anyway, I just remember when I had these experiences with his staff members, I just remember thinking to myself, these guys must have a really great boss. So anyway, I didn't know at the time that that was Sophie and I haven't actually heard about her before until I think one day she tweeted out like a job ad that I posted for bookkeeper or something like that. So I clicked on her Facebook profile, and I had a look, and I saw she had this really cool Facebook quote, and it said something along the lines of, and tomorrow we get to do it again, only better.

Amy Hooke: And I thought, Oh, she sounds like a really interesting lady. So anyway, I googled her, looked up a few podcasts, listened to a few interviews, and I've just enjoyed her story. So I thought, yeah, she's really cool guest. So anyway, so I've got in touch with her and asked her if she'd like to come along and chatted to her a little bit about what kind of topics she likes to talk about. And in that conversation, I guess that brings me to the second reason why I invited her along, because she loves to talk about are really helpful for bookkeepers. And I thought. Yeah, we really, I guess helpful for my community of bookkeepers who I get along in the webinar. So we'd love to hear this sort of stuff.

Sophie Hossack: Well, thank you so much for contacting, that was quite an introduction. My gosh. I wrote down for a lot of things in bed thinking, gosh, I have to tell the team that.

Amy Hooke: You have to tell them. I just thought it was a really encouraging bunch of people that I guess I've caught finally figured out. But obviously you've probably got something to do with that. So obviously you're passionate about, so.

Sophie Hossack: Yeah, absolutely I think I really liked your comment about I liked their humans because you've got to like who you work with, both in your organisation but also your suppliers that you work with. I think that's so crucial and it doesn't mean that we are just nice people often actually doesn't mean that often as you say, means something quite different.

Amy Hooke: So I wanted to start off by asking you if you would share a little bit with the ladies about receipt farm.

Sophie Hossack: Yes I will. So receipt farm was an organisation that promised if you sent to a paperwork to them in a plastic bag, they would extract all of the data, an Excel spreadsheet within seven working days. And at the time based only in the UK at the time, that seemed like a pretty good gig. Two wonderful co-founders, Michael. So Michael is just by far one of the cleverest men that I've ever met, like super bright, super intelligent, but like a lot of intelligent people often struggles that really basic things. So he had his own consulting company and consistently got fined by the HMRC in the UK for being late with his bookkeeping. He was always behind, always losing paperwork, just the nightmare client. Literally your nightmare client. That was him. And so he'd googled receipt processing, because he was on a cloud general ledger in the UK actually could have a product called cashflow. So he was already using that. And so he googled receipt processing and found a company called Receipt Farm, but he gave it a trial.

Sophie Hossack: Initially. The marketing had like cows and stuff. I'm pretty good at that. So yeah, he did that 14 day free trial, and he got his Excel spreadsheet back, and he was over the moon. He thought this was absolutely going to solve all of his problems all the time. No, he's an accountant. But then he realised actually it didn't at all cause he had to copy and paste all the data in the excel, and then there was the general niches. So he emailed the customer support at Receipt Farm and said, guys I love what you're doing. It's terrific. Have you thought about integrating with some general niches? Have you thought about, and I buy meat to give access to my accountants. And they came back within 10 minutes saying, thank you very much, Mr. Wood. We really appreciate and value your feedback, but we're closing down today.

Sophie Hossack: So he called a previous colleague of his Alexis. They'd previously worked in an organisation for about five, six years in the investment space in the UK. And he said to Alexis, I think there's something really interesting in this. And so they bought what was Receipt Farm, I believe for something like a pound back in the year 2010, and then were no paying clients. I think there were a handful of trialists and the software was very basic. Receipt Farms premise was to go straight to the small business owner, whereas Alexis and Michael from day one thought, we know that this is going to be revolutionary for farms. It's actually going to be beneficial for accounting and bookkeeping farms. And the reason why I say bookkeeping second is actually we didn't know that bookkeeping existed in the way that they do until we came over here.

Amy Hooke: Wow. In what ways?

Sophie Hossack: So in the UK, a lot of accountants do bookkeeping or the SME does the bookkeeping and there isn't this just incredible network that there is here in Australia and New Zealand.

Amy Hooke: That kind of thing you mean?

Sophie Hossack: Yeah, exactly. So it was just, yeah. Amazing this whole new world kind of opened up to us as soon as we came over here.

Amy Hooke: Fantastic. Well, there you go. And so, so then how did you end up in the picture?

Sophie Hossack: Yeah. I could make a tea, and I think I just spoke a lot of my interview. I had no background whatsoever. I just graduated from university and-

Amy Hooke: English literature.

Sophie Hossack: Yeah.

Amy Hooke: Totally different.

Sophie Hossack: Different generic, super generic. So yeah, English literature. And I personally knew there were two things that I wanted to do. So I thought by the age of 30 that I couldn't imagine working for somebody else. So it was a 21 year old just graduating. I thought, gosh, okay, well I've got nine years to work out how I can be my own boss by the age of 30, but I get my skates on. So the premise of working with two co-founders of the business at the infancy or at the inception was just kind of too good an opportunity. So I joined them and six months after they bought Receipt Farm and then we went commercial, we launched the product. I think about six weeks after I started. That's when we first started actually trying to sell. So receipt bank.

Amy Hooke: Right. Well, so you're officially the first staff member?

Sophie Hossack: Yes.

Amy Hooke: Apart from the owners.

Sophie Hossack: Apart from the owners. Yeah.

Amy Hooke: And you are still there. Okay. And then how did you end up in Australia?

Sophie Hossack: Yeah. So in 20, gosh, 2012 we've been nominated for an award at a conference we didn't even know existed. Oh, we're just going to make you laugh now. So it was all Oakland Xerocon 2012 and we nominated for emerging adult of the year. So we had no idea they were awards. We had no idea it was a conference it just came.

Amy Hooke: It's quite humbling.

Sophie Hossack: It's kind of ridiculous now to think about it. But so we got nominated and after that there were lots of phone calls from particularly New Zealand farms saying, who are you? What do you do? You look like you could be interesting. So Mike and I spent about six, nine months working Kiwi and Aussie hours in London. So we'd have phone calls and all or evenings or early mornings trying to understand the landscape here a little bit more. We made two trips that summer UK, so winter here, so June and August. And by the end of the year it was evident that somebody needed to move out. And as I was turning I think a 23, 24 year old, I was certainly the cheapest resource to send out with no ties in the economy. So they said, would you go? And I said yes, and it's being five years later and I haven't gone home yet.

Amy Hooke: And so have you already always been in Sydney since you arrived?

Sophie Hossack: I actually moved to Oakland initially. Oh, I was in the VF of 2013, and I actually spent more than 60% of my time travelling to Australia. By the end of that year I'd said, could we move to us, we move the patient to ours and I agree.

Amy Hooke: Fantastic. And so now you're in charge of the whole team in Australia basically?

Sophie Hossack: Yeah. So we've got our team here is about just under 30 people. Predominantly all sales and marketing, a bit of operations as well. So our team here is quite specific. It's focused just on our partner channels. Everybody that works in my team here works with bookkeepers and accountants directly.

Amy Hooke: Fantastic.

Sophie Hossack: All of our product and development and kind of larger marketing infrastructure is that she based out of our London funding team.

Amy Hooke: Yeah. Okay. And when you were younger, and you're studying English literature back at home, did you say you're self-managing you're like such a big team of people? Like did you see yourself in a management position at all?

Sophie Hossack: No. And I suppose the most ironic thing. I got asked that question for the very first time, about a year ago, somebody said, did you imagine managing this number of people? And I said, Oh my gosh, I never even thought I'd been managing like that. That would never came up in my language. No. I was always so dead set that I wanted to own a business.

Amy Hooke: What didn't you think you would do?

Sophie Hossack: I didn't know. I thought I wanted to own a business, but I didn't know what that business, I noticed, I realised the owning a business means you have to manage people's like that. The two didn't really have been.

Amy Hooke: Wow. Okay. Fantastic. Well, it's really good to hear a bit about your story, and hear about the history of for sake bank and everything. And so when I first started looking you off a lot, I had no idea that you were the first employee and just the whole thing putting it all together. So it's really good. Okay. So if you want to kind of take over from here and start to chat to the ladies about the team building.

Sophie Hossack: Yeah, absolutely. 

Amy Hooke: So referrals, what are you going to teach us about referrals? 

Sophie Hossack: While I think referrals is a really interesting one is there's so many avenues and channels for marketing. I often think that marketing, it can be a very generic word and you don't quite know. It wouldn't necessarily mean, so you get some really good examples and website curation and physical content curation. Earlier when you were giving your bio, which is really specific ways, it can be quite vague and with so many different mass channels available, social being a good one. How do you start to leverage what you've already got, which is actually, as you said earlier, your client relationships with the client relationships that you have and hold in and the ones who hold you dear. They're your best source of advocacy.

Sophie Hossack: So how do you intentionally start to develop your clients into being your number one fan? How are those, the ones who are your champions and your supporters, not just your clients, not just the consumers at the service that you'll delivering. And how do you encourage that without you feeling like you're being salesy? Cause I often think there's a misconception when you're asking somebody for help, particularly the more thorough that you feel like you're being salesy with doing it, and not necessarily genuine because it's so in your interest. How do you navigate that conversation? That's why I suppose I'm interested in it.

Amy Hooke: Okay, great. Well, yeah, I think this is going to be a really good topic. And I definitely, I really enjoy marketing. I actually, I would say I enjoy sales more than marketing. I enjoy the sales process of helping the person get to the point of deciding to work with me. And which is partly one of the reasons why I started Amyhooke.com was because when I got into my bookkeeping business, I found that I love styles more than I love the bookkeeping work. So I loved like finding the clients and bringing them through that sales process.

Amy Hooke: But as soon as I got them in, like I couldn't be bothered doing the bookkeeping work. And so I just thought, wow, like I actually really enjoy selling the bookkeeping service. And I thought, okay, well maybe there's something in this that I guess I just kind of naturally transitioned into doing that. So I think it's good to be able to what the same, the quote that I have on my website is 2% of bookkeepers love marketing and the other 98% of normal. That's why it's great to say like Debbie Roberts would joke as well, but saying like I'm in the 2%, am that one I 2%, am that one person in the room of 50. I've got a lot of the other ladies I'm looking for competency in their marketing.

Sophie Hossack: I think that's a big thing. I think the confidence is such a huge thing. It's actually if you will, a sole trader, sole practitioner, knowing what you're doing, whether it's right, whether people are going to like it or what the reaction reception is going to be is so big. It's so, it can be so daunting and overwhelming. And I have a bit of a joke internally of just say what you want to say. You can work on the delivery the next time you say it.

Amy Hooke: Yeah. That's true.

Sophie Hossack: Also when people get so tongue tied with that, she's saying the initial thing that they never do. And then I know what I'm like in turn I then just churn on it and it absolutely affects me. So a good thing is kind of giving feedback. I used to really struggle just saying to somebody this is the piece of feedback because I'd be so worried about the delivery of it, that it would hamper me from actually doing it.

Amy Hooke: Yup.

Sophie Hossack: And confidence in selling yourself and your service and your solution is exactly the same. How do you refine it? That can come later. The first was actually doing it and asking for it. And I think knowing which clients are the clients that you like, and the clients that you enjoy working with, and the people who pay on time, and the people that enjoy the conversation about what other options and solutions and services you can provide. Are those the kinds of clients that you want to replicate. You don't want to replicate the client where you're chasing and in of a pay, and they call you all the time, and you don't want to replicate them. So knowing who you want to replicate first and having a really strong idea and sense of who is really key, making sure that group have had a really good experience is also really important because picking your timing, it's going to be the key. If you know that they are struggling financially at the moment or fail, I'm just going through, around redundancies or whatever it may be, that may not be the right time, but that they're flying.

Sophie Hossack: If they've just won a local award or if they've just hired the new six person that year they may be in the mood for more good news and being kind of sharing more. So taking your timing is very key. Not being afraid to incentivise as well. So incentivising could be a competition, so you could choose to physically give a prize, or you could choose to offer a service. So if you referred one of your friends, I will do a health check for you for your business, or I'll do a personal tax return for free or whatever it might be. And that person you refer also gets the same kind of freebie so you can with the idea of incentivising and gamification. And then you'll find your sweet spot with what you like to offer and be what your clients typically like to be offered. And that'd be unique to you as a farm as well. That won't be consistent across the board. Definitely. What's in it for them as well as when's the right time to ask them.

Amy Hooke: Yup, that's good. I might just go to the thread cause if get a little bit quiet for a little while. So does anyone want to just share I guess how your going with referrals? Like, Hey, you finding it easy to ask for referrals. Are you finding it difficult, do you have any special ways that you'd like to do it or particular like methods of doing it? I don't know whether it's like collecting testimonials and things like that, or I'll just count on invoice. Okay. Mandy? Mandy does a discount on invoice. Okay. Oh, is that a question? You've put a double question Mark there. I just realised, sorry, Susan's not here. Okay. Susan's not asking for girls Brahman funds at very difficult, hasn't been able to. Yeah. So anyone that's finding it difficult, would you mind just sharing a little bit about maybe what you find hard about it?

Amy Hooke: I think I was finding just finding a convenient time to do it, like you were saying before. So I've built actually I'm thinking of asking for testimonials as opposed to referrals, but I build it into my processes now. So I have like little links and little spots where they can comment or share and things like that. So I think making it easy for people is it's also good, cause obviously clients are really busy running their business, so, okay. So Bronwyn finds it hard to sell herself, which is why she's not being able to do it. And same with Catio. I think it's a confidence issue. I think what if I'm not doing a good job and if I ask for this referral, Oh, okay. Yeah. Okay. So you're asking for you think, what if I asked for the referral and then they're not happy with my service at the moment or something like that.okay.

Sophie Hossack: Oh, I suppose on that one, if you're not sure, you're going to find out. That's the beauty of it. So rather than thinking of it being scary, if they say, actually what Amy, I'm not about happy because of this, because of, I don't know, whatever it may be. That gives you the perfect option to say, okay, I can solve that for you. Okay, I can change that. Okay, we can change the way we work, or we can change a piece of software or whatever it may be. I let me have the opportunity to help you and fix that again. Especially I wouldn't be scared if they said actually, you know what, I don't want to refer because of I'm not very happy cause you can make them happy. You can change their experience that's within your control.

Amy Hooke: Yeah. That's true. Yeah. I guess just being open to the feedback that might come when you, when you ask. Yeah.

Sophie Hossack: And knowing that I think, yeah, try not to be surprised. Harder than the is the easy.

Amy Hooke: Exactly. And Melissa said she hasn't asked directly for referrals, but I know there's a couple of amazing networkers that she's told them that business just about to sign with a new client from one of these. Okay.

Sophie Hossack: That's a great point. Melissa. I'm often thinking about your own suppliers as well. So who within your network that you do business with, whether it's like a BNI group specifically or whether it's the builder who helps your office or whatever it may be, something to talk to them about their business and their network and encouraging that word of mouth. It's a good one. So yeah, I think Melissa thinking about how do you build that network is key.

Amy Hooke: That's true. Yeah. I guess I hadn't thought of that cause you're not always asking for referrals from clients as well. You might ask for a referral from someone who you've never worked with before or someone who might not ever be a potential client.

Sophie Hossack: Yeah. Absolutely.

Amy Hooke: Yeah. Okay, great. And who else? Okay. Michelle said the more confidence you project, the more clients want to help you. Yeah, I think that's true.

Sophie Hossack: I then the main people like to help in the main. But then people's sensitivity towards their own time. People actually, if you ask for help, people like to give it, cause it makes them feel good as well. And maybe if you're scared of asking because you don't know whether it's the right time, you could even say, I'd like to ask whether anybody else that I might be useful for health before, as my bookkeeping services. Is now a good time for us to discuss that or actually, and would it be more appropriate in say three months time? You tell me is now good for us to discuss that will not, so you almost have that caveat, so you don't feel quite so forthright.

Amy Hooke: Yes. So I feel like, okay. Yeah, because maybe sometimes I might feel pressured to kind of do it like right on the spot or something like that.

Sophie Hossack: Yeah. You could also give them some templated texts, so you could actually send them an introduction, which has any managed option is that it even have to write anything. Making it, as you said early really easily.

Amy Hooke: That's right. And so do you now said one of the people in home networking group has mentioned her to someone else just last week. So congratulations. That's very good. And Michelle has said accountants that you work well with are another great sauce. Yes.

Sophie Hossack: Yeah, absolutely.

Amy Hooke: Okay, so we've got a question. Mandy has asked what is the best approach for offering? She said offering referrals by patient means asking for referrals.

Sophie Hossack: So it goes back to one of my earlier points about process, building it into your either your quarter, or your year. When are you going to actually be doing it? Because again, you can't just decide tomorrow to offer some refer off for some referrals. Offer an incentive for doing it. You've got to think actually, well I'm going to be doing it here because I'm hoping that that introduction is made within the first six weeks. Then I meant to supply to that client comes on board in six weeks later.

Amy Hooke: Yeah.

Sophie Hossack: So knowing when you're going to do it both for your business and then for them is really important. I think looking at the incentive as well. So what is in it for them other than that generosity and then being homeless. Yeah, we'll kick it. Can you give them? And it could be, it could be edible, you could send them a cake, you could send them flowers, you could give them a discount. There are just a huge number of ways to say thank you to people. And I once was told something that was really key by Michael one of the co-founders. He always said, you should always say thank you with a gift. You should never say please with a gift. So don't send something as in please your family once they are going to say thank you for family. And I think that's again a really nice touch instead.

Amy Hooke: Yeah, that's really good. Does anyone else have more questions? We've got a couple of minutes left, so we're just, I guess we'll just Q and A until the load is kneeling on a clock.

Sophie Hossack: That that's gone so quickly.

Amy Hooke: It's got so, cause I just suddenly woke up, I was like, Oh wow. It's actually really fun. What have we got? So yeah. So loves the idea of phone. I assume she's referring to the gifts. Okay. And someone is typing a question. I lost Christmas. Jenelle gave gifts of compassion as a thank you. Like your donation do you mean? So does anyone else have any questions? Just pop them in. If we want at a time and then Sophie can text reply to a question nicely. Oh, okay. Well one was a goat. Yeah. So right. Compassion is in the charity and she like, they gave it to somebody.

Sophie Hossack: That's amazing.

Amy Hooke: That's different. Quiet unique. Good.

Sophie Hossack: All right, great.

Amy Hooke: So is there anything else you wanted to share on that topic? I can't see questions coming.

Sophie Hossack: I know that it can be really difficult to build up the courage and to build up the confidence, particularly when you're working in isolation. And I suppose if you have a wobble or if you're not sure, pick up the phone and speak to your favourite clients because inadvertently you all have one plan. Who is going to be your absolute favourite? Give them a call and just chat to them and remind yourself about the value you're providing to that client and that'll encourage you to speak to somebody else if you have a bit of wobble, I would encourage them.

Amy Hooke: Yup. And Susan's just asked, what would the time frame be to follow up on requests for referrals?

Sophie Hossack: A good one is asking the other person what time frame is appropriate because somebody might say, Oh, what should I do at a few tomorrow? Did somebody might say I'm not going to get round for for two weeks.

Amy Hooke: Yeah.

Sophie Hossack: Cause we could all them. And again, as us setting expectations, it gives them the buy-in because if they're not really keen or if they say, Oh gosh, I'll probably get around to it and I don't know, two months time, okay well two months you can go back but you're not going to anticipate it then because you are expectations on time frames will be significantly different to theirs. So asking them is kind of a good place to start.

Amy Hooke: Yeah. Fantastic. That's great. Okay. Well so this is no more questions. So we have run out of the time. So yeah, just thank you so much for attending tonight. Everything you shared, it's been so helpful. It's been very insightful to get a bit of a glimpse into the Receipt Bank office, and everybody if you can post your things on the thread. Just say thank you to Sophie. If you have any further questions, you can just ask her in the text there. She may or may not be able to answer it tonight. Maybe tomorrow if she's got to go. It looks like she's still in the office.

Sophie Hossack: That was great. Thank you so much. I have had a lot of fun. I really felt very good.

Amy Hooke: Great. Well thanks for your time, thank you all for joining me, and I will see you next month. Okay, goodbye. Good night, everybody.