Perhaps the most enduring myth surrounding commercial debt recovery is that it is the sole preserve of hard, unyielding types. This remains the case even where the blunt instrument is administrative rather than physical.
While it is undeniable that commercial debt recovery sometimes gets a bad press, it is also a crucial means for businesses to recover their debts, and survive. To do this requires a measured, strategic approach.
Myths of Debt Recovery
“Chasing debt should not involve harassment,” explains Paul. “At all times, the approach must be both reasonable and proportionate. This means following protocols and procedures.
”The emphasis is not on confrontation. Rather, it is about listening and empathising.”
“There is a strong element of negotiation, and of working with the debtor, rather than against them.”
Sensitive commercial debt recovery is not an unlikely combination. As Paul points out, the debtor may already feel awkward, embarrassed and defensive.
“You must be aware of how you can come across to the debtor, as being brashly confident may translate, in their eyes, to being confrontational”
A little empathy goes a long way as well as the ability to listen well.
“This is number one on the list of debt recovery qualities. If a business is in debt, there is a reason why. Regardless of how credible this reason may turn out to be, first off you need to listen to everything they say.”
“Once you have the story, you can begin to weigh up the issues, and your next actions.”
Consistency and Composure
When the pressure is on, it is necessary to keep a cool head. Because negotiation is so important, it is vital to be methodical and consistent.
Just as there is a risk that debtors may feel victimised, so recovery agents can face pressures that leave them feeling rattled. Taking the time to consider your tone and delivery is therefore essential.
“You may hear a lot of excuses, or claims about forthcoming payments that don’t stack up, but all the time maintain your composure”
“Speak clearly and calmly. Be firm, be assertive, but don’t succumb to aggression.”
“It is also important to know when your time is ceasing to be effective. If a call faces a solid wall of resistance, end it, and rethink the strategy.”
The Bigger Picture
Working in commercial debt recovery means understanding where late payments fit in to the bigger picture.
“You cannot be effective without first gaining a solid understanding of what you’re dealing with. Late payment or bad debt have reasons. Understand these and you’re operating with knowledge on your side.”
What has led to this point? What is the debtor’s credit rating? What has communication been like up to this point?
This understanding also helps with ensuring that everything procedural you carry out compliant.
“The more you know about a specific situation, the clearer your options become, including what measures are available to you at any given time.”
What Makes for Effective Debt Recovery?
“It’s about people skills, and having the kind of inner assurance to keep at it, firmly but calmly.”
“Far from simply being a last resort, commercial debt recovery is a process essential to an economy where credit is so prominent,” concludes Paul. “Therefore, it follows that the people working in it are themselves playing a pivotal role.”
For an additional read, please visit Why is Cash Flow Always a Pressing Problem for SMEs?