Believe it or not, the success of your attempt to collect a debt is usually decided right at the beginning of your phone call - with the very first thing you say after the other party says hello.
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Freelance - How to Double Your Debt Collections

Believe it or not, the success of your attempt to collect a debt is usually decided right at the beginning of your phone call - with the very first thing you say after the other party says hello. Knowing exactly what you are going to say - and handling the call in an organized, professional manner is the foundation upon which collections are made or lost. A professionally executed collections call has four parts:

Part One is The Open - how you identify yourself, your company and the problem. And, how you place that problem before the debtor. Don't ask him when he's going to get around to paying you, or why he is putting you off. If you do you'll be at a disadvantage right off the bat. Instead, put the debtor in the position of having to explain himself. Say something like "What are your intentions toward this bill?"

Part Two: The Facts. If the debtor doesn't agree to pay the bill early on, move into the next part of the call: asking questions about his situation. It's important to make a smooth transition here because you don't want to alarm the debtor. Say something like: "Let me just fill out an extension form for you." Then you can start asking about his job, whether his wife is employed, any outstanding loans he may have, credit cards, etc.

Part Three: The Dun - Once your questioning has given you the information you need you can show the debtor a way in which he or she can pay the debt. You now know, for instance, that he can afford to put it on his MasterCard, or that she could qualify for a bank loan. Now you're in position to make your demand for payment (the dun).

Part Four: The Close. Whether the debtor has agreed to pay or not, there is also a specific way you should close the call. And I don't mean "Gee, thanks. Have a nice day!" or "You've got your nerve!" Use an open-ended question designed to put the debtor on the spot; something like "Do I have your word on that?" If he has refused to pay or continues to dodge the issue remind him of how serious the situation is. Make it clear that the problem must be resolved. Be professional. Don't insult him. Save any threats of legal action until you've contacted the debtor several times without success and see no other option. Never threaten legal action unless you fully intend to follow through, otherwise you could be accused of harassment.

Collection calls are sometimes a necessary part of the billing process. Making the effort to learn and use as many collection techniques as possible will bring you better results and greatly improve the health of your bottom line.


Jim Finucan has put 12 years of experience as a "top gun" collections pro into his book "Past Due ?? A Debt Collections Manual." For more information about the book please visit: www.tiare.com/pastdue.htm

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