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Prospects you don't want to deal with

Prospects you don't want to deal with

I have just put up my postcards in local newsagents windows again.

I got one rather nice client out of the last lot and 3 iffy people that I definitely didn't want as clients, so it might be worth it, at 50p per week.

This afternoon someone rang and said he was with a firm of accountants who were sorting out with HMRC several periods that he had not previously declared but he was not happy with his latest capital gains calculation. I said he should be querying these matters with his current accountants. He would be best to stay where he was, as it sounded as if they were doing the right thing. He wittered on a bit and I said sorry but I'll have to go now. Looking back I wish I'd terminated the conversation earlier. I'm not running Citizens Advice.

As soon as he said "I've been a ghost for a few years" I knew I didn't want to deal with him. I should have turned him down at that point. What's your best phrase for me to use in future? If you've got any rude ones at least it will make me laugh!


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10th Jun 2012 17:27

Thanks for this . . .
But I'm sorry I am up to my eyes with other work at present.


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By Flash Gordon
10th Jun 2012 18:57

Something along the lines of...

'Unfortunately it's our policy not to take on a client part-way through an enquiry / investigation (involves duplication of work, higher fees for client blah blah) but if you're still looking to change after the matter is closed then please do get in touch' while adding their number to your phone so you can not answer if they ever ring back!

Though sounds like he wouldn't take the hint for anything other than 'you're having a laugh, s*d off' ....

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10th Jun 2012 19:36

The best way is to say: "I would absolutely love to work with you. All I need is an up front payment of ten grand and we can get things going. Now let me get my credit card machine and I can take your details - or would you like to drop the cash off this afternoon?" 

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By DMGbus
10th Jun 2012 22:36

"Specialist advice needed"

I'd say to such a prospect that they need specialist advice and that my firm had no such specialist on board, only dealing with tax enquiries for own clients (where full background knowledge is present).



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11th Jun 2012 13:47

Thanks for all the advice!

I will use phrases such as "this is an area I don't specialise in, so cannot discuss further" and also "not my policy to advise people who are not clients, as I don't have access to full facts".

I do feel rather wistful about Steve's ten grand option, but imagine that is somewhat optimistic!!

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11th Jun 2012 14:31

I only deal with grown ups ...

is my favourite potential client discussion quote. I go on to explain that this means people who listen to me, respond in a timely manner and who are responsible for their own obligations. Clearly your potential would have failed on at least two of these counts!

One of the reasons to be self-employed is to be able to pick your work so don't be shy in exercising that right. Normally I let them get about three lines in and if I don't fancy it I just say 'Sorry, I need to stop you there ... this really isn't the type of work/trade I like doing' and have the name of a local (and very expensive) firm to hand who 'you would heartily recommend'. I don't think anyone has ever questioned me as they are too shocked that they have been bounced! Actually one feller did once as he thought my attitude showed someone with real 'fire in their belly' and just the sort of accountant he was looking for! Obviously I pointed out his error.

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11th Jun 2012 15:15

I once sacked a client at a 'sign up' meeting

I got fed up of this client even before we had completed the 'sign up' meeting due to him complaining strongly about having to pay 50% up front, and the numerous other things we were doing 'wrong' compared to every other accountant, so I gave him his money back and told him I thought he would be better going to one of these other accountants he was telling me about that do everything the way he likes it to be done.

After a short silence he started shouting at me and told me he wanted me to do his tax return ... I managed to keep calm and told him it was my practice and I was under no obligation to accept anyone as a client. After a long arm-waving rant and throwing a few threats in our direction he eventually left the office, and nearly took the door off its hinges on his way out.

Phew ... we had a lucky escape from that one!!!! :)

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11th Jun 2012 15:46

Shirley I know what you mean!

I was telling someone recently about a tax client I had many years ago who was annoyed when I regularly had to ask him for receipts to justify his travel. He coughed up the receipts but sarcastically added a note with them to the effect that I would probably want "another bus ticket" (those were the days!).

When the following year I decided small tax clients were more trouble than they were worth I wrote to him telling him I was moving out of that field so he should look for another accountant. He was extremely angry with me (in writing). There is a category of person who just wants to sulk and it's everyone else's fault but theirs!

It is clearly very important not to take on people who are unreasonable, violent etc, but it isn't always easy to spot this trait immediately.


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By Viv100
11th Jun 2012 16:19

Not worth the worry...

I say something similar to Steve Holloway... "we don't specialise in that area etc... etc..." or sometimes "it sounds like you need a specialist"....

It doesn't happen too often, but I have had some clients where I was far more worried about their muddled affairs/missed deadlines/etc.. etc... sometimes to the extent that I was having sleepless nights, while they seemed completely unconcerned.  I decided that that really wasn't the way round it should be, so if at all possible, I try and spot those early.

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11th Jun 2012 18:27

You could always use the classic Private Eye Response

"We refer you to the reply given in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram"


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By Wilson
12th Jun 2012 13:46

 I like Steve Holloway's

 I like Steve Holloway's approach also. Sometimes client's de-select themselves. Never ask for what seems to be an unusually large fee as

1) they may pay it !

2) they will tell everyone who will listen how you are the most expensive accountant in the area.

Also, is saying they require a specialist or implying that you are not competent in doing the work truthful? - maybe not.

Better to be honest, as no one is going to shout about being declined as a client.

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12th Jun 2012 14:18

Easiest way is to say you're too busy to take on any new clients at the moment.

I've been saying this in reply to "some" emails, phone calls and doorstep callers for several years.  Yes, sometimes they seem shocked, but so what?

I try to find out straight away whether they've been referred to me by another client, or whether they've just randomly picked me via the phone book or internet search.  I also find out quickly if they're shopping around.  I'm very unlikely to talk to them any further unless they come by a referral and I won't even entertain any that openly admit to talking to several accountants to get quotes etc.  

I tend to make a quick judgment based on the first few words they say, or the general tone of their email.  I can't be bothered to spend a lot of time checking my initial thoughts are right - why waste time or a meeting just to prove yourself right.  Fair enough, no doubt I've missed the opportunity for loads of good clients, but so what - I'm busy enough anyway.  

As for people who just turn up at the door, then it's almost always a "sorry I'm too busy" answer.  It's not a good start if people just turn up without phoning or making an appointment.  I find it's one of the biggest causes of my stress when people turn up unannounced so if a prospect does it at the start, every chance it would become a habit for them - so they don't get the chance.

At the end of the day, we don't need to provide any justification for our decision whether or not to take on a client.  As long as we're not descriminating on the grounds of race, sex[***], etc., then it's our decision which clients we want to take on.


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