No Thanks: How to Turn Away Potential Clients

No Thanks: How to Turn Away Potential Clients

You didn’t open a tax practice to show business the door, but you know from minute one that some potential clients won’t work out. How to send these questionable folks away politely yet effectively?

“Sometimes you just get that feeling that this is not who you want to work with,” said Kerry Freeman, EA, of Freeman Income Tax Service in Anthem, Ariz. “I have just told some, ‘You are not the client I want to work with.’ Awkward, but needed.”

“One of the hardest things I do – who wants to turn down revenue?” said EA Jeffrey Schneider, of Port St. Lucie, Fla. “I usually just tell them that we are not a good fit for their business and wish them well.”

“I say that I don’t feel able at this time to provide them with the level of service to which they are entitled because my staff is sufficiently occupied with our current clients,” said EA Debra James, at Genesis Accounting & Management Services, in Lorain, Ohio.

“‘Sorry, can’t help,’” said San Antonio EA James Berardi. “‘Maybe the bozo down the street will … .’”

Should you refer?

Your first instinct – inspired by helpfulness and you hope not misguided – is to send unwanted clients to other preparers. Redirecting potential business so that the move doesn’t somehow backfire on you is “not as easy as you might think,” said Eva Rosenberg, EA, founder of and blogger at TaxMama. “I used to tell people that I wasn’t skilled in the areas of expertise they needed and I referred them to someone better equipped to help them. Often, they were happy with my recommendation.”

But if you don’t want the client for reasons beyond their not fitting your specialization or you simply lacking the time, do you really want to steer them to another preparer?

“I tell them that I do not have the capacity to take them on as a client and usually refer them to a colleague, if the colleague is interested,” said EA Stephen DeFilippis of DeFilippis Financial Group in Wheaton, Ill.

“Sometimes, when a client is uncooperative or I believe not forthcoming, I tell them exactly that,” Schneider added. “I do that as they sometimes ask for a recommendation. I would never recommend that type of client.” Read more on Accounting Today.