Top 5 Tips When Negotiating with Your Debtor

Top 5 Tips When Negotiating with Your Debtor

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The best time to start collecting debts is before they even become overdue. Therefore, credit applications, guarantees, credit checks and initial invoicing are all extremely important. If you get these things right, you will minimise any overdue accounts receivable. 

If you have done all these things and your customer still has not paid, it is important to know how to negotiate effectively with your customer. 

If you are just calling them ad hoc, this may alienate them and put them off guard. Strong, consistent processes and systems are the best way to go. Once your systems and processes are in place, your customers will always know what to expect (and what is expected of them) 

Here are some tips to help you improve the success of your collection efforts: 

1. If you have not contacted the customer since their bill became due, you should start with a reminder that they have not paid yet. We recommend Xero or a similar system for invoicing. They have a built-in auto-reminder that will email the outstanding invoice to your customer, as soon as it becomes overdue. 

It is possible they simply misplaced the invoice or forgot to pay, so you do not want to start with a phone call that maybe too confrontational for your customers. Sending the reminder email will help maintain goodwill with your customers. Furthermore, they will be more inclined to send a payment they have forgotten about in a timely manner if you provide a firm but respectful reminder before making accusations or assumptions. 

2. If they have not simply forgotten to pay the invoice, the most important step in negotiating a payment from your customer is to find out the reason they are not paying. By understanding the reasoning your customer has, you will be far better prepared to come up with a payment solution that will satisfy both sides. 

3. If you offer a payment option to the customer and they refuse it, require them to come up with a counter-offer. Even if their counter is not enough for both sides to agree on, it will send a message that you are taking the negotiation seriously and won’t let them walk all over you. 

4. Have a concrete minimum offer you will accept for any payment plan you pursue. If you create a payment plan with your customer, this minimum should be an amount they can realistically pay but is also substantial enough that it will not take years of payment to pay off the debt. If the customer’s offer is below this amount, immediately reject it. Even if you later end up agreeing to a payment option below your minimum, rejecting an offer below your minimum right away will send a clear message to the debtor and will force them to make another counter-offer. 

5. If a debtor or customer simply cannot afford to make any payments (because of bad business, injury, etc.), do not try to force them into payment plans or agreements they cannot make good on. Neither party benefits from entering into a payment plan that cannot be fulfilled, nor forcing one on your customers is unlikely to provide any benefit to your business. You will benefit more from giving the debtor a few months to try to get their finances in order before beginning a payment agreement. 

If you are still unable to negotiate payment from a customer, it may be time to consider hiring a collection agency, such as Debt Recoveries Australia. If you have hit the brick wall, after all these five steps, we can then step in and take over the process for you. Sometimes it is simply the “third party effect” that gets payment, i.e. having a third party, other than you, following up the account, as it sends a strong message to your customer that you mean business and you want to be paid. 

If you require any legal assistance or would like further information regarding this topic, please feel free to contact our team for advice on 1300 799 820, or email them at

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