Liar Liar: How Entrepreneurs Should Deal with Late Payment Excuses

Understanding the excuses, separating fact from fiction, and responding properly is essential to accomplishing your primary goal: Getting paid.

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“The check is in the mail,” right?

This late payment excuse is so popular it has earned an entry in the Urban Dictionary and is pretty much synonymous with the frustration that overwhelms most entrepreneurs when customers start lying about their payments.

Most entrepreneurs have heard the gamut of late payment excuses. Understanding the excuses, separating fact from fiction, and responding properly is essential to accomplishing your primary goal: Getting paid.

Get Smart, Not Mad When Confronted Excuses

It’s your job to collect on an overdue invoice and you just heard an excuse you can see right through. Your natural inclination is to get upset or adversarial. Fight it!

I’m sure you’ve heard this argument before as it applies to nearly everything in life, and not just collecting debts. Does “you catch more flies with honey” ring a bell?  In fact, there is one agency completely centered around the mantra that nice people collect more.

There are certainly times when becoming adversarial and aggressive is warranted (i.e. although even then you should be nice), but responding to a non-payment excuse is not that time. The fact that the customer is making an excuse is actually a good sign.

It’s a sign that they agree with the underlying debt and are not making payment because of a specific reason. Working with them and understanding the specific reason is the key here. Getting nasty will just make the customer get nasty in return and turn their excuse into a grudge. That is much harder to overcome.

Kryptonite To Excuses, Real and Fake

There are tons of excuses for non-payment. However, don’t fixate on the truthfulness of your customer’s non-payment excuse.

Maybe they are being truthful or maybe they aren’t. Even if they are lying about the specific reason for not paying you, they are telling a little bit of truth: they can’t pay you right now.

When a customer makes an excuse for non-payment they are actually creating an opportunity for you to respond to that excuse and follow-up. This may not require you to respond right away, but schedule a follow-up call for later in the week or the next week.

Make your follow-up or response in proportion to their excuse. So if they say the check is in the mail, wait a couple of days and call about non-receipt. Ask them to provide you with the check number and mailing date.

They may make another excuse or two, but it can’t continue forever. They will need to come clean or push your debt to the top of the “get it paid” list.

Elevate your Debt Priority

Unless your customer is insolvent and preparing for bankruptcy, the reason why your company’s invoice is unpaid boils down to priority. The customer is simply prioritizing other debts ahead of yours.

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