Encouraging customers to pay unpaid invoices faster, or even on time, can be a nightmare for many small business owners. Customer collections are a necessary part of owning a company. If your customers don’t pay, you’ll be out of business, But, figuring how to get invoices paid faster is a huge challenge. Worrying about bills and payments from clients takes away the time you should be using to focus on your business rather than bills. Often times, reminding customers to pay their invoices can be awkward and uncomfortable, but you need the money to grow your business. Here are some tips for getting customers to pay, in order for you to get your money faster.
Want Your Customers to Pay Bills Faster? Here’s How to Be Better at Customer Collections:
12 Customer Collections Strategies to Make Life Easier
1. Invoicing is the start – make it a priority
Immediately after you finish a project or fill an order, make invoicing your first priority. The faster you get the customer your invoice, the faster it is in their hands to make the payment. Waiting a day or week to invoice adds that time to getting your invoice paid. By linking the completed project to the payment creates a sense of immediacy on your customer.
2. Establish clear payment terms
If you have a client sign a contract the describes when you will finish a project and when you expect them to pay the invoice, it offers protection for both you and your client. You’ll want to apply some specifics to this, for example, that you expect the total invoice amount to be paid in 14 business days.
3. Stick to the schedule from the terms
If a client is expected an invoice from you within a certain time frame that was established in your payment terms contract, stick to that schedule. If the terms state you will bill them within one business day from the completed project or filled order, you should be sending them an invoice within one business day. You’ll be able to hold them accountable for paying the invoice on time if you hold up your end of the contract.
4. Offer incentives for early customer payment
Everyone likes to be rewarded, it’s part of the human nature. In your payment terms, you can include an incentive for clients paying on time. For example, to get paid faster you can offer a credit based on the 3 percent of the invoice for clients who pay within seven days of receiving the invoice, but…
5. Don’t charge a late fee
Contrary to a lot of beliefs, having late fees may not be that beneficial in the long run. Penalties will not help your relationship with your customer, and strong relationships is the way to have long-term, repeat customers. According to Nellie Akalp, CEO of online incorporation filing service CorpNet.com, “if someone isn’t in a hurry to pay your bill, they probably won’t be in a hurry to pay your late fee either.” Not only will you be damaging the relationship you would have hoped to establish, you probably won’t get your money faster anyway.
6. Be polite and patient
Deciding how or when to ask a client for a payment can be hard. If it has only been a few days or short amount of time, try to refrain from calling the person or department in charge of paying invoices, even though you need to payment to be made urgently. A first recommended step would be to send an email reminder. This can be automated through your system so you remember your “please” and “thank you” and don’t have to think of sending it, nor let your emotions get the best of you when you’re on edge.
7. Go paperless
Online payment tools will make it easier for your customer to pay you, increasing the likelihood that they’ll do it in a timely manner. In addition to the simplification of the process for your client, writing checks is an extra step that gets in the way of a payment being made, and having an electronic system eliminates this added step.
8. Be flexible
Although having an electronic payment system may be easier for your clients to complete payments, you’ll want to be flexible with the payment type for other clients, because let’s face it, everyone is different and we all have our preferences. If you’re able to accept payment from a credit card, check, or direct deposit, that’s one less excuse for your clients missing payment deadlines. Just because you “go paperless” doesn’t mean you should get rid of the paper check option for customers who are used to that payment method.
9. Recognize and verbalize
Sending a quick thank you email or a gift annually to clients who have been beneficial for your company helps show that you appreciate their business. It could be as simple as a coffee mug, pen or t-shirt. This does not directly get customers to pay you faster, but it builds a relationship in which they will want to show you respect by paying on time.
10. Discuss payment terms
Consider revisiting and revising your current terms with your client. You don’t want to lose a client because they aren’t meeting deadlines, but you don’t want to be bullied and not get paid when your expecting it. This will re-establish what should be expected from both parties and overall benefit you by keeping the client and addressing the problem.
11. Know your customers
Before you take on a project or new client, you might want to look into their credit history. If you’re interested in factoring, they will be able to provide the credit history for you. As a professional business owner, you deserve to work with other business professionals and sometimes it might be necessary for you to stop working for someone either temporarily or permanently.
12. Keep open communication
It’s important for you to be able to understand your customers concerns and needs, and they should be able to understand yours as well. If you keep an open, honest dialogue between the two parties, it’ll be easier to discuss issues such as late payments without ruining the relationship.
Have you tried these suggestions but they don’t seem to be working for your business? Try factoring your invoices so you don’t have to wait for clients to pay you. By getting the cash flow that is yours to operate, you won’t need to take out a loan to meet expenses such as payroll. Call us today for a free quote.