Every successful sales career includes the important component of navigating and managing client relations when remittance for goods or services is past due. The prosperity and continuity of your organization is dependent upon receiving timely payments. Sales professionals embody the roles of both offense and defense, whether closing the sale or collecting for your good work. For those of you who may feel unsure or uncomfortable in your responsibilities surrounding customer payments, the following tips will help you reframe your mindset.
1. OTC Process
Your company’s Order-to-Cash (OTC) system is the heart of the business. Know and understand the processes, your role, and your duties within the OTC system. In sales, almost everything we do is either directly or indirectly affected by the OTC system. Having a solid perspective of how, where, and when you interact with the system will enable you to efficiently and accurately perform your part well. Your solid performance and actions will effectively minimize delinquent payments from your customers.
2. Make it Easy
The internal and external OTC processes within your organization should be streamlined to make it easy for your customers to do business with you. To make it easier for your prospects and clients, include a clear process map, concise procedures, and value-added options such, as an electronic payment process or direct withdrawal system. When you make it easy, you boost your bottom line and have more time to sell.
3. Understand Payment Traits
Always take the time to gain an understanding of your current and prospective customer payment traits. Dig deep to uncover differences within departments, business units, or individual contacts. Coordinate open lines of communication between your respective accounting departments. Periodically revisit payment traits and preferences. Your proactive approach will save time and effectively enable prompt payments.
4. Procedures and Triggers
When you understand your company’s OTC system and your role, following the procedures is natural. You get the bigger picture. While rules can be broken, you know their purpose and the chain of action. When payments are delinquent, the processes and triggers in place will provide increased visibility and immediate solutions. Stay on top of these system alerts; it enables you to get out in front of a situation, address it early, and resolve faster.
5. Do it Now!
Do not delay your response when alerted to a late payment. Your prompt attention is the single most important step you can take to favorably resolve the issue.
6. Review and Prepare
Always review the information around the delinquency. Was the invoice issued correctly? Are there any outstanding elements or unusual factors? Many times, you will find an internal error or lapse at the root cause of a delayed payment. In my experience, especially with large clients, the invoice was sent to the wrong person or department. Or the purchase order, or other client required information, was not included on the invoice. Get your ducks in a row, correct anything needed, and move forward as required.
7. Clear Communication
When you initiate the dialogue, remember the good in the customer. Assume the best: The invoice was missed, misplaced, or there is a question and they have not yet reached out to address. Nothing is wrong. This is a standard inquiry to complete the cycle. Keep your message clear, concise, and simple. Often, a straightforward follow-up is all that is needed to receive payment.
8. Professionalism and Poise
The open lines of communication with your client and between departments provide the means to avoid misunderstandings and maintain equilibrium. Throughout the process, always remain calm and collected. If the conversations take a negative turn, never retaliate. Your objective is to negotiate and navigate the situation with poise and grace.
9. Stronger Relationships
How you handle and manage delinquent payments can make or break your customer relationships. Even if the worst occurs and the customer goes into bankruptcy, you want to retain cordial relations with the individuals in the organization. Your relationships are your most valuable asset, so always nurture the relationship. You will find they are stronger by demonstrating your credibility and authenticity during a challenging situation.
10. Trust Your Gut
The number one thing you can do to avoid late or non-existent remittance for your goods or services is to trust yourself. Never discount or dismiss your intuition. Listen to it and dig deeper to identify the root cause. This has occurred to me several times, where I did not have good feeling about the client’s ability to pay. Every time I was right. Share your concerns with management before moving forward with the sale. This enables the best possible informed decision.
Truly successful sales professionals build their reputations by effectively navigating and managing nuanced and difficult situations. It’s the ultimate art of negotiation to discover solutions and implement resolution. Minimizing and avoiding late payment scenarios requires a solid strategy and optimized tactics. The 10 tips above will provide that foundation. Apply the knowledge to acquire confidence and be proactive. You’ve got this.
Petite2Queen provides virtual mentoring to young women in life, at work, and in sales. Follow us for more practical advice you can put to use to improve your life and career.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.