We all do things that we hope will help us to win more clients. Sometimes though what seems common sense to us may prove to be counter-productive – as the following story shows.
I was talking to an old friend, Helen. I learned that she had chosen a new accountant some months back and that he had given her plenty of his time for free so far. However she did not recall him making any reference to fees or the basis on which he will be charging her. She also hasn’t received any form of engagement letter.
Having had various very positive and helpful chats with the accountant, Helen has started to wonder whether he is suddenly going to sting her with a big bill for fees. He hasn’t started work on her accounts and tax return yet and she is thinking she will switch to someone who is more upfront about their charges.
Helen told me that she had found the accountant on the web and had checked out his website. The accountant had spent 90 mins with her as part of his initial 30(!) mins free consultation – and had indicated that he wouldn’t be charging for the additional time – he liked her and was interested in her business. He will tell her what the fees will be once he has seen her books and papers etc.
Is this accountant’s approach a good one to model? Lots of helpful advice up front. No charge for a long and valuable initial meeting. Making himself available for free to try to further convince the new client that he is ‘the one’. Sounds fine in theory.
Now look at it through the eyes of the new client – even before she spoke to me, I might add.
- What sort of a business brain does this guy have if he gives away 90 minutes of his time when he says beforehand the meeting will only be 30 minutes? Doesn’t his watch work? How confident can I be that he’s going to be able to tell the time properly when he records how much time he’s spent doing my books (or whatever)?
- What’s he hiding? Why hasn’t he told me how much his fees will be? If they were low and reasonable he’d have told me up front.
And so on.
One of the traps that accountants often fall into is the one that prevents us from looking at things through the eyes of a client.