Achieving a balance between giving away too much and not enough

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Like many accountants in my area, I offer first free consultation with tax advice.

It is difficult to know how much advice to give on the first consultation. I do not want to give away too much that will mean the more sharp clients can do it themselves. This is a difficult area since I do not think I can stop midway. I cannot say – “They are some tax savings areas on VAT and income tax. I will provide further information when you become our client”.

I tend to explain the tax savings area and how they are achieved. Is this too much?

Some potential clients tend to find cheaper accountants and ask him/her to implement tax savings ideas.

The tax savings advice I provide is nothing complicated. It tends to around incorporation, flat rate VAT and allowable expenses. Any reasonably competent accountant would be able to provide this advice.

How do you handle this? 


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18th Feb 2013 17:20

why not

just say you provide a tax savings meeting to go through possibilities with all new clients?

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By Flash Gordon
18th Feb 2013 17:30

Too much

Peter's idea is a good one. If you tell them how to do it before they've signed up (and paid!) then they no longer need you. Yes you need to show that you can benefit them but think of it like a trailer to a film - if you've seen all the best bits you don't bother paying the extortionate price of a ticket, if you just had a teaser that shows that there's action galore and totty but doesn't give the game away or reveal too much flesh then you hand over your money, buy your popcorn and settle down happily.


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By Old Greying Accountant
18th Feb 2013 17:35

I work similar to you ...

... anything I say will be basic stuff they could find by an online search, there are plenty of places that give that advice. If you confirm what they already know then you pass their test as it were for being competent.

I don't get hung up on this. I see it like the parable of the farmer - I sow my seeds of information, some fall on barren ground and shrivel and die (these are the no hopers, e,g. the ones with a redundancy package that want to start their own business, they come in all fired up but then get another job and you never see them again), others get eaten by the birds and creatures (these are like your recent accountant hopper) but the others fall on fertle ground, these are your conversions, and these can grow into profitable and well liked clients with a bit of nurturing.

I would add, some lay dormant waiting for the right conditions. i have had some come in for their hour, a go with me thinking i will never see them again, then a few years later they come back and turn in to a good client.

So, in my mind, general advice, like soletrade/company the pro's and con's, what sort of expenses are allowable etc. are fine. You are demonstrating your know what you are talking about, and you just play the percentage game. If they have come via advertising then you will expect a larger quantity of fails, but if they come as a referral then conversion rates should be higher.

It is finding the balance between mercenary and missionary that suits you.

If you give advice or not in the free hour they have had an hour of your time whether they sign up or not!

I disagree on giving away the movie plot, if they want an accountant because they don't want to do it themselves they will use you (more likely if you are open and honest and not making it all smoke and mirrors), if they want to do it themselves they won't sign up anyway -as I say, either way you've spent the hour!


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By Flash Gordon
18th Feb 2013 18:15


I'll not be sharing my popcorn with you now OGA! But I'm more Die Hard 4 than a documentary on farming - though if you introduce some livestock I could be converted :)

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By Old Greying Accountant
18th Feb 2013 19:25

Ah, but ...

... you've got to grow the corn before you can pop it.

A Die Hard 4 scenario would play havoc with your online filings, especially on 31st Jan!

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19th Feb 2013 17:40

Sweet Charity

I got fed up with the freeloaders when I saved a friend £600 and before he left he showed me his pass book with a balance of £268K.  He thanked me very much and left it at that.

What happens now is that a nominated charity benefits from a not quite voluntary contribution from the client.

If the circumstance leads to our appointment in a formal capacity the donation is credited against his first fee so we then stand the donation.

Introductory commission to a childrens hospice, happy client and the feeling that time and talent has been rewarded seems to work well here.

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