Collections in general and collections call in particular aren’t a science but an art.
The general perception is that collection calls are something unpleasant that both sides would like to avoid. It couldn’t be further from the truth. If done correctly it could be one of the best and most useful interactions for your clients and you.
Here are a few time-proven tips to ace collection calls:
Prepare – before calling a client regarding an outstanding invoice or a balance, make sure that you have all the necessary information. Calling without it will raise a lot of questions and get your payment delayed, as everytime something isn’t clear or debatable payment will be put on hold until resolution.
If there is a contract or a purchase order, have it with you. Account statements, invoice dates, and previous payment history will help you to clearly state your case.
Pro tip – make sure to call the right person and address them properly, you don’t want to start the call on the left foot.
Less is more – Once you have presented yourself and the purpose of your call, say nothing. Many times client will tell you how they see the situation and how and when it will be resolved. If it is acceptable to you, you are done. It will happen more often than you think. Many people tend to throw a lot of facts and attack the client, which causes a backlash and again delays the payment. Only, if the client refuses to pay within an acceptable time frame, shortly state the contract term and explain to them why you are right.
Bonus – don’t get emotional. Most cases aren’t personal. Your goal is to get paid according to the agreed terms and keep the client happy so they will keep working with you in the future.
Patience is key – calls can get long and the client can be terribly wrong. Don’t worry. You must remember that whoever you are speaking to is a client of yours, and they aren’t easy to acquire. Be pleasant and understanding. Sometimes you actually might be doing something wrong and this is the reason for withheld payment. Empathy and few follow questions can help you to improve your business and get paid faster.
A smile can take you a long way – when you tell the client that you are calling regarding X invoice, they expect the exchange to be difficult. It shouldn’t be the case. If you are pleasant, professional and factual, their perception of your business will be great and they with will be inclined to work something out with you to mutual satisfaction.
Transparency is everything – be very clear with your client where you at and what is happening. If you are planning to pass their invoice to 3rd party collections agency, tell them, if you don’t, don’t make empty threats. Tell them what your next steps will be so they could prepare accordingly. They will not only appreciate you but also in many cases work to get the balance resolved before you take next collections step. This is especially true for larger clients where the buyer isn’t the person who is responsible to pay you.
Decisive action – if you are at a stalemate, be decisive. Don’t leave questions unresolved. if you are giving them some extra time, stick with it. If their request doesn’t make sense, tell them that you are unable to approve any extensions and your next action will be X and will take effect on Y date. You want to stick to your word, respect your client and be respected because of that.
If done right, collections calls aren’t awkward at all, but an effective way to score some points with your clients.
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