Network Upfront To Increase Cash Flow From Accounts Receivable

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group

Great news!  Your company just landed that big account everyone had been pursuing for over a year.  You took it away from a major competitor.  Sales and marketing is talking about the importance of networking and relationship marketing.  The sales manager has visions of bonuses yet to come.  The head of the company (is that you?) holds an all company meeting to announce the victory.  Someone puts the new client’s CEO on a Christmas list to receive that special cheesecake that goes to top customers only.  Well, good for you.

I’m sure everyone throughout the company will make sure the product or  service is delivered as promised and on time.

There is one important point to keep in mind.  The new relationship is not truly culminated until you are paid for all the things you are going to do for this new client.

Here is where a bit of networking and relationship building needs to occur that usually never happens.  I suggest that before the ink is dry on the new agreement that your company’s accounts receivable manager has a friendly one on one kick off conversation with the accounts payable manager of your new client.  If possible a personal meeting would  be better.  At this meeting it is important to identify all the key points for both sides that will assure that  invoices will be processed and paid as expected. 

 Topics that should be addressed:

  1. When will the invoice be sent.
  2. How will the invoice be delivered.
  3. Who the invoice should be sent to.
  4. What is on the invoice:  Example:  purchase order number, invoice number, date of invoice, quantity, individual pricing or progress payments, terms including due date, late fees, discounts for early payment.
  5. Review the monthly statement you will send and encourage them to reconcile it.
  6. How the payment will be made:  by check, ACH, wire, credit card, other.
  7. Who to call when there are questions or mistakes on the invoice or payment.
  8. What is the internal process for getting an invoice approved and paid at your client.  Is there a time lag?  Who has to approve payment? Are there any documents that need to be included? How can the process be expedited?
  9. Expectations of on time payment.

All of the above creates discipline between the two companies in the invoicing and payment process.  More importantly, a personal “real person” relationship has been developed early in the engagement before any problems occur.  This will make it much easier to remedy any glitches or situations that may come up since there is now a face with a name on the other end.

It would not hurt to periodically call the accounts payable manager and thank them for being an easy customer to do business with.  Nurture and maintain the relationship at this level as business grows  between the two companies.

There is one other benefit that will come out of this.  If your client finds themselves struggling sometime in the future, payments to their vendors may slow up.  Don’t be surprised if due to your close relationship that your company is kept current while others find payments being delayed.

All of this helps assure that cash keeps flowing into your company so more money can be invested in marketing to bring in other big clients like this one.

And about that  cheesecake for their CEO.  It might be nice to send the accounts payable manager at least a box of cookies.

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