It’s the end of the month. You’ve waited patiently for 30 days for your customer to cough up and pay for the service you’ve already delivered. You expectantly check your bank statement, and...they haven’t paid.
The majority of small B2B businesses have trouble collecting payments on time. In fact, a recent report by accounting giant Xero showed that, on average, invoices were paid two weeks late, regardless of the payment terms set. However, it’s vital to your business’s health that you maintain positive cash flow, and sometimes that means getting tough with your debtors.
If you extend trade credit, you really should have a credit control process; it can make a huge difference to getting paid on time.
An effective way to kick off your credit control process is by sending debtors an email a week after sending their invoice, letting them know what to expect from you. That way, there can’t be any excuses when the invoice is due that there’s been a lack of communication or understanding.
The key things that you should include are:
Their reference number
The expected payment date
Your contact details
These facts are the priority, so put them at the top of your email.
You can also use this chance to check customer satisfaction - ask if your client’s happy with your service, or if they can confirm delivery of your product.
Your brand has a personality (even if you don’t know it yet!). If you use a certain persona in your marketing emails, make sure it shines through in your credit control emails too. So if you’re normally the cheeky sort, make it cheeky - equally, if you’re very corporate then keep it muted.
It’s always best to send your email to the decision maker, not an "info@" or "finance@" email address, and to personalise as is appropriate. Remember, if you ask about their recent trip to Bermuda, you’re more likely to get a response than if you’re overly brief.
Lastly: be nice. A bit of schmoozing never hurt anybody. If you’re the favourite supplier, you’re likely to be the supplier who’s paid first.
So, you made sure to send an email following up on your client’s invoice, but they still haven’t paid.
I’d recommend putting an escalation procedure in place, so that your client knows when things are getting serious. Something as simple as saying that you’re passing the matter on to your boss can be a great start.
Be polite, persistent but never apologetic – it’s your money and, rightfully, you should be determined to get it. At this point you should give them a call and ask for answers. Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge and the money’s in your account.
Bingo! Once you’ve received your cash, surprise your client by emailing them to say thank you. It’ll serve two purposes - confirming receipt of payment, and warming them up to spend more money with you next time.