Collections Techniques

Making a presentation.

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1. Get to the decision maker. It doesn't matter how good your presentation is if it's made to the wrong person. Everyone has the power to say 'No,' while only specific people can say 'Yes.' If the bookkeeper or office manager can't authorize payment, you are just wasting your time and theirs. Find out who has the authorization to pay you and get to them as quickly as possible. In some companies, the decision maker may be an accountant, while in others, it's the owner.

2. Ask questions. The collector's objective in asking questions is two-fold--to find out when and how you are going to get paid, but also, and in some cases even more importantly, to find out why the account fell delinquent. Recent surveys have shown that 35 to 50 percent of delinquencies are caused by system problems (either human or computer) not because of a slow-paying customer. Don't afford to allow accounts to fall past due because you failed to find the cracks in the system.

3. Make your presentation based on what you've learned. Collectors should use the information they've gathered to place the customer into one of several types and make their presentation based on that. Customers are different, and the reasons for their delinquencies are, also. Maybe a customer doesn't think you're important enough to pay promptly. Maybe he's not satisfied with the product. Put that information to use and customize an approach.

4. Determine who is supposed to do what and when. Once you have an understanding during the collections process, repeat the understanding back and ask, 'Is this correct?' Once they answer yes, make a note on your calendar to call back and follow up. If you call too soon, you will irritate the customer. Call too late, and you send signals that you are timid or disorganized. Confirmation followed by precise follow-up is the mark of the professional and tells your customer you are serious.

On large payments, offer to have an overnight service pick-up the payment or ask someone to call to confirm mailing. This instills urgency and allow you to schedule your follow-up precisely. (Atlanta Small Business Monthly)

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