Meeting credit control targets is no easy feat at the best of times, but once you factor in the human impact, it can be very difficult to predict exactly when you will get paid for any particular invoice.
It’s helpful to look out for certain ‘characters’ among your customers – because ultimately, many people fall into the same few groups in terms of their payment habits.
Here are five of those groups to watch out for, as well as their benefits and disadvantages when it comes to managing and meeting credit control targets.
If you normally offer 30-day payment terms, it can seem like a dream come true when a customer asks to pay you up-front instead, but it’s worth keeping a careful eye on their account.
With regular payments coming in, and irregular goods and services going out in exchange, it’s easy for the client to run up a substantial amount of credit – meaning you end up owing them.
Before you know it, you have to supply them with a large order at short notice, or face issuing a refund, which will not look good when set against your overall credit control targets.
‘Cash on delivery’ brings to mind the payment terms of tradesmen in generations past, but it’s still a perfectly good policy if you can manage to successfully apply it.
You will often find customers are quite happy to pay immediately for goods and services you deliver, as it keeps their own debts low.
There are very few drawbacks to this, perhaps one of the only risks being that it leaves you with less money owed to you on outstanding invoices, which could decrease your access to invoice finance if you ever need it.
3. Prompt Payers
Again we are thinking of people who prefer to pay promptly – i.e. ahead of the deadline on their invoice – but who might not do so immediately.
This raises a challenge of its own for your credit control targets, as you can never be certain of exactly when the money will come in, and these more irregular payers can be easier to simply not notice if they fail to pay at all.
It’s important to keep on top of this group – issue gentle reminders to encourage them to pay earlier in the allotted time, and verify that they have done so before their 30-day payment terms are up, so they can be positively crossed off of the list of debtors to chase.
Paying on time is arguably the ‘best’ approach to outgoing credit control – it meets your obligations on debts, without payments going overdue, but it also keeps your own bank balance as healthy as possible for as long as you can legitimately do so.
When you are on the receiving end, it can feel like you are being paid ‘just in time’, and this can seem like cause for concern if a client regularly ‘only just’ pays before the deadline, but remember that to them, this is just good business sense.
You might want to consider offering a small discount for earlier payment to these customers – if they are so precise about their own credit control targets, even a small price reduction should persuade them to pay sooner, which is good news if you prefer to have invoices settled ASAP.
Finally we reach the group – unfortunately one of the largest groups – of people who simply do not pay on time.
While everyone who owes you money is a ‘debtor’, it is those whose payments are overdue who are the major cause for concern, and your credit control policies should include prompt and stern action against them.
Failure to recover funds promptly can make it increasingly difficult to prove that you are still owed money later, and increases the risk of the debtor doing a vanishing act, so make sure that these individuals are at the top of the tree when it comes to tackling your pile of outstanding incoming invoices.