How to Get Your Customer to Pay Your Invoice (Even If They Don't Want to)
Updated: Sep 7
The Best Tips for Getting Your Customers to Pay Overdue Invoices Without Being a Jerk
Many of us are in the same boat, trying to figure out how to get our hard-earned money without making things awkward. So, we have put together this guide with clear and practical steps to help get those invoices paid. Let's dive in and tackle this together!
The Gentle Art of Getting Paid
Seeing someone take advantage of you can be incredibly frustrating. However, sometimes controlling your emotions and maintaining composure can make a significant difference. You might wonder, "How can I get my customer to pay me politely? I've already asked and emailed, but nothing worked. What else can I do?" Perhaps you can try one of the following tactics:
1. Urgency without aggression: Play the Victim
Requesting an urgent payment without coming across as aggressive. This can be achieved either through a phone call or an email. If you're drafting an email, here's a suggested structure: Accept responsibility, convey urgency, and clearly state your expectations.
Subject: Urgent: Immediate Action Needed on Invoice [XXX]
Hi Mr. Jones,
I hope you're well. It's been great working with you, but I must bring up an urgent matter. Invoice [XXX] remains unpaid, and I have critical financial commitments this week.
Could you please ensure the payment is wired by 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday?
Thank you in advance.
2. Be the Good Guy
Subject: Payment Arrangement for Outstanding Balance
Hi Jones, I trust you had a refreshing weekend.
I'm reaching out with the hope that we can resolve an outstanding payment issue amicably. I would prefer not to involve our collection agency in this matter.
Would you be able to commit to paying 50% of the outstanding balance by this Wednesday, with the remainder to be settled by next Monday? Your prompt attention and confirmation would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
3. Bridging Connections for Payment: The Best Way to Get Paid from an Unresponsive Business Debtor
Step 1: Identify the CEO or the top executive of the non-paying client's company. Ideally, this should be someone with whom your organization shares a positive rapport. Step 2: Let your CEO or top executive forward the original invoice email to the identified executive. The key is to keep the message simple, without bringing up the invoice or payment directly.
Hi John, I hope you're doing well.
Can you please take care of the below?
Thanks in advance.
If you've made polite attempts to secure payment from your debtor but continue to encounter evasion or neglect, it may be time to adopt a more formal approach to collect the unpaid invoice. Adopting a formal tone doesn't necessarily imply aggression or disrespect; rather, it signifies a shift towards direct and unequivocal communication to secure the payment owed to you. This formal approach can be executed either over the phone or via email, depending on which method you feel more comfortable using. Here's what you can do:
1. A Formal Demand Letter: Grab your customer's attention with a clear, direct letter specifying a payment deadline. This letter should be assertive but respectful, prompting your customer to prioritize the payment without damaging the business relationship.
2. Follow-Up Emails: If initial reminders go unnoticed, send a gentle "Checking in on the invoice" email. Ensure you've got the right email address and accurate invoice details to avoid further complications.
Email Templates for Payment Reminders:
Subject: Regarding Invoice No.
XXX Hi [Client's Name], I'm following up on the invoice sent on [date].
Please advise if there are any concerns or additional information required from our side.
Your prompt attention is valued.
When emails fail, a direct phone call can add a personal and urgent touch. In a recent poll conducted by Fair Capital, 76% of respondents favored collecting unpaid invoices via phone calls over email or text methods. While many are hesitant about making these calls and lean towards sending emails, it's worth noting that evading a phone call can be more difficult than dismissing an email.
This direct approach might just be the nudge your debtor needs to settle their dues promptly.
When calling about a past due invoice, always:
Be Polite: Treat your client with respect.
Be Professional: Stay composed and avoid any form of confrontation.
Be Persistent: Stay on topic and ensure the conversation remains productive.
Utilize Expertise: If your business has an accounts receivable department, let them handle the call. Otherwise, delegate to someone who can approach the issue neutrally, like a secretary or bookkeeper. This keeps the core business relationship intact while addressing the outstanding payment.
Have the specific invoice and any related documentation (e.g., delivery proof, purchase order) within reach.
Keep notes from previous contacts handy to refer to prior discussions.
Mental Readiness: The call might be uncomfortable for both parties. Stick to the facts and maintain a neutral tone. Avoid getting drawn into emotional exchanges.
Anticipate Excuses: Arm yourself with responses to common excuses for non-payment. For instance, if the client claims that they didn't receive your invoice or that the invoice is incorrect, stay on the call while you send another email and confirm its receipt.
Here's a sample phone call to ask your client to pay
You: Hello [Client's Name], this is [Your Name] from [Your Company Name]. How are you today?
You: I'm glad to hear that. I'm calling to discuss an outstanding Invoice. It seems that Invoice #XXXX, due on [due date], hasn't been paid yet. Are you aware of this?
Be silent and wait for your client to respond…
(If your client is unaware)
You: It appears there's been some oversight then. The total balance on the invoice is $XXXX. Is it possible for you to take care of this payment today?
(If the client is aware)
You: I see. Can you provide any information on why the payment has been delayed and when we can expect the payment?
(If the client promises to pay soon)
You: That sounds fair. I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter. Can we agree on a specific date for the payment to avoid any future miscommunications?
(If the client is facing difficulties)
You: I understand that these situations can occur. However, we've provided services as agreed, and we also have commitments to meet. Could we possibly work out a payment plan that suits both of us?
(If the client is non-committal or unresponsive)
You: I want to make it clear, that this outstanding invoice is causing complications for us. We've always valued our business relationship and would like to maintain it, but to do so, it's essential that our payments are received in a timely manner. Failure to address this promptly may lead us to reconsider the terms of our future engagements.
You: Thank you for understanding. I'm looking forward to resolving this matter soon. Have a great day!
If a non-paying client continues to ignore your invoices, emails, and calls, it's time to step up your efforts.
Sending a Firm Email: Sometimes, a short and direct email can be a powerful reminder to pay up.
Subject: Overdue Payment Reminder
Despite multiple attempts, I have not yet received a response regarding the overdue payment for [Invoice Number]. May I kindly request when I can expect the payment of these unpaid invoices?
I look forward to your immediate response.
Sending a Certified Letter
If emails prove ineffective, sending a certified letter can attract your client's attention and provide evidence of your collection attempts should legal action be necessary.
Make sure to keep copies of all correspondence and any relevant documents for your records.
Negotiating a Payment Plan
Ideally, your client should pay in full, but if your client is experiencing financial difficulties, a payment plan may be a viable solution. In the event that a customer is unable to make a large lump sum payment, they may be able to pay smaller monthly payments over time.
Lump Sum + Installments
As an alternative, you could request an immediate partial payment followed by a schedule for the remaining amount. Depending on the terms of your original agreement, you may also charge interest or late fees, though it's crucial to weigh these charges against the risk of impeding the client's ability to pay.
Another option is to accept a lesser amount as full payment, helping you recoup a significant portion of the debt more quickly, but at the cost of a long-term loss.
Get external help
If your collection attempts continue to fall short, consider employing a third-party collection agency. A company like Fair Capital, known for its professionalism and ethical conduct, can apply its expertise in effective debt recovery strategies.