We’re faced with many of our customers being very slow about paying their bills. What would you suggest? Should salespeople help with the collections?

This is one of those times where the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is very appropriate.

Have face-to-face conversations with your slow-pay customers and require your salespeople to do the same.  At those meetings, lay out the issue – the company, your customer, is not paying their bills according to your terms.  Stress how important it is to you to have the bills paid on time.

Then try to gain a commitment from the customer to a specific time frame and payment schedule to bring them up to terms.

You may have to develop some creative solutions, and you may have to visit or call a number of times.

I believe that in slow economic times this is an important role for salespeople to play.  Keeping close communication with the accounts payable department of your customers is an appropriate task for a salesperson.  Not only will you improve the company’s cash flow, but you’ll have a better reading on the financial status of your customers.