Many debt collection situations reach a point where the creditor begins to consider taking partial payments or setting up a payment plan. While this is not an ideal situation, sometimes it is a better option than not getting any payment at all.
If your collection attempt has reached the point where you are entertaining the idea of negotiating a partial payment or payment plan with your debtor, you will want to make sure that you get the best deal possible. For that reason, it pays to have a good understanding of the negotiation process.
Here are 20 tips for improving the outcome of your debt collection negotiations:
1. View Every Interaction as a Negotiation
The first way to improve your negotiation technique is to view every single interaction you have with a debtor as a negotiation. This way, by the time the debtor realizes that a negotiation is taking place, you will already have the upper hand.
2. Start with a Reminder
One of the best ways to start off a negotiation is to remind the debtor about the details of the debt. Every once in a while, you might catch someone who honestly forgot about a debt. It is also possible that a debtor has cleaned up their act and a simple reminder is all they needed to make a payment.
Even when these lucky situations don’t occur, you will still be starting the negotiation out on the right foot by reminding the debtor that they owe you for products or services that have already been delivered.
3. Have Accurate Information
One of the easiest ways to appear strong in a negotiation is to have a strong grasp on the facts of the situation. Take a few minutes before speaking with the debtor to refresh yourself on the details of the case.
4. Do Your Research
In addition to knowing the facts about the case, doing a little research online might help you find some sort of leverage that can be used in a negotiation. For example, it would be hard for a debtor to tell you that they are broke if you see their new car on Facebook.
5. Stay Polite & Professional
The best way to get the most cooperation out of a debt recovery negotiation always involves staying as polite and professional as possible. Remember that the goal of the negotiation is to get the debtor to pay you as much as they possibly can, so staying polite and professional is your best bet.
6. Remain Calm
Debt collection is a frustrating part of doing business. There is a good chance that your debtor will attempt to make excuses for not paying you. When this happens, you can’t let yourself get aggravated or upset. Remain calm and look for a solution.
7. Approach Negotiations as Equals
Regardless of how you truly feel about the person you are negotiating with, treating them as if they are inferior will only push them to spite you. It won’t push them to pay you. Treating someone as an equal will make them far more likely to want to work with you.
8. Be Realistic
There is a good chance that your debtor simply doesn’t have the ability to make a payment. You have to be realistic about what you expect to get from them. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip!
9. Send a Clear Message
Make sure that you clearly state your expectations to the debtor. Don’t sugar coat the situation. Spell out your debt collection terms very specifically.
10. Have a Concrete Minimum
As part of your preparation for the negotiation, you should have a solid idea of the type of deal you would be willing to accept.
11. Find Out the Reason
What is the reason that this invoice collection situation got so out of control? Sometimes, if you simply ask a debtor what went wrong you will find out that it is only a temporary problem or that help is on the way.
12. Ask For Comments
After clearly stating your intentions, simply asking for comments is a great way to gauge how receptive the debtor is to a potential deal. Ask them to comment on what they think would be an acceptable solution.
13. Require a Counter-Offer
After you hear their comments on the situation, ask them to make an offer or counter an offer that you have already made.
14. Don’t Counter Immediately
Whatever offer or counter-offer the debtor makes, you should never accept or counter it immediately. Take a moment to process the offer and analyze all of the working parts.
15. Ask For a Good Faith Gesture
Whether you reach an agreement or not, ask for the debtor to make some sort of gesture of good faith. This could be a partial payment, or offering some form of collateral on the amount owed.
16. Don’t Force the Issue
There is a good chance that the debtor is simply not capable of making payments at this time. If that is the case, don’t burn any bridges that you might regret later.
17. Confirm the Deal in Writing
If you do reach an agreement with the debtor, make sure you write down all of the details and have both parties sign that they understand and agree.
18. Clearly Explain the Ramifications
Make sure that you clearly state exactly what you will do if the debtor fails to live up to your agreement.
19. Remember Follow-Up Letters
Whatever the deal is, you should send a series of follow-up letters to make sure that the agreement stays on track.
20. Hold Them to Your Deal
Make sure to hold up your end of the deal. If you threaten legal action on a certain date, you must file on that exact date. Any delay will make you appear weak.