You don’t have to pay!

He didn’t want to pay. I figured as much, based on the response from the small business owner after I told him my name and where I was calling from.

“I’m calling,” I told him, “to tell you that you don’t have to pay the two past-due invoices.”

I waited for him to respond. This is very important.

After five seconds of silence,  he said, “I don’t?”

“No. You don’t have to. There’s nothing I can do or say to force you to pay. I can’t pull a gun, threaten violence or anything else that is illegal. The choice is yours. Always.”

Another pause from the customer, not quite as long, “I get the feeling there’s a catch here somewhere.”

“I wouldn’t call it a catch,” I said, “but allow me to walk around and sit on your side of the table and point out some of the disadvantages and the advantages of clearing this up today. It may not seem like it, but we’re on the same side here, where we will both benefit from the invoices being paid.”

I then proceeded to list the negative as well as the positive (we still wanted to keep him as a customer, maybe even ‘increase’ a credit line in the future).

Did it work? You bet.

Does it work all the time? No. There isn’t a technique that does. You need to focus and do your homework. Each client or group of customers will be different, and don’t forget to practice, practice the technique.

“We will be the company tomorrow, based on the choices we make today!”

Tim Paulsen...with apologies to Eleanor Roosevelt

C.E.O. and chief pooba, International Centre for Professional Collections