This week I’m pleased to offer you a guest post by Halifax writer, editor and writing coach Erin Elaine Casey.
I’m a new entrepreneur. My professional writing and editing company opened for business last spring, and I absolutely love what I do. Most of the time.
I recently had to make my first accounts receivable call.
When I say “accounts receivable call”, you know what I mean – it’s a collection call. It’s “Ahem. I’m so sorry to bother you but you haven’t paid your bill and it’s been almost 90 days and your accounts department isn’t responding to my emails.”
I don’t know why, but I felt apologetic. All my clients are important to me, and I really like these folks. They took a chance on me when I was starting out, and I know they appreciate having my skills on board.
The thought of sending an email crossed my mind. But I knew calling was the right decision, and I had to call the boss. So here’s what I did:
1. I wrote a short script, outlining the points I wanted to cover, making sure I had all the information at my fingertips: The details of the invoice and the times I had attempted to follow up by email. (Always be prepared.)
2. I took a deep breath, pasted a smile on my face, and called. I started by telling them how much I enjoy working with them, said I had something to discuss, and asked if this was a good time. (It was, I was assured.)
3. I pleasantly explained the situation, thanked them for their business, and said that as a solo entrepreneur, it is not possible for me to extend credit for this long. (Could they feel me sweating through the phone?)
Although I was measured and reasonable, I knew immediately that my client was uncomfortable. Embarrassed? Likely. Annoyed? Definitely, though maybe not by me.
The good news: It worked. I was paid in short order. The bad news: I’m now wondering if I’ll get any more work from this client, but I’m not sure what I could have done differently.
An entrepreneur friend of mine says I did the proper thing. “If they value you, they’ll be back.” I know she’s right, but I still feel squirmy when I think about that call. No one likes conflict or confrontation, and practising difficult conversations makes them easier. I just hope I don’t have too many opportunities to hone this particular skill.
The Phone Lady chimes in: Accounts receivable calls are all about facts; while it may not feel like it, there’s really no emotion involved. And the reason the money hasn’t been sent, well, it is NEVER about you. When it comes to business-to-business accounts, over 50% of the time the money hasn’t been sent because of human error, i.e. your contact forgot to send the invoice to accounting, your contact forgot to tell you the company only does direct deposit, for some reason your invoice missed the last cheque run. When calling on accounts receivable keep everything simple and straightforward. For example: “I noticed that your invoice is almost at 60 days, which is unusual. When can I expect the payment?”
Have something to say about your business or organization? A professional writer, editor, and writing coach, Erin Elaine Casey’s passion for clear communication will help you refine your message and connect with your customers and clients online, on paper, and in person. Visit her website at erinelainecasey.com. “You’re smart – I make sure it shows.”