One frustrating aspect of doing business is when you have late payments. You need to have invoices paid on time so that you can pay your suppliers and avoid going into debt yourself. Often, clients aren’t avoiding payments, it may just be that they have run into cash flow problems themselves.
When this happens it can be difficult for you and your client, and their cash flow issues can lead to you also having problems, and then this knocks on to your suppliers too.
Cash flow problems can cause businesses to go bust. By September last year, nearly 500 companies had gone bankrupt in the states alone. Although Covid and lockdowns were the visible cause of many of these failures, lack of available cash would ultimately have brought these companies to their knees.
One of the simplest ways to keep your business going is to make sure that your clients have the easiest ways to pay available to them.
Are your clients really avoiding paying you?
Of course, sometimes people don’t want to pay their debts. British consumers owed over £1.7 trillion by March 2021. Credit card debts totalled over £70 billion at the start of 2020 and this is what is considered bad debt. In the US, this number was dwarfed as Americans owe over $800 billion on plastic. It stands to reason that not all of these loans will be repaid.
However, the vast majority of people take out credit in good faith. If a client isn’t paying it is likely because they are having a temporary problem. The concern for creditors is whether that temporary problem will grow into something more serious.
Debtors may withhold payment due to the following reasons and more:
- Temporary cash flow problems/their own debtors withholding payment
- Debts getting out of control
- Missing or incorrect paperwork
- Dispute over an order
- Unable to use payment methods offered
Some of these problems you can do nothing to help with, and others such as disputes or incorrect paperwork, you will have to resolve before receiving payment. You can assist your client in some other ways though.
Offering your client different payment methods
One way you can assist your client is to offer different ways to pay. Sometimes late payments may simply be because the client runs a small operation and your chosen payment methods don’t suit them.
Using software from companies such as Payt means that you can send automated invoices to your client with a direct link to a payment portal. This helps you to get paid quicker because your customer has received an invoice digitally on screen, instead of ending up with the other mail. Also, the direct payment link means they are far more likely to pay the invoice then and there.
A range of payment options lets the customer choose their preferred method and the software will process or part-process the transaction for you. This saves you time on invoicing and collections.
Use newer and automated systems
One reason that many businesses failed in 2020 was that they had no contingency plans for a disaster such as the pandemic. Businesses need to prepare for the next pandemic after Covid, or the next recession if they want to continue surviving.
Vertical integration is one way that businesses can take more control over their own processes. By being more involved or even owning the supply chain, a business will be able to cut costs and improve quality.
Automated systems can also help streamline your collections and finance departments, and save money too. Adding in new systems that integrate with your accounts and invoicing will help you to be ready for any future problems. These systems send out invoices, reminders, and communicate regularly with clients, to encourage regular and on-time payments.
They can help to manage lines of credit, debt, and even automate payment plans.
Give your client a payment plan
Payment methods can help the chances of payments arriving on time, but what if your client is having problems making any type of payment at all?
One of the biggest ways you can help your client to pay if they are having difficulties is to allow them to spread the payments. If they owe X amount then let them pay over a period of months. This means you will receive the money slower but you are more likely to get all the money back than if you demand it in one go.
Setting up a payment plan would normally involve both parties agreeing on the amount owing and then deciding on the terms. There may be interest payable or it could be dealt with as an interest-free loan. There also may be penalties incurred for missing or late payments, there might be an agreement to allow for a payment holiday, and the length of the plan would need to be decided.
All of this takes time which could be better spent on being productive with your own business concerns. Modern systems let you automate payment plans and save time and money.
Automated payment plans
By using an automated invoicing system that allows payment plans, you can empower your client to start the process themselves. Through your integrated payment system, your client can propose to start a payment plan, or you can suggest it to them.
You can set a minimum payment that needs to be met every month, and the debtor is free to make large payments when necessary. An automated plan is a mutually beneficial way to make the necessary payments and will vastly increase the chances of the debt being cleared.
Why should you use automated payment plans?
Aside from being mutually beneficial, an automated plan helps to keep relationships on good terms. As a supplier you would hope to continue doing business with your client in the future, as long payments continue to be met. It also means you can avoid going down the road of debt collection.
Involving debt collectors, lawyers, selling invoices, or other collection measures could sour your business relationship and leave you with one client less. None of the collection measures available are guaranteed to recover all monies owing, and may leave you with less than a payment plan would have yielded.
Automated payment plans can be integrated into your regular payment systems which means you can accept a multitude of payment options including PayPal and other e-wallets, plus credit and debit cards, and bank transfers.
Selling on debt can often lead the creditor with just pennies in the pound. Allowing your debtor to have some control over their own payment plan is more likely to result in full payment being made eventually.
In business, there are selling mistakes that need to be avoided if you want to succeed internationally and domestically, and one of them is not to extend too much credit. Letting client debt rack up can mean that you are putting your own business at risk.
Listening to your clients’ needs can make it easier for them to pay, either by a different method than you previously accepted or through installments. In an ideal world, invoices would be paid on time for every order, but with these trying times, businesses may need to be more adaptable. Automated systems and payment plans can make debt recovery easier and less time-consuming.