Q: I have a few clients that take forever to pay me. I’ve been sitting patiently but am tired of waiting. Is there a best approach to encourage customers to pay on time and generally behave well?
Sitting upset and hoping is always an ineffective business strategy. Realize your customers may have no idea you’re upset. Without any financial incentive that benefits your customer to pay you on time there’s no reason a customer would worry about his or her account. You have to link paying you on time to saving money for the customer.
In America the two most squirm-worthy topics are money and sex. You’d imagine that sex would make people more uncomfortable than money but both are equally emotionally difficult.
The reason is we have a culture founded on avoiding looking or feeling vulnerable or needy. When we have legitimate needs (like prompt payment) we can feel very ill at ease.
If we don’t learn to lean into our discomfort about prompt payments our business won’t be open for long. The world will thus lose access to the good you could have done. No business can stay afloat if customers don’t pay in a timely manner.
In my business, I have a one-page overview that prospective clients receive via email that outlines all my business policies. By emailing my policies to prospective clients I avoid working with people that plan to behave badly. My policies protect me and my business not my optimism about human nature.
Many of my clients that are business owners feel uncomfortable having to write out a specific policy sheet. They think that customers should automatically behave well and pay quickly or the customer should feel bad. The truth is most of your customers don’t think about you. If you’re willing to keep an account open for months at a time with no penalty customers will take advantage of this opportunity.
The idea of “if it is to be, it is up to me,” is relevant when it comes to negotiating business policies especially those surrounding money and payment. Think carefully about each area of your business where customers act in ways you don’t want and then invent policies encouraging good behavior. If a customer saves money by paying you on time you win and they win.
You can fix your current issue by emailing your new policy to all current and former customers. The problem customers will receive your policy and want to pay you to avoid any future charges. Future problem customers once they review your policy will drift away to bother a less savvy business owner.
The idea in business is to enjoy what you do, not spend your time chasing money or managing bad customer behavior. Most of us feel disrespected, devalued and frustrated chasing money we’ve already earned. If you start to negotiate better by stating your expectations upfront you only work with people that will let you do well by doing good work.
The last word(s)
Q: I had a tough last year and thought this year would be easier but not so far. Is there a way to problem solve when everything keeps going wrong?
A: Yes, sometimes when nothing is going right you need to take a left or change direction. Just doing the same thing will not achieve a better result.