Many of us who offer professional services get enquiries from people who do not really want to buy. The problem has been the subject of a debate among several of my colleagues and friends, and we have different ways of dealing with the email and telephone enquiries we get.
Some people may have a simple query which they may think they can answer in a couple of minutes and generously charge no fee for doing so. I do not think that is a very good approach because I like to be paid for my expertise even if I am asked what seems a simple question.
A second issue is that if we do not have an in-depth discussion we might not find out important information which the querist has incorrectly discounted as unimportant. That puts us at risk of a negligence claim even if we have not been paid, and at the very least means that we will be wrongly bad-mouthed to other people.
I will always respond by asking a few question, quoting a fee at the start, or in the second contact if I thought I needed to know more before quoting. This filters out those who are trying to get that free information, and establishes whether our prospects are really serious about solving their problem properly and understanding the value of our advice.
Recently I was asked a question which involved both capital gains and inheritance tax issues. I quoted a fee and asked a number of questions about finances involved and time-line etc. I had a reply by email back saying “Thanks, Jon, but we were only looking for general advice. If we need more detailed advice in due course we will be in touch.” In other words they were looking for free advice; otherwise why send a fairly detailed query in the first place?
You and I have worked and studied hard to gain the knowledge to run our businesses. We cannot afford to give it away for free except perhaps to the needy at the lower end of the income scale as otherwise we will also be at that lower end.
How do you deal with the free-loader types?