I had another potential client waste my time last week. After spending 2 1/5 hours answering questions and providing free tax and accounting advice for his five newly created LLC’s, he left saying he’d have to think it over. I am sure I will never hear from him again. Why does this keep happening to me? What can I do to distinguish deadbeat clients looking for free advice from actual paying customers?Mary, who has been providing tax and accounting services to clients for 20 years, offered the following advice:
Stop giving free advice:
I started charging a $25 consultation fee to new clients several years ago. Charging a nominal fee adds a legitimacy factor to the first meeting.
Limit consultations to one hour:
Real clients understand accountants charge by the hour. A potential client that stays longer than one hour is seeking free advice and won’t be back. After one hour state, “That is all the time I have for you today. Let me share the services I offer.” Detail your services; provide your fee structure and a contract. If they request a second meeting schedule one at your normal billing rate.
I learned this tip years ago. Once you have outlined your services and provided your contract hand them a pen stop talking. In the early days of my business, my nerves would keep talking long after I had asked for the deal and I’d end up talking my new client out of my services.
What if they forgot their checkbook?
If they are not interested in future services I ask for the $25 fee. If they’ve forgotten their checkbook, I inform them I am set up to accept ACH payments and provide them with an ACH authorization form to fill out.
This is a bad sign. Anyone who has created five LLC’s in one year doesn’t know what he wants to do and isn’t going to be a good client. (An LLC is a Limited Liability Corporation)
What practices have you implemented to stop giving away your time and expertise?
"When you undervalue who you are, the world will undervalue what you do and vice versa" Suze Orman