Sunday, 6 December 2009

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
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