You’ve done your due diligence. You called right before the invoice was due, as a friendly reminder, and again right after that due date slipped by. You followed up to create a plan you could both agree to, but none of your efforts seem to be working.
Depending on the type of late paying customer you are dealing with, the next step is probably to reach out to someone else whom you can hold responsible for the payment.
Find A Higher-Up
Your primary contact, for whatever reason, is not taking this issue seriously based on your current methods of communication. It’s also possible that he is taking it seriously, but the person above him who signs the checks or approves the payments isn’t answering his calls/emails. In either event, going over his head to speak to his higher-up directly may be the best way to get a response.
If you don’t already have a person in mind to contact at the company, the best place to start is the company website. Fight the impulse to automatically reach out to the owner or most senior executive you can find; if there is someone more immediately attached to the department or project you’re billing for, that person will be a better contact for this step.
Control Your Tone
You may be tempted to vent your frustration at this new contact, but keep in mind that this person has not been involved with you before now. As always, professionalism is key.
Do: Give the boss the opportunity to solve the problem. It’s best to assume that the boss had no idea her employee was shirking responsibility with regard to paying you. That way, you give her the opportunity to step in, be the hero, and solve the problem without assuming any of the guilt of the situation.
Don’t: Make it sound like you are “tattling.” You are not trying to shame the person who hasn’t paid you yet; you are simply trying to get this overdue invoice paid.
Do: Be diplomatic. Instead of, “Marsha hasn’t answered a single phone call or email in weeks,” try the more diplomatic, “I haven’t been able to get a hold of Marsha by phone or email, and this invoice is almost 60 days past due.” You want the boss to know you’ve been doing your due diligence, but you don’t want to start your conversation with this new person on a confrontational note.
Don’t: Get caught without the details. If this new contact says, “Marsha has been on vacation this week,” you need to have all your notes in front of you so you can say, “I actually first called her last month on May 14th, and I followed up again two weeks ago, still with no response.”
Do: Always steer towards a solution. After you establish the fact that they haven’t paid you yet despite your best efforts, immediately offer a solution to this new contact. “What time can you send me a wire transfer today? The current balance is X. Should I email you a copy of the invoice?” Give them a comfortable, blameless way to solve the problem.
Focus on the fact that this contact hasn’t yet wronged you (as far as you know), and give him or her the due respect and honesty that comes with that.