Business owners must get paid to stay in business, but different types of businesses ask for payment in various ways. Closing a sale is often done in person or by phone. Service providers usually send invoices via mail or email. Regardless of the medium, asking for payment politely improves sales and increases customer satisfaction.
Sales Process Closing
Sales representatives usually pitch a sale either in person or on the phone. Some sales deals take longer than others. For example, a life insurance sale requires more explanation than buying a pair of shoes.
Being polite starts at the beginning by welcoming customers and thanking them for their time. Use active listening techniques and answer questions in easy-to-understand language. If the entire process is polite, asking for payment will be natural. For example, "Would you like to pay with cash or a credit card?" is a common way to ask for payment. This gives the buyer options and isn't forceful. Asking, "How would you like to pay?" is another direct way to ask for money, but is still considered polite as long as it's done in a friendly tone.
Always conclude by thanking your customers for their business and then ask, "Is there anything else I can do for you?" This suggests that helping customers is important to you.
Written Requests for Payment
Service providers bill clients after the work is done, then wait for expected payment termed receivables. Businesses face losing 20 to 50 percent of receivables to collection agencies, so asking for payment politely helps avoid this.
Tone is very important when asking for money both in emails or in traditional business writing. Keep in mind that readers don't always interpret your words as intended. Polite correspondence thanks the client for their business and uses introductory phrases such as "I hope all is well." With past-due invoices, payment requests get stronger and less friendly, but can still be polite.
Initial Requests: An initial letter confirms that the invoice was received and asks if there are any questions. This is sent about a week before payments become overdue. Keep it short and informative, reminding the customer that payment is coming due and that you look forward to serving them in the future.
A second letter is sent on the due date. Posing the request as a "reminder that [invoice number] is due," suggests that nonpayment is an oversight or that payment could have crossed in the mail. Provide the invoice information and due date with options for payment. Express your availability and offer to answer any potential questions.
Past-Due Requests: Past-due letters are sent anywhere from one week to 90 days after the due date. Keep the requests for payment polite by referencing the invoice and note that payment hasn't been received as of the correspondence date. Request that clients review their own records. This approach removes confrontation by giving the client an opportunity for an excuse such as, "Oh, I thought my bookkeeper sent that already."
Subsequent letters become more stern because the client hasn't yet addressed the issue. These letters still use many of the techniques of earlier letters, but pre-collection letters must note that further action will be taken if payment isn't received.
Salutations are less formal in emails than in traditional letters. Emails often use, "Hi John," where letters say, "Dear John." Close letters with "Thanks" or "Kind Regards" to keep a polite and friendly tone. Include a copy of the invoice with each letter.
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