When calling past-due customers or debtors, communicating confidence is key. You have to stay in control of the call, and the only way to do this is by being confident and prepared.

When making collection calls, you have to follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the law dictating when you can and can't call a debtor. For instance, you're allowed to call Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Sundays if you've tried reaching the debtor during the weekday hours and haven't had a response. This is why it's important to document all collection efforts, including when you called, with whom you spoke and what was said. Also include anything else you think might be important to someone who may call or take a call from the debtor, so they know the status of the account and the payment.

If you're calling people who work all week, you'll have better results on a Saturday when they're more likely to be home. Otherwise, you may have to leave messages on their answering machine, which can also be effective.

Remember, everything you do represents your company--how you talk, collect money, send out invoices and handle tough situations. Whether you make your debt collection calls yourself or have hired a credit manager or accounts receivable clerk who'll be making the calls, it's important the person making the calls is familiar with FDCPA before picking up the phone.

Here are some tips on how to appear more confident--even if you're not--when making collection calls:

  • Smile. Come up with a greeting that says you're happy, pleasant and confident. When your customer answers the phone and realizes you're calling about a past due invoice, they're not going to be happy. You want to portray confidence and not a dull, boring message. Smile when you talk on the phone; it will be noticeable in your voice.
     
  • Speak up. Your voice should be loud enough to be heard and convey confidence--not too loud but not too soft. You want your debtor to hear you and understand what you're saying. Sit up straight in your chair and imagine the debtor is sitting across from you.
     
  • Focus. Maintain "eye contact" by staying focused on the call. Don't check your e-mail or watch other people in your office. Stay focused.
     
  • Relax. Sit up straight in your chair and don't play with paper clips or pens on your desk. Use your face, voice and posture to portray your confidence over the phone and in person.

If you put these techniques to use, you'll collect more money and have better results from the collection calls you make. Make your calls in the most effective way the first time, so you don't have to continue making them--and risk letting the debtor take control of the call.