AA 006 | Saying No


How frequently does a less than ideal client reach out to you? How often do you end up taking that prospect on as a client?

Probably more frequently than you would like. We often live in this lack mindset, thinking that if we don’t take on every client we come across we’ll never find another one.

This leads us to taking on clients that range from deal makers, who aren’t willing to pay the prices you’re worthy of, to clients who want help with a service you don’t know. When you take those clients on you will begin to resent the work you do for them because they eat up so much of your time.

I’m here to tell you that you CAN work with your dream clients, all it takes is learning how to turn the clients away gracefully that can’t afford you.

Sounds simple in theory, but it does take some practice!

Denise Mandeau joins this episode of The Abundant Accountant Podcast to discuss with The Pitch Queen how you can turn away clients who can’t afford you and just aren’t your ideal clients with grace and ease.

Denise and I discuss how important it is to refer prospects out that aren’t our ideal clients, because it builds up what I like to call “sales karma.”

If you’re ready to kick that lack mindset to the curb and start living your abundant life (more money with less work), this episode of The Abundant Accountant Podcast is a MUST LISTEN!

Do you take on every potential client that comes your way and now you have a client roster full of people who are just in it for the deal? Then THIS BLOG POST is a MUST READ!


Here are a few key secrets we talked about in this episode:

  • Michelle gives an overview of what today’s episode is all about.
  • Denise explains step 1 –  that once you know that a lead isn’t a good fit, you shouldn’t drag the relationship on and on.
  • You should never discount your prices for a potential client, because when you do you eventually start resenting the work that you’re doing for them.
  • Michelle shares how their client Marc realized a client was a time and money suck, so he had to let them go & it saved him money!
  • Step 2 – Be completely transparent.
  • If a prospect approaches you to work with you and they’re looking for a service that is outside of your expertise, let them know that. Taking them on can remove the space in you business for clients who are your dream clients.
  • You are the expert, so remember that you should never discount your services for prospective clients.
  • If someone isn’t a good fit, don’t be afraid to refer them to someone else or possibly a course that might be a better fit.
  • Accounting professionals should only work with those individuals that value their work. Not the individuals that are trying to nickel and dime them.
  • Step 3 – Don’t burn any bridges. Just because someone isn’t a good fit now does not mean they won’t be a better fit in the future.
  • Moving right into Step 4 – If someone isn’t a dream client, refer them to someone who is more capable of helping them, because they could possibly turn into an ideal client in the future.
  • Denise shares a story about her client Matt, who only worked with $400K in net income businesses, but was approached by a startup who was making $75K in net income. If they stayed on target they would be an ideal client down the road. Matt referred this person to someone else who can help them now, and then will continue to follow-up every 90 days.
  • Denise and Michelle discuss their follow-up system and why it’s important to follow up with a prospect even if they’re not the right fit now.
  • Denise explains what sales karma is and how you can keep it going in your life.
  • Michelle provides a quick recap of the episode.


Learn More & Connect With Me Here!


P.S. Did you know that the prospect that you referred out today could end up being an ideal client in the future? It’s true! THIS BLOG POST shares why referring out is important!


Unlock the secrets to growing a profitable accounting firm with less stress by joining our upcoming Abundant Accountant Masterclass!

You’ll learn:

  • The easiest ways to sift through clients and get to the RIGHT ones!
  • Proven tactics to actually get paid instead of giving away FREE advice!
  • How to stop competing on price FOREVER!

Join our Abundant Accountant Masterclass today!

Listen to the podcast here


How To Say No To Clients Who Can’t Afford Your Accounting Services With Denise Mandeau

Hi, Denise. Thanks for being here. As always, we have a great topic. For those of you that think maybe you give away too much information for free in your firm or practice, or maybe you’re not getting paid what you’re worth all the time, and you answer people’s questions for free sometimes, you might be like a lot of the accountants that we’ve worked with, and you might feel like you’re on a cashflow rollercoaster ride, like the big one at Magic Mountain. We are here to help you solve all of those problems. On the show, we are talking about how to say no to clients who can’t afford your accounting services.

I don’t know if that’s ever happened to you, but a lot of people might tell you that they can’t afford you. Once people tell you that they can’t afford you, then you think, “Maybe I need to negotiate my prices lower. Maybe I need to reduce the amount I’m charging to clients,” and all these other stories that we tell each other or tell ourselves. Right, Denise?

Yes. “I don’t want to lose business. Maybe I should take them. Maybe I should lower my prices,” and all that crazy stuff.

That’s what we’re going to talk about. It’s about how to say no to clients who can’t afford your accounting services, but also how to do it gracefully so you’re not doing it in a rude way. It’s nice, and maybe you can gain some more referrals from it as time goes on. A lot of our clients, Denise and I, have come to us asking, “How to say no to a client who can’t afford their accounting services?” Maybe some of you have experienced that. We get it.

You have to know your value, and you shouldn’t discount your services because it’s a lose-lose situation for everybody. You still want to help everyone who meets your ideal client standards, but what if they still tell you they can’t afford your services? It’s this dilemma we always have back and forth. Denise and I will share how to turn away clients who can’t afford you, but in a way that’s respectful and possibly even helpful. That’s what’s on deck.

We’re going to go through how to cut it off as soon as possible so the client relationship doesn’t drag on and on. There is a difference between people who don’t want to pay your price because you haven’t expressed your value well enough and people who are a little too small for you, maybe the size of the company’s not big enough where they can’t afford your services. As soon as you realize that a prospect isn’t a good fit, there’s no point to drag it on. Let’s talk about some of the differences. Denise and I don’t like to drag it on too long with clients who we know are not a good fit because what’s happened when we’ve done that before?

I’m sure all of you can relate to this. It’s like an energy drink. On the one hand, you want to help people. If you take someone on that can’t afford your services, your discount, your prices, and stuff like that, you start resenting the work that you’re doing. It’s not good for the client. It’s not good for you, and it drains your energy.

You will resent your work if you take on someone who cannot afford your services. This is not good for you and drains your energy. Click To Tweet

Besides being an energy drainer or a time sucker because your time is super valuable, there have been a few clients. One in particular that I can think of now is Mark. He learned how to value his time. He realized that keeping the clients around, even if they couldn’t afford his services or were trying to negotiate him down on price, did him and the client a disservice.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t help anybody. If someone says that they can’t afford you, that becomes the truth because we also have to decipher, “Is that true, or is it not true?” Some people tell you that, but that’s what they say to everybody. They never change their answer. The first thing Denise and I always do is, if it’s not feeling right, step number one, cut it off as soon as possible.

Step number two, we like to say, be as transparent as possible. We’re firm that you should not offer discounts because it’s not fair to you and to other clients. There was one person in particular that I was talking to. He had his CPA, and the CPA charged a certain amount per hour to do bookkeeping services for a monthly service for a small business. That CPA decided to send an invoice at double the rate they already had a written agreement on. That stuff to me is not transparent. It’s not fair to you. It’s not fair to your clients. You’re going to get a lot of bad reputation. When a client’s not happy, they’re going to express it. How many times have you heard that?

I believe, and Denise can share from her point of view, but as a consumer of services from CPAs and accountants, it has to shift with you within the industry. You’ve trained clients to ask these types of questions like, “What do you charge? What’s it going to cost? How much do you charge per hour? I have this problem in my business. What are you going to charge me?”

It starts with us, as accounting professionals, to be transparent and explain to clients a fair price that you feel comfortable and confident with and that you’re getting paid your value. Also, you’re not going to change it on them. That just doesn’t go over well. We’re going to talk about some real-life examples of how to be transparent but respectfully turn down your potential clients, too.

Denise, I know you have the first explanation on deck. Denise has worked with a lot of finance professionals, and she was a financial planner. You all know if you’ve gotten to know me in the last 1 or 2 episodes. I did work at an accounting firm for three years, and I do have a degree in Finance. It starts with you being able to respectfully turn away clients who are not a good fit and being transparent about it. What do you do, Denise?

First of all, we talk about this a lot. It’s important for you as the accountant to know what you want to get paid. You’re clear about your pricing and what your services are that you want to do. If somebody’s not a fit or asking you questions that are out of your scope, instead of making it up or trying to be helpful because it’s not your thing, it’s better to be transparent with them. Say, “That’s not my area of expertise. I’d be happy to refer you to somebody I think would better serve you at this time.”

It’s tempting to want to try to help someone in a way that isn’t in your scope. You’re wasting time researching, and then you start being resentful, all of that again. It’s better to serve the person and let go of them. Instead of trying to say, “If I help him with this, then maybe I can help him with something else.” That never works. We’ve heard it over and over. Remember Lauren? Lauren was giving all her information away for free and answering questions. She stopped doing that.

AA 006 | Saying No

Saying No: It is tempting to try to help someone outside of your scope. You will only waste time researching and become resentful of your work.


With Lauren and her CPA firm, she realized how much she was literally giving away for free, and it wasn’t serving her or her clients. What she found out was that they would just come back the next year and not do anything that she had recommended for them to do. The reason why is there was no value attached to it. When we give it away for free, at a discount, or whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t do anyone any good. If Denise had another career, I think she might be a doctor seriously. If you were going to see your doctor, would you ask them for a discount?

You wouldn’t say, “I really appreciate that you’re the best at heart surgery. Do you think you can cut me a break?” That would be weird. That’s, in fact, what your clients are asking you to do. You’re the expert. You’re the one who’s gone to school. You’re the one who knows the Tax Code. You’re the one that can save them a lot of money. You’re the one that can do all these things. It’s ridiculous. Why would you give a discount? People love certainty. They love professionalism. They respect that. If you stand, you use what we call your doctor frame. If you stand your ground, they’re going to go, “Something’s different here.”

People love and respect certainty and professionalism. Click To Tweet

To add to what Denise is saying, I was working with a woman named Barbara. Barbara was mentioning how she couldn’t afford the services. What I knew was that it was true for Barbara. What Barbara knew was that I believed I could help her, but she said she couldn’t afford it. When your clients really can’t afford it, I referred her to one of my friends. He has a great program.

If you have some money issues, it might be something you want to look at, especially if you’re an accounting professional and want to have a six-figure business. We’ve worked with a lot of people that want a six-figure business, but they don’t have the mindset around generating that amount of revenue. It’s almost scary.

You get your CPA license, or maybe you have a Master’s in Tax. You have an undergraduate degree. You have a ton of student debt, but you still can’t seem to charge the prices that you want. I recommended to Barbara that she check out the Money Mind Academy to get her mindset right about money. Until you deal with your mind, there’s no way Barbara would ever be able to afford me or anybody else.

It doesn’t matter who she talks to. Sometimes with our clients, that might be what’s going on. They think they can’t afford you, but really they can. They can’t even generate more revenue in their business because they have a block. It’s something to think about. For Barbara, I let her go. I was very transparent, which is the main point. That’s step number two in this whole thing, back to our different ways on how to let your clients go.

I was transparent, and I referred her to a solution that would help her. It’s up to her if she takes it, run with it, and see if it can help her out. This is what is best for you and your firm. The more you can sift and sort, get through the great and not-so-great clients, just help them out in a nice way because Barbara might come back. Like Lauren, some of those clients definitely probably came back to her. I haven’t checked in with her in a while, so we probably should do that.

Here’s another example. I talked to a guy who clearly knew the value. You have to remember we said sift and sort. He clearly knew the value that was being offered, and because he was conditioned, he had to get a deal on everything.

I know, like the deal finders.

He was more committed to the deal than the solution that I was offering that he knew was a value. I explained, “I understand how you feel, and I don’t negotiate my prices. I know what it takes to provide the most excellent service for you and for the clients that I serve. It wouldn’t be fair to my other clients. It wouldn’t have any integrity. I appreciate how you feel. I’d love to work with you, and this is the price. If you don’t feel that it’s a value to you, then I’m happy to refer you to somebody that would be more suited for the price you’re looking for.”

From that, we need to add on step 2.5) Have a good source of referrals to refer out your clients to when they aren’t a good fit. Not only are you being transparent, but you’re sharing with them an alternative solution to maybe helping them. With Barbara, it was my friend Sean’s Money Mind Academy. For your guy, maybe not all deals are good deals.

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. I bought a lot of materialistic things on deals. I don’t keep them as long, or I get sick of them fast or whatever it may be. When you pay a premium for something of high value, you’re going to value it at an equal amount. If your clients are paying you top dollar, they’re going to get you their documentation in time. How many of you hate chasing your clients for documentation because they don’t give you anything on time when you need it? Every single accountant we’ve worked with, that’s a big problem.

AA 006 | Saying No

Saying No: When you pay a premium for something of high value, you will value it equally.


If they’re nickeling and diming you from the start, they’re going to keep doing that. You don’t want to set up a relationship like that. Cut them loose as soon as you can. It’s worth your time. You’re worth it.

You are worth it. It’s worth it to have an abundant lifestyle and an abundant firm. You want to be the abundant accountant. That is what creates that life of abundance, having the revenue flowing in and more time at home. We work with Luke. He loves working with dentists because he envisions only working four days a week eventually. There are ways to have this abundant life.

Again, step 2.5) Have some good referral sources to refer out when the clients aren’t a great fit. Let’s go to the third one, Denise. This is a big important step, which is don’t burn the bridge. Your clients that you turn away now might be a good fit in the future. We’ve had this happen a lot, too. Timing sometimes is everything. Companies and budgets grow.

A client might not be a good fit right now, but that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t possibly work with that person later. What Denise and I always do is put them into a follow-up system, which I’m sure we’re going to go into detail on another week on that because we love the follow-up. Following up is where the gold mine begins.

I have a scenario to share with each of you on not burning a bridge. We worked with a CPA. His name is Matt. Matt’s in Colorado if I recall. Matt was only taking on clients who had $400,000 in net income. Anyone under $400,000 in net income was an automatic, “You’re not a good fit.” He saw the value and took on someone who met all his other criteria but maybe not on the net income side.

He took on a client with a net income of $300,000. What happened was that that client would be his ideal client in the future, but he was still able to service him right now. He wasn’t burning the bridge. Let’s just say he wasn’t able to service him right now. It was $300,000 in net income. He was super strict and said, “No, only $400,000.”

He would put him in the follow-up system and send him a nice article or maybe help him on figuring out how to increase revenue. To increase the bottom line, he’s either going to have to reduce his expenses, which I’m sure that client probably has a fixed overhead or something like that. If there are ways that Matt could help this client and then check in with them every 90 days, by putting them in the follow-up system, then you’re not burning the bridge, you’re helping him out, and he could be a good client at a later date. This also fills up your pipeline of great qualified clients. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Matt had a couple of experiences. He had another potential client. This young guy, a great guy, really liked him and everything, but he’s in a startup situation. How many of you have people calling you, “Can you set up my entity?” They’re at about $75,000 in income, so it’s way below his ideal client, but he wanted to work with this guy. He felt bad turning him down.

We got him to see that it’s being of service because it wouldn’t work for him to take him on right now, but he could still serve him by pointing him in the right direction. He could see the potential in him that maybe it could take 1 or 2 years for him to get to the level where he can provide high-level services for him. It was a good learning experience. After we taught him how to handle that, then he was able to do that gracefully and feel good about himself and serving the client.

The big thing to think about, with all the CPAs, accountants, and enrolled agents that we’ve worked with, you’ve got to think about these people as people. It’s not just another transaction because I think everyone we’ve worked with is very transactional. You’re all busy. When we’re busy, we forget that we’re talking to other human beings who have feelings.

CPAs, accountants, and enrolled agents must think about people as people. They are not just another transaction. Click To Tweet

When we have feelings, we need to make sure that we respect and honor those. The fact that someone might not be a good fit right now, you have to think about who they know that might be a good client for you that fits your ideal client right now. I know we spoke about Luke and how he niched down to get to his niche.

What if some of these people, the client that you’re about to turn down, knows people that are perfect for you? In the future, they’ll be the perfect client for you after you put them in a follow-up system and do the follow-up. What we’ve seen is a lot of people don’t do that part, and it’s so much opportunity for additional revenue.

Imagine if you could increase your firm’s revenue by spending a certain amount of time every week doing follow-up, maybe an hour a week. Who knows? What’s possible? That is step number three. Let’s go into step number four. “I was a little ahead of myself.” Step number four is referring out. “I have all this in the system, in my head, and I was already ahead of myself.”

Introducing the potential clients to someone who might be a better fit, Denise chatted a little bit about that. Refer out. Always have good referrals in your network with people who are willing to work for less than you’re willing to work for. If it’s about finding a deal, maybe you have someone you refer out who loves to work with deal people. They’re all about the deal finders.

To be honest, I can’t stand the deal finders. That’s not who I would love to work with every single day. Also, by doing this, it helps promote good sales karma. Denise is going to share about that because sales karma does exist. As we like to say, always be about being of service to others. When we’re of service to others, it comes back to us ten times over. Denise, sales karma, how has that helped us in our business?

We are so all about service. What naturally happens to us is that because we’ve passed good people onto others, other people are inclined to refer back to us as our ideal clients. As long as they’re clear who our client is, we have integrity, we stand our ground, and we are our word, people refer business to us on a regular basis.

AA 006 | Saying No

Saying No: Because you are passing good onto other people, many will be inclined to refer back to you as their ideal client.


That will happen to you all the time, too, when you’re doing the right thing when you’re standing in your integrity. You’re being a connector and a good referrer. It doesn’t always have to be the deal people. It could be like if you’re doing a certain part of accounting, like you’d specialize in bookkeeping, but you don’t do the 1040s, maybe you have somebody you refer 1040s to. That person’s going to refer bookkeeping to you because they don’t do that. It all works together.

It does. This just happened to us. John sent me an email. He said, “Michelle, I’m at an accounting conference, and there are a lot of CPAs here who need your help. Can you send me that email so I can forward it to a few people?” When you do amazing work, and your clients value you, and you value them at an equal level, you’re going to start to get some of those types of emails.

This literally just happened to us. I define that as sales karma. Sales karma means that will help you increase your firm revenue because every single person reading wants to grow their firm and their practice. You probably want to make a little more money and work a little bit less. If you put these strategies into place, it will happen. It’s inevitable. It happens all the time.

How many of you spend an hour or two a week following up? How many of you say no gracefully to our clients when they’re not a good fit instead of wheeling, dealing, and making the best deal for your clients? It doesn’t work out very well. Denise, anything else on that as far as referring out or good sales karma that we’re going to end it with?

Nothing that I could think of. These are golden nuggets. If you take one thing away from now, stand your ground, only accept the people that value your service, and don’t discount your prices, you’re going to see it’s going to make a big difference. You may think, “I’ll have less people.” Honestly, it will keep the space open for the ones you want to work with that are more than willing to pay you what you’re worth.

Thank you so much, Denise. Here is a recap real quick on how to say no to clients who can’t afford your accounting services. 1) Cut it off as soon as possible. 2) Be transparent, as transparent and honest as you can possibly be. 3) Do not burn any bridges because they might be a fit later, and they know a lot of people that might be your ideal client right now. Step 3.5) Add them to your follow-up system. If a client isn’t a good fit right now and you gracefully turn them away, put them in a follow-up system where you’re checking in every 90 days. Step 4) Refer out.

Always have great referrals in your network. Lastly, have amazing extravagant sales karma. Always come from a place of service. When you come from a place of service, you’re going to get emails like Denise and I did from John. The takeaway goal for this episode is don’t feel bad about turning down clients who are a bad fit or maybe who can’t afford you right now. If you feel bad, that’s doing a disservice to yourself and them.

Thank you so much for joining Denise and I as we chatted about how to say no to clients who can’t afford your accounting services. The three steps with an added bonus step in there on how to not only cut it off as soon as possible but be honest and transparent with your clients who you might be turning away. Ultimately, we don’t burn a bridge, and we want to refer people out to great people and keep the great good sales karma going to have that firm and life of abundance that we’re each looking for. If you have a quick second, please leave us a rating and a review on iTunes and subscribe to the show. We always like hearing from you.

One last thing before I let you go. If you have ever felt like you give away too much information for free or are tired of not getting paid what you’re worth. You’re probably like many accountants and CPAs we’ve worked with, and you may feel like you’re on a cashflow rollercoaster. We have the solution for you. Join us for our Accountant Masterclass at TheAbundantAccountant.com to learn how to communicate your value, collect higher fees with confidence, and be paid what you’re worth. You can work less and make more money. We would love to see you there. Thank you so much for reading and have an amazing day.


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