Quasi prospects, time-wasters and an experiment in human nature

Sometimes we know what is going to happen but we just carry on anyway to see if we are right, even if we get nothing out of it except the satisfaction of being prescient. So it was the other night when events unfolded as expected.

It began with a telephone call from the wife of a former client whom I had dug out of a big hole he had got himself into. She said she was starting a business and was worried about tax issues. Could I visit her? “The initial consultation is free isn’t it?” I already knew how the cards would fall as I confirmed there was no charge for the first meeting. “How much will you charge for my tax return and accounts?” I told her a figure if her records were in good order.

My caller then asked for an evening meeting not before 7:30 to 8 and only on certain days; very inconvenient for me, but I do normally try to accommodate people. I ended up seeing her after a long day with other clients and frankly wishing I could put my feet up.

I had a long discussion with her about this and that. I did not give too much away in terms of free tax advice (I am not that daft) but did give a fair number of tips about starting in business, networking, and recommendations for SEO experts (mentioned Nikki Pilkington) and was generally helpful. She then asked me how she should keep her accounting records for me, on which of course I advised her.

She then asked me whether I could reduce my quote given on the telephone as she did not have much money yet (she had spent four times as much as she needed to on a new computer). I said that my figure was very reasonable for my excellent service. She then said that she would try to do her first accounts and return herself and thanked me for my time. I was able to make a joke as I left, because after all, I was only acting in a play and knew how it would end.

One puzzle is that I do not understand why people cannot see obvious value in good services whilst overspending on shiny gadgets they do not need. However, the real mystery is how people who have no intention of buying deliberately try to suck what they can from those around them without any intention of giving anything in return.

I had put myself out to attend the meeting just to see if my instincts were still on the button but I will avoid getting myself into the same situation anytime soon as it will spoil my average. Normally I only have warm leads anyway but I count this as only about the third time I had failed to “close” a tax client in half a dozen years. It was worth the time cost, though, in terms of this experiment in human nature.

© Jon Stow 2009

5 Responses to “Quasi prospects, time-wasters and an experiment in human nature”

  1. Su Butcher said:

    Dec 08, 09 at 8:58 am

    Oh I feel your pain Jon!

    Have you ever found yourself being told 'I know someone who can do it for me for much less'? The answer of course is, 'if you do, why not use them?'.

    And yet we all know that a positive recommendation from a trusted friend creates a professional relationship we can truly trust in, and a good service is worth ten times the fee and the saving of many sleepless nights.

    What price peace of mind?

  2. AT Accounting said:

    Dec 08, 09 at 9:04 am

    We've all been there Jon.

    You know the next step. A phone call in a few months time asking you to fix her errors at the same quote you originally gave. Even though there is now 3 times the work!

  3. Patrick A. Goff said:

    Dec 08, 09 at 9:06 am

    Oh so familiar!

    Today we said no to a request and they came straight back saying OK – people can appreciate professionalism, but it is the timewasters who never even say thanks that really irritate

  4. Su Butcher said:

    Dec 08, 09 at 9:14 am

    You've reminded me AT Accounting – a few weeks ago we picked up a commission from a client (we are architects) who had wasted a whole year getting a planning refusal after going for the lowest price.

    Don't forget to set the price according to the work – you don't have to stick by a quote based on other terms.

  5. Jon Stow said:

    Dec 08, 09 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks for your comments. I seem to have struck a chord. I always try to help the clients see the value of what I can do for them, and will not compete in a price auction.

    The trouble is that many businesses, especially start-ups, get their priorities wrong at the outset, and penny-pinch on essentials, at the same time spending on vanities such as the touch screen Windows 7 Ultimate.


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