The 2nd Attempt: What to Do When Your First Collection Call Fails
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The 2nd Attempt: What to Do When Your First Collection Call Fails

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Despite your best efforts, your first collection call did not result in a successful payment. Perhaps you weren’t specific enough with the deadline or didn’t achieve all of your conversation goals before you hung up. Maybe you did everything right, and the client simply didn’t hold up his end of the agreement. Regardless of the reason your first collection call was not successful, there are 3 ways to ensure that your follow-up phone call goes well.

1. Time it Well

After your first collection call, during which you established a plan for the payment, you hopefully followed up on the day the new payment was due. If the client told you the payment was in the mail, you wrote that down and agreed to let him know when you received it. How long do you wait? It’s best to call as soon as possible, within reason. You want to give the mail time to arrive, for example, but don’t let the issue drag on for too long. Ideally, you should follow up with a second attempt to collect the following week.

2. Outline Your Goals

As always, going into a collection call with a plan is essential, but even more so with this follow-up call. At this late payment date, it’s possible your client will continue to try to avoid paying. Write down a list of goals ahead of time to keep the conversation on track. The goals should be small and achievable:

  • Establish that the original payment was due on so-and-so date.
  • Confirm the plan established on the first collection call.
  • Confirm that you never received that payment either.
  • Explain the current balance.
  • Agree to a new payment plan.

These small, concrete goals will be what keeps you focused during the phone call. If your client comes up with excuses or tries to derail the conversation, you will always be able to stay focused on your end goal and the steps you need to take to get there. Don’t forget to plan for eventualities and excuses. If he can’t pay right now, how small of a payment are you willing to accept as a down payment? Are you willing to discount the invoice 10% if he can pay you in full by the end of the month? There are no rules but the ones you set for yourself ahead of time. It is helpful to also have a separate plan if the call goes to voicemail. Since you are not yet going to mention drastic measures like a collection agency or small claims court in this conversation (that comes in a later call), and you are still trying to work something out with the client, it’s best to leave the voicemail vague. Your main concern is to get this person on the phone, so don’t mention the invoice or a payment; just say that you need them to give you a call back.

3. Maintain Professionalism

At all costs, staying professional on this call is a must. Outlining your goals will help, but so will reminding yourself that this is a business transaction. It’s not personal. As with the other collection calls, you may want to clear your desk, stand up while making the call, and/or close your office door to outside noise and interruption. It can be easy to get emotional about a client who isn’t paying you on time, but the more you can remain calm but assertive, the more successful your call will be.

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