It can be quite the tight-rope act: Getting clients on your side, earning their trust and aligning yourself with their needs and their challenges. Then, sending an invoice and following up on that payment request. Perhaps another reminder…until it starts to feel awkward because the friendly relationship is becoming strained. How can you get clients to honour their payment commitments while you stay the good guy? Here are five tips to get clients to their invoices faster.
1. Cultivate a personalised relationship with your clients
A personalised relationship with your clients creates a pleasant working atmosphere and helps to ensure you retain your clients. It also creates the correct environment for accountability. Where there’s a relationship there’s greater pressure to pay because the client feels their personal reputation on the line. It also makes it easier to start that conversation around a payment that’s due.
2. Direct your invoices to the correct recipient
It sounds obvious, but this is where a significant hold up can take place. When the invoice arrives in the wrong inbox it can slowly gather dust there until you start to send reminders. Before you know it, tensions build up unnecessarily and you find yourself being passed from department to department before finally reaching the relevant person and then waiting for your invoice to go through due processes before being approved and paid. Save time by asking your clients from the beginning for the contact details of the correct person to handle correspondences around invoices and payments.
3. Clearly communicate payment terms when the initial quote is approved
Once you’ve on-boarded a new client and they approve their initial quote, ensure they sign an agreement that clearly states your payment terms. Include payment due dates, request any upfront payments necessary, payment options, as well as discounts or added charges based on early or late payments. It is imperative that this is clearly written and not in fine print. During a face-face or telephonic meeting, repeat it verbally to ensure it is acknowledged, not just on paper for the sake of legality, but make sure it is understood and consented to.
4. Simplify your payment methods
Creating a new payment beneficiary or hunting down your banking details can lead to delays in receiving your payments. It’s not because your client doesn’t want to pay you, rather, it is a time-consuming task. Similarly, make sure your invoices are easy to see and understand instantly. Offer a variety of payment methods to make it easier for your clients. A simple payment procedure has proven to be one of the most effective ways to secure timely payment.
5. Outsource a debtors service for the dirty work
There are fantastic services out there that are similar to a debtor’s service. A monthly premium affords your business a guarantee that the external service-provider will pursue unpaid debts on your behalf and have them settled, legally. Not only does it remove the heavy-lifting and resource-intensive work (like making phone calls), it keeps your brand being the “good guy” because you’re essentially never in a position to make those awkward phone calls requesting payment.
Sonia Gibson, Founding Director, Accounting Heart Chartered Accountants