Speed Up Cash Flow
In these tight times, doing something to expedite cash flow can make a big difference in a company’s finances. And the department that can influence the flow of funds with the least effort and with almost no investment is credit and collections. Unfortunately, most businesses fail to give that department enough serious management attention. Here are steps a CFO can take to improve credit and collections’ functioning, guaranteeing a significant boost in cash flow.
Be sure controls are in place to confirm the creditworthiness of prospective buyers. Equally important, be sure the company doesn’t ship any orders to accounts with past-due balances or to those that have exceeded their credit limits. Too often, companies are so delighted to make sales they overlook controls and often don’t consult the credit department.
Monitor billing procedures. Invoices should go out no later than a day after shipment. Examine the invoice format for clarity. Customers may set aside bills that are confusing for later investigation—adding to the payment delay.
Use only trained personnel to make collection calls —not part-time clerks. It takes skill, maturity and persistence to be a good bill collector—so compensate them adequately.
Advice to collection callers:
Before making the call, be sure the details of the bill are at hand. That way, if the customer says he or she is unaware of the bill, you can relate all the facts immediately.
Your call will likely be taken by a payable clerk. Immediately ask to talk to his or her superior, because the clerk probably will have little or no authority to act on the bill.
After pointing out the open balance in a sentence or two, stop talking. This forces the customer to respond with an excuse or a promise to pay. At that point, pin the customer down on when the payment will be made and mailed. Keep a detailed record of your calls and the promise details.
If the payment fails to arrive at the promised time, follow up immediately, reminding the customer of your previous call and the promise you received.
Pick the Brains of Suppliers
You’re probably shaking your head in disbelief.
Well, consider this: They’re also selling, and collecting intelligence, from all or most of your competitors—who happen to be their customers. What a collection of industry insights!
So how do you tap into it? Begin by asking. Invite suggestions for new products, design improvements and production innovations. The key to success in mining this intelligence is making the suppliers feel you value their information. They may not even know what’s useful to you, which means you’ll have to invest time in convincing the suppliers you value their knowledge of the marketplace and are ready to listen.