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Time Wasting New "Clients"

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I am new to practice and have been amazed by the number of new “clients” who turn out to be time wasters.

I have noticed the same nauseating pattern.  A lengthy initial consultation, usually in the evening at their home.  Very keen to engage me as their accountant and ask me to prepare a letter a of engagement and also to undertake some further preparatory work.

Then ……. Silence for a few days followed by a polite email saying that – I have spoken to my husband/father/friend and have decided not to proceed.

I end giving away factsheets, information and a lot of time.

Perhaps I need to be hardnosed about free consultations?

I would be grateful for any insight into the approach taken by others.

Replies (21)

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By Chris Mann
15th Jun 2017 14:16

How are these potential client's arriving at your door? Is it; via recommendation or, local/social media promotion?

My hunch would be, if you're attracting recommendation this will produce a more "genuine" initial interest and, those people would be easier to convert into the type of business you want to form a relationship with.

It's never easy starting out in practice. However, if you're willing to work hard and, take the rough with the smooth, you will (eventually) succeed. I wish you well. It's a very enjoyable profession and, I've been very fortunate to work with some unusual and entertaing clients.

Thanks (3)
Replying to Chris Mann:
By All
15th Jun 2017 14:48

Thanks Chris

The time wasters are usually responding to the website or averts.

I appreciate the support and will take your advice.

Thanks (0)
By Tim Vane
15th Jun 2017 14:20

Are your fees commensurate with the type of clients you are trying to attract? It is not unusual to get a few time wasters but if you are getting a large number then you probably need to review your approach as there may be some common factor that is putting people off.

EDIT - according to your earlier posts you appear to have been in practice for a couple of years. I would not say that you were particularly "new" to practice.

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Replying to Tim Vane:
By All
15th Jun 2017 14:44

Thanks Tim

Until the start of the year most, but not all, of my business was consultancy.
I then opened a high street office and ceased the consultancy.
A lot of my existing clients tell me that I don't charge enough. I don't currently offer fixed prices and perhaps I need to reconsider this approach.
I don't push hard to close deals as I want the clients to choose me.

Thanks (0)
Replying to All:
By Chris Mann
15th Jun 2017 15:04

I introduced fixed fees, payable monthly, a couple of years ago, for most jobs above £500 per annum. It works for me and, more importantly, client's prefer it.

The first five years can be a great learning curve and, in fairness, the first two years are absorbed into the overall bedding in process.

Thanks (1)
Replying to All:
By itp3asso
16th Jun 2017 16:44

I m sorry?

Your clients tell YOU that you do not charge enough?!

Are they a bunch of financial masochists?

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Replying to itp3asso:
By exceljockey
19th Jun 2017 17:06

Happened to me. A client asked me out to lunch. When we had ordered he brought up the issue of fees and I thought 'here we go' especially as he does more of the work I used to do, payroll etc. But he said he wasnt happy with the low fees because he felt that with a fixed fee, when he had questions to ask he didnt feel comfortable asking me because the fee was so low. The fee is not bad but we have agreed that for the next few months he is to ask me as many questions as he wants and will I adjust the fee accordingly.

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By bernard michael
15th Jun 2017 14:20

Sounds normal to me. I insist on the initial chat being at my office.
I lose about 25% of the new prospects

Thanks (4)
By mrme89
15th Jun 2017 14:22

Fact sheets and detailed information should come after they are signed up. The trick is to just give enough information that lets them know that you are competent, and that they will benefit from your services.

I'd also stop visiting clients at their home. If they are not investing any of their time, they don't care if they are wasting yours. There's also a potential security risk, particularly if you are female.

Thanks (3)
Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
15th Jun 2017 14:40

You probably need to filter them more at the initial contact and don't meet everyone of them.

I get a lot of contacts via website probably a third of which are time wasters looking for cheapest job.

I had one a few weeks back who was a contractor and he intended to meet/get quotes from 10 accountants before he made up his mind. which is just ridiculous.

I am getting better at spotting the problem jobs though, as did waste a lot of time in early days.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Glennzy:
By David Winch
16th Jun 2017 10:19

Spot on Glennzy!

I always advise my clients to put as much effort into discouraging the folk they don't want as they put into encouraging those they do want.

Somewhere along the line - probably everywhere - you need to apply such filters, so start with your promotional material.

Get out of the "We daren't risk missing anyone" mindset and into a "How can we best attract the few we really want?" way of thinking.

David Winch
Sales & Marketing Consultant, Cambridge

Thanks (2)
By jon_griffey
15th Jun 2017 15:01

This is just something you will have to put up with.

Accountants are in a charmed place, namely having the luxury of recurring fees and loyal clients. Other professions such as solicitors look on this with envy.

If you can pick up 1 decent client out of 10 enquiries and keep them for 5+ years that is surely well worth your while. The timewasters cost you nothing, just a little time.

Thanks (1)
By Maslins
15th Jun 2017 15:26

Agree with most of the above, particularly bernard michael's comments re where the meeting is.

I tend to avoid meetings where possible, but if they do want to meet, they have to come here. That way they rather than I am incurring the time and financial cost of travel, and more importantly, it means they're only going to bother if they're seriously interested.

Thanks (1)
By marks
15th Jun 2017 21:39

Some things you might want to consider

1. Meeting only at your office. If they are genuine they will invest time to get to you. Why should you waste your time going to theirs

2. Have a 15 minute discovery call on the phone where you can quickly work out if they are fit for you. Have an agenda of questions to go through, not many, maybe half a dozen, and then say you will give them a call the next day with an indication of the fee level involved. Only then once they are still interested meet with them to take to the next level.

3. Dont offer free consultation. Charge for the consultation, say even 50 pound per hour and that it will be refunded by offsetting against their first fee.

These are just some things you might consider if you are getting fed up with time wasters. Unfortunately for most people they tend to be par for the course but luckily we dont have many, maybe 1 in every 10.

Thanks (2)
By birdman
16th Jun 2017 10:42

Having been a "home visitor" in the early years, it's taken a long time to get those people to come to the office, so I'd reiterate the comments about getting new prospects to come to you if simply to avoid making a rod for your own back. I now only visit a few large clients and those where they'd have difficulty coming to me (elderly and a few non-drivers), and try to make appointments for when I'm on my way to or from the office.

Thanks (1)
By Michael C Feltham
16th Jun 2017 10:46

Thee is ONLY one established modality to deal with this - all too common - problem.

Prior to agreeing an initial client meeting, first advise full professional fees will apply, which will be waived as a goodwill gesture if the client formally instructs you; demand the prospective client signs a basic contract note, accordingly.

Enclose your standard fees leaflet with the pro forma contact note.

Out-of-hours time is charged extra, remember; after all if the potential client is so busy they cannot visit YOU during normal office hours, it is their problem, not yours.

Brain Pickers are all too common!

Either a potential client values your professional expertise or doesn't. If they do, then must pay for it.

Thanks (1)
By pauljohnston
16th Jun 2017 10:48

How about signing them up at the first visit. have in your bag a designed Terms of Enagement ment and at the end have something like Client Name, you write in manually. Get client to sign and if fixed fee how about a fee agreement with Monthly payment option see

At this point you will see how committed they are.
Try and keep meeting to max one hour, unless signed up. Have a set of conditions for home meeting ie must start by 6pm in a room with no TV or radio or music on. At a table (not sofa) and send this with your LETTER confirming meeting (emails can be ignored)

Thanks (1)
By enanen
16th Jun 2017 11:16

referrals are best really, anything you get from advertising with no connection is always hit and miss but usually miss. You just restrict the initial time you spend with them. I would ask them to come to you. If they do not want to then they are possibly not that genuine. The trouble in meeting people at their home is that the conversation can drift into areas not related to the reason you are there so you should limit time spent and do not accept refreshments. Take control of all meetings, find out what they are looking for, be pleasant, but stay on point and know when to leave and remember to be good at closing a meeting. If you get a talker then you need to close the meeting by starting the meeting advising that you have another appointment to/collect a member of your family/meet a train etc so you have to leave at a specific time. Do not provide too much information upfront.

Thanks (1)
By chatman
16th Jun 2017 12:23

marks wrote:
Have a 15 minute discovery call on the phone where you can quickly work out if they are fit for you. Have an agenda of questions to go through, not many, maybe half a dozen, and then say you will give them a call the next day with an indication of the fee level involved. Only then once they are still interested meet with them to take to the next level

I do this, and find it works quite well.

Thanks (1)
By ianthetaxman
16th Jun 2017 15:46

I tend to do the fact finding phone call or email initially, as it helps sort out those who are keen and those who are just out for some free advice.

I usually check where they got my details from - this can sometimes help to determine their motives and if they really are looking to sign up.

The location used and the amount of time spent securing a new client varies, but as others have said, over time you get a 'feel' for this.

As others have also said before, you want to provide a professional service to the client, and be treated like-wise, so unreasonable calls on your time at the outset might be an indication of the client's lack of consideration in this department, and may be why they are looking for a new advisor?!

Thanks (1)
By ShayaG
16th Jun 2017 16:49

There's a marketing technique called "qualifying questions" (worth a google) which you can use when speaking to prospects which helps work out if it is worth spending 30 minutes on or not... but unfortunately you will end up wasting a lot of time. However, do not loose hope - some of these potentials may refer loop back to you after a few months (when there tax letters become too difficult to ignore, or the business grows a little). With some people it's worth keeping in touch.

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