To find success as a commercial debt collector, one must master two things: the data & details of each case AND his or her own personality in customer interactions.
When it comes to the data & details, every commercial collector knows how complex a customer’s circumstances can be. Every detail between creditor/vendor and the debtor/buyer must be explored and understood. The details throughout the order-to-cash process can be staggering and each detail is important to the big picture.
Organizing the facts of each case takes strategy. Software like our own Profit Maximizer proves invaluable throughout the process helping to bring order to volumes of information.
On top of keeping organized and prioritized, a successful collector must also master his own personality and people skills. Difficult interactions occur on a daily basis. Knowing how to work with someone toward resolution requires self-control, patience and professionalism. To be able to do that within a difficult circumstance is what separates the mediocre collectors from the great ones.
The following 7 practical strategies are a solid starting point for the collection professional:
Data & Details
- Organize each circumstance by type
Time is never a friend to the collector. With each passing day, an account gets older and harder to collect. There simply isn’t enough time to analyze, follow up, call, fax and email every single case one at a time sequentially. Instead, break the cases down into groups that require similar treatment.
Once you’ve done that, lump your activity together to make the most of your time. Sit down and make all your collection calls at one time. Set aside a block of time to send all your faxes and another for all the emails. By organizing similar actions you can blow through them much more quickly.
- Organize by urgency
This is a bit tricky because everything is due yesterday. It’s true in collections and many other industries. The key is to know the difference between the critical and the deceptively unimportant (it looks important but it’s really not).
Success is found in making as many effective and efficient customer contacts as possible. Many things can interfere with that objective. Most of those things can be handled at a later time.
The key is: Call early. Call often. And make contacts strategically.
Put your broken promise calls at the top of your list. Those are the ones in which you’ve already invested significant time. You’ve made enough headway to get a promise. Don’t let any more time go by once that promise is broken.
After making broken promise calls, move on to those in need of routine follow-up and then call the remaining past-due accounts by dollar amount.
Focus on the end result: effective customer contacts that lead to dollars collected. Most other matters can wait a little while longer.
Personality and People Skills
- Focus on Success
Meet every phone call with the anticipation that it will lead to payment in full. Some collectors stop short by asking for only the latest past due invoice even though another one may be sitting in the hopper. Even if there’s another invoice that’s only one day past due, include that in the conversation.
Look, you have them on the phone. That alone can be a big score. Don’t waste that opportunity to grab the brass ring. If there’s another invoice coming due in a week or so, talk about it while you’re at it. This helps to solidify your expectations for future on-time payments.
- Be Ready for Excuses
As a collector, you’ve heard every excuse from A to Z. So be ready! Create a list of all the excuses you’ve heard and the answers that will defuse them. Dig back into your memory banks and ask other collectors so you can create a library of scenarios. Sure, you’ll run across new ones from time to time, but being rehearsed and ready in advance gives you an advantage in every circumstance.
- Exude Self-Assuredness
We humans are remarkably intuitive. We “read” one another, pick up on signals and sense when something is amiss. We smell fear. We sense weakness. Your debtor can do that, too, and often without his being fully aware that’s what he’s doing.
The more you know about your customer the better you’re able to present yourself as the authority in the situation. Not only will this bolster your confidence, but also knowing the circumstances of the account inside and out will be reflected in your tone of certainty.
It’s much easier to sound like you know what you’re talking about when you actually do. Mastery of the circumstances combined with deliberate self-certainty is powerful.
- Foster Relationships
People want to work with people they know and trust. You must become that person. And this is no game. Draw from the genuine person you are and incorporate that into your work relationships.
Customers with whom you’ve built a relationship of trust are going to work with you toward a collection resolution a whole lot more than those who don’t know you.
A great byproduct of getting to know people on a more personal level is that you’ll also get to understand the workings of their business or industry. The benefits of that cannot be overstated. The more you know how their business works, the easier it will be for you to come up with solutions to payment problems.
Make the effort to ask how their day is going. Hone your listening skills whether it’s work related or personal. Send a thank you note or holiday card when appropriate.
Building relationships are effecting and rewarding for both you and your customer.
- Re-Frame Your Outlook
You’re human. There will be off days and less-than-happy moments. Keep in mind: making a collection call with the weight of the world on your shoulders will be reflected in your voice.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is push the chair from your desk, take a break and re-frame your outlook.
What are your wins? What great things are happening in life? How can you view this situation from a more positive perspective? Gather those thoughts to bring greater clarity into this moment before you make a collection call.
You’re walking two simultaneous paths as a collector. One path is mastering the data and the other is mastering your personal people skills. As a professional collector, you want to blow the stereotypes out of the water by being a solution finder for someone drowning in unpaid bills. Put your best self forward in every circumstance!