How to Ask for Payment Nicely

ask for payment nicely

How important is it to ask for payment nicely? It’s really important and here’s why…

“It’s not unusual to find SMEs…waiting an average of 50-55 days to receive payment from their customers. This has a significant impact on the business cash flow.”

Tanya Titman, Founder, Acceler8 & Accountant

Lots of businesses don’t ask their customers to pay, simply because they don’t know what to say. They don’t know how to ask nicely. So they either don’t say anything at all and then run short of cash….or

…because they don’t know how to ask for payment nicely, they wait until they are really angry and then they can say something which offends their customers and then…

  • Your customer may or may not pay if you’ve upset them badly.
  • You’ll lose your customer – they’ll buy from your competitor instead

If you have poor (or ZERO even) cash flow, and you are worrying about how you’re going to pay your suppliers and your staff (and yourself), finding a way to ask for payment nicely is an essential ‘no-brainer.’

No-one can force customers to pay – it just isn’t possible. The angrier and worse tempered you become, the more likely it is that your invoice will go to the bottom of the payment pile. The best way to get paid is to persuade customers to pay by asking for payment nicely.

In my small business, we needed to have a very strong cash flow to pay lots of weekly outgoings, so I devised a customer service-based system that nurtured our customers so that they paid us with without asking.

Here are a few of the steps we took that you can easily put in place right away:

Grow your status as a helpful ‘can-do’ person

Customers are usually busy with their own business. Making a profit and keeping their own business afloat is what’s important to them. That’s their priority; their priority isn’t thinking about paying your invoice. No-one is more interested in getting their invoices paid than you. That’s your priority.

Make it as easy as possible for customers to deal with you by adopting a ‘can-do’ attitude. If your customer knows that you are polite, helpful and service-focussed then, if they have a query on your invoice, they’ll be more likely to let you know rather than wait for you to call when the invoice is overdue. You can fix up the problem and still get paid by the due date.

We all like dealing with companies and people that give good, quick and attentive service. We are all much more likely to want to contact suppliers when we know we’ll get well looked after.

The customer is always right

Well, of course, they aren’t always right, but if your customer raises a query on an invoice, even if it’s their fault, it becomes your problem, not theirs.

It’s your problem because all the time they are unhappy about something, they will hang on to your money. No-one pays incorrect invoices. Your customer will wait until everything is correct before they pay your invoice.

Take control and resolve the issue quickly to put your customer back into the position where they can pay.

Know that there are two types of payment delays

Generally, non-payment of an invoice or account falls into two categories:

1. Won’t pay: When something is wrong with the invoice or service (e.g., incorrect calculation or POD required)

2. Can’t pay: The customer is short of money. This is a ‘red flag’. It’s an alarm bell.

The earlier you know which of those problems is holding up your payment, the better. The older an invoice becomes, the more chance there is of it never being paid at all, and that’s a disaster. You need to use the right words and the right tone of voice to ask nicely what the problem is.

If it’s a query, sort it out as quickly as possible. The sooner your invoice is correct, the sooner your customer can pay.

If your customer has a cash flow problem and is short of money, the earlier you know, the better. If they are a good customer, then it could be a temporary shortage. If that’s the case, by showing some concern and asking nicely if there’s “anything I can do to help”, your customer will appreciate your concern and, as soon as they have cash available, you can ask nicely to get your invoice to the front of the payment queue.

People pay people they like first

Having a positive relationship with your customer, and knowing how to ask them for payment nicely, is important if you want your invoices to get paid on time. The better your relationship with your customer, the more likely they will pay your invoices before they pay other suppliers.

You can build a relationship with your customer by showing an interest in their business outside of the payment cycle, and by providing them with outstanding service.

Think of the last time you received good service. You might remember it made you feel really good. It may have even ‘made your day’!

Ask for payment nicely and get your invoice to the top of the payment pile with your ‘can do’ attitude and your great customer service skills, just the way we did.

To your business success!