Let’s face it: No one likes making collection calls. So it makes sense to try to get the most out of each call. Making collection calls is a skill you can develop. You have to be able to anticipate what the customer is going to say and be ready for anything, and you must remain in control of the call. For your call to be a success, it must always result in agreement on what is to be done.
From a business owner’s standpoint, a collection call is one more in a long list of things to do. Here are a few tips that will help you get your collection calls done quickly and
- Schedule a regular time or day each week to make collection calls.
- Have all account information on hand.
- Leave messages, but do not reveal that the call is about an unpaid bill.
- Get the debtor to acknowledge the debt by asking if there was a question about the charge.
- Offer to take a credit card over the phone for payment.
- Ask when they will pay – and wait for an answer.
- Let them know you are documenting whatever commitment they make about a payment on their account.
You must ask questions that require specific answers when you are making collection calls. Speak with precision and make the transition from questions to a payment arrangement. Each question should be clear and to the point, with silence after each. An example:
Debtor: I can’t pay; I don’t have any money.
Collector: Are you working?
Debtor: Yes, but I just started a job and don’t get paid for two weeks.
Collector: What day will you get paid?
Collector: On Saturday, you can do an EFT for R250.
This scenario can go in several directions depending on how the debtor responds. You have to be positive, confident and compel the debtor to agree to make a payment. Once you have come to an agreement, send a confirmation letter with a payment envelope.
Then call on Friday to remind them to mail the payment the next day.
Avoid the excuses
Keep in mind that people will use a lot of excuses to avoid paying. I have had debtors tell me they did not receive the confirmation letter with the payment envelope and don’t have any envelopes themselves, so they can’t make the payment.
Be ready for anything; you will never stop hearing new and different excuses. I told this particular customer that I could send her another payment envelope but I also needed a new address so I could make sure she would receive it, and then she could make two payments when she received it.
The other option was taking a payment over the phone.
It’s essential to convey confidence when speaking to customers about a past-due bill or discrepancy.
Here are four tips for a confident phone voice that will help you to collect more money:
- Your greeting. People often make a judgement about you in the first two seconds of an interaction. It’s not what you say in that short time that matters most, but how you present yourself. A dull monotone will leave your listener with little confidence in you. Smile when you speak on the phone; it will be noticeable in your voice.
- Your voice. Sit up straight in your chair and picture the customer across the desk from you. Pay attention to how different your body language is. Now slump in your chair, and notice how people react to you differently.
- Eye contact. Since there is no eye contact when you’re on the phone, try to remain focused on the call and not on anything else going on around you. Think about how it feels when you are talking to someone who keeps looking around behind you to see what else is going on. Focus on your caller and be aware and alert.
- Confidence. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is an example of someone who has an air of confidence about him. You won’t see him wringing his hands or rubbing them repeatedly through his hair, shuffling from foot to foot, or jiggling the change in his pocket. He comes across as someone who won’t cower or retreat, just as a bill collector should act.
Be ready for some emotional reactions when you make calls to past-due customers. They might be angry, embarrassed, sad, or frustrated. They might cry, swear, and yell. But keep in mind that the purpose of your call is to get the bill paid.
You can listen, let them know that you understand – even offer solutions – but get the bill paid.
Getting paid faster
Five ways to ease the hassle of debt collection.
Getting customers to pay on time is one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs as the economic recovery drags on. And when the problem persists too long, it can ultimately shut down your small business.
Here are five tips for getting paid faster.
- Send invoices ASAP. It’s all too common for business owners to finish their work for a customer and neglect to submit a bill. You can’t believe how slow small business owners are at getting their invoices out, and the truth is the client has no obligation until they receive the invoice.
- Explain every single charge. Don’t send your customer an invoice with only a rand amount on it. Itemise everything the customer has bought or every service you provided and highlight any discounts given.
- Make deadlines crystal clear. Don’t allow the opportunity for any confusion. You need to tell your client when they sign the initial contract how much time they have to pay you. Also, reiterate your policy on both the billing invoice and packing slip. It needs to be there so there is no ambiguity as to when that bill should be paid.
- More invoices for smaller amounts. If possible, you want to avoid hitting your client with one, giant bill. A client is more likely to sit on a bill that is overwhelmingly large. Make it easier for the client to pay you. Also, by getting paid in small, frequent increments, you protect your business from losing a lot of money should your client go belly-up while they are sitting on an unpaid invoice.
- Make a personal connection. Send a handwritten thank you note on a fairly regular basis. The next time there is a bottleneck in the payment schedule at your client, the accountant will remember you. When they see your invoice come through, you are not just another vendor.
Financial Literacy Key To Business Success – Especially In A Tough Economy
What can South African SMMEs do to position themselves for success in tough economic times? Arming their people with basic financial literacy is a good place to start argues UCT Graduate School of Business Associate Professor Mark Graham.
In times of economic hardship, good financial and management skills in a business can make all the difference. According to a recent article in Business Day, international investors are sniffing about South African SMMEs that have proven themselves to be well-run during this time of subdued economic growth – and are also attractively undervalued.
Strong balance sheets and stable management in an environment of slow growth economy with low liquidity adds up to some bargain long-term investment opportunities for international consortiums it seems. Among those who have been involved in investment or buyout offers in the past few months are Clover and Interwaste.
It seems self-evident to suggest that well-run businesses attract investment and success. But what actually makes a business – of any size – well-run in the first place?
There is obviously no short answer to this; good leadership, a clear strategy and a strong and motivated workforce all play their part, but one factor that is often overlooked is financial acumen – throughout the organisation. While the accountants and members in the finance team are expected to understand the numbers, this is not always a core competency required in other departments. Yet, having a good working knowledge of finance at every decision-making level, from new managers to members of the board, can be key.
Even if people don’t need to know a lot about finance in their day-to-day job, the more conversant they are on the subject, the better off they – and the business – will be, according to Richard Ruback, a professor at Harvard Business School and the co-author of the HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business. “If you can speak the language of money, you will be more successful,” he says simply.
Financial savvy will give the marketing manager the ability to demonstrate not only that something is a good idea/product or service, but that it makes financial sense too, for example. And it will make sure that the people in the HR team understand more clearly why reducing staff churn is a good idea not only for company culture but for the bottom line as well.
A knowledge of some basic financial decision-making tools (the all-important balance-sheet, for example) and an appreciation of the difference between profitability and cash flow will ensure that non-financial managers are more likely to effectively participate in business strategy and decision-making. Someone who understands the financial statements of a business understands the business in a way that is not otherwise possible. It’s like looking beneath the hood of a car and understanding how it all fits together and why the car can move forward – or not.
Such people can more confidently identify potential problems and inefficiencies before they impact the overall financial performance, because those warnings are almost invariably reflected in the financials first – and often at departmental level. Critically, they can also help identify financial irregularities, enabling them to call out and stop fraud and corruption in its tracks.
Equipping its people with financial skills is therefore a good strategy for a business looking to position itself for growth and investment. And it makes sense for individuals too – Joe Knight, a partner and senior consultant at the Business Literacy Institute in the US and the co-author of Financial Intelligence, says that an absence of financial savvy is “career-limiting.”
Let’s not ignore the fact that there are challenges however. Finance matters tend to scare a great many people. Traditionally, these areas of knowledge carry the stigma of being impenetrable, and financial literacy is not ideally developed at early levels. According to a study by the Financial Services Board, South Africa currently has a financial literacy rate of just 51%.
This means that roughly one out of every two people is likely to prefer to abdicate from financial decision-making – leaving it to the “numbers” people. But with some intervention and training it is possible to empower individuals to decode these mysteries and get to grips with the language of finance.
All things being equal, it’s not pure luck that allows some businesses to operate well and thrive while others fail. Well-run businesses are generally run by well-informed people. In short, decision-makers who don’t understand basic financial concepts and the language of finance simply don’t know what is going on.
While the SA government is currently talking up the need for foreign direct investment to rescue the country from the economic doldrums, there is much that ordinary businesses can do to position themselves for success. And ensuring that their people are adequately equipped to understand the nuances of business through the language of finance is perhaps a good place to start.
Trade Agreement Tips That Will Save You Costs
If you are looking to benefit from trade agreements, you need to keep the following advice in mind.
Trade benefits all parties involved. When a country has scarcity of certain resources or lack the capacity to satisfy their own needs, they have the opportunity to trade the resources which they produce in surplus, for the products they need or want.
When goods are transferred from one country to another, it stimulates the economy as products and money is switched between hands. Over the years, the competitive nature of moving goods from one country to the other, negotiating prices and opening new markets has caused certain agreements to immerge to promote trade between the member countries.
A trade agreement is an arrangement between two or more nations in order for goods to move more easily between borders with mutually beneficial tariffs imposed on imports. These agreements ensure that duty tax is removed or reduced on condition that the importer and exporter provide the correct documents. This is all the more reason for traders to familiarise themselves with the current trade agreements in place.
Tip1# Know Whether You Export To Or Import From A Country With A Trade Agreement
There are a few trade agreements that you need to be aware of which will significantly cut duty tax. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is one of them. The fifteen SADC member states included in the agreement enjoy an impressive 85% free trade on goods.
Another trade agreement commonly used by South Africans is the South African Customs Union (SACU) which allows duty tax free movements of goods. This means zero duty tax is payable on trade between these countries. Trade agreements with European countries include the SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the SACU European Free Trade Association (EFTA). We have prepared a list of all the trade agreements as well as the countries involved here.
Tip 2# Know Which Certificate Of Origin Is Necessary For The Specific Trade Agreement
Only traders who can prove that goods were produced or processed in a member country may benefit from these agreements. This is why importers and exporters need to submit paperwork attesting that the goods were made in the country listed as the beneficiary of the trade agreement. The proof provided is called a ’Certificate of Origin’.
A certificate of origin often abbreviated to C/O or CoO is a printed form or electronic document completed by the exporter and certified by a recognised issuing body, validating that the goods in a particular export shipment have been produced, manufactured or processed in a particular country.
The exporter has to submit proof that either a) the products were wholly obtained from that country; this means all components and manufacturing originated in that country, or b) that it is sufficiently processed in the country of origin.
In other words, although some components might have been imported, the product was sufficiently transformed, or value was added in such a way that the final item can be deemed as new or original. Furthermore, if a company was registered in one country and the manufacturing plant in another, the certificate of origin would be issued from the manufacturing plant’s country. There are various certificates of origins used for different countries. Read here for more details about the different documents required to ensure you benefit from lower duty tax.
#Tip 3: Ensure The Certificate Of Origin Is Completed In The Right Manner
These documents must be completed correctly. Most of the information provided has to come from the exporter. If the wrong information has been reported, it can influence the relationship between the importer and exporter negatively.
Common mistakes when filling out a Certificate of Origin may include:
- Identifying the wrong country of origin
- Using the wrong H.S. code
- Providing an incorrect or incomplete and rather ambiguous description of the goods
- Not including a description on how the cargo is packed or reporting a total weight that does not include packaging
- Exporting goods made from imported material and not sufficiently processed to be deemed as originating from the exporting country.
A lot of information can be misrepresented on the certificate of origin. For this reason, we recommend making use of companies specialising in trade administration to ease the stress and to ensure that all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.
Backing You With Smarter Tools
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Since its launch over 20 years ago, QuickBooks has aimed to power prosperity for small businesses and the self-employed with services that help you with income management, expense tracking and more, allowing you to focus on growing your passion.
The new “Backing You” campaign extends this commitment to support small business owners through the challenges of business ownership – with a little help from Danny DeVito.
“The importance of small business is personal to me. At a young age, I watched both my parents and my sister build their own business from the ground up and struggle to balance family obligations with growing their businesses,” says DeVito.
“When Intuit QuickBooks approached me for this campaign, I felt this was a way that I could give back to this very important industry, show them how to make their lives easier and make them laugh along the way too.”
QuickBooks gives you a set of business tools that’ll do all the hard work for you, making sure you get the time to do what really matters to you. “Because collecting receipts is so 80s, and who has time to chase payments?” says Danny.