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Biggest Mistake When Billing Clients by Bob Bly

Posted May 26th, 2011 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Uncategorized

My single piece of advice for you today?

Don’t rush your invoice to your client.

Your accountant and bookkeeper, of course, disagree with me.

“Get the bill out fast!” they urge you. “You’ll get paid faster, and your cash flow will improve.”

MB, the contractor who’s been remodeling our bathrooms and kitchen for the past 6 months, certainly agrees with them.

Every time I turn around, he’s there with his hand out.

Typically, I get a call at the office during the middle of a busy day.

“I need the next payment,” says MB, “can you have a check ready in 20 minutes when I stop by?”

Sure, I think to myself. I’ll just stop writing, forget my own pressing deadlines, write out a check this instant, and sit here until MB gets here.

Yes, MB is entitled to get paid on time.

But on and off, I’ve been using him going on more than 20 years.

Certainly, I’m “good for it”.

JL, who is MB’s favorite electrician, also wants his money in a hurry, even if it’s a small $100 repair job.

“I need this money today to pay my bills,” JL will tell my wife—who of course immediately gives him the cash in her wallet.

The problem with being in a hurry to rush the next invoice—and get your money right away—is that it sends a message to your customer.

The message is: “I care more about getting paid than I do about your satisfaction or convenience.”

I mean, come on: why can’t MB send me a bill in the mail like everyone else, so I can forward it to my bookkeeper and let her pay it?

Recently, I hired a freelance writer to write an e-book for my small publishing company, CTC Publishing.

Today I got an e-mail with his first draft of the e-book attached.

Also attached to that same e-mail: his bill.

“Hey,” I told him nicely. “I haven’t even read your first draft yet. Why am I getting a bill?”

He should bill me only after he knows I am happy with his work…and not before.

Don’t give your client the feeling that you’re in a rush to send out an invoice and move on to the next job—even if you are.

The product or service your client ordered is what they want—and getting it makes them happy.

The bill is what they don’t want…a negative to most people.

Therefore, so as not to destroy the feelings of happiness the buyer experiences when she takes delivery of the product she ordered, do *not* enclose the invoice when you deliver the product.

For instance, a consultant should e-mail his report as an attached file…wait a few days for the client to absorb it…and only then should he send the invoice.

Also, the client is in a rush to get your widget or report—but not necessarily to pay for it.

Therefore, it’s desirable to send products and services ordered by rapid delivery methods—priority mail, FedEx, e-mail.

But the client is in no hurry to get your bill.

So don’t e-mail it.

Dropping it into ordinary first-class mail is just fine for them—and for you.

Also, while it pays to be vigilant about accounts receivables, being overly so can tick off customers and rapidly destroy goodwill.

I pay my vendor invoices net 30 days unless I’ve agreed otherwise.

Yet I can’t tell you how many times I have received a frantic call or e-mail from a proofreader, editor, writer, or Web designer demanding payment—for an invoice they sent me just a few days ago.

Not only is it annoying, but it again shows me their main concern in life is their pocketbook, not my satisfaction with what I bought from them.

“Don’t rush a bill” is really just a specific application of a general almost universal, business principle.

And that universal law of good business is simply: put the customer first.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

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