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In Focus Commercial Credit

Exporting is great, getting paid is even better

Getting the basics right of having a strong customer relationship and communications is crucial for successful export credit management

Julian Llewellyn Chairman and co-founder, Octempo

With the aim of getting 100,000 British companies exporting by 2020, the UK government’s ‘Exporting is GREAT’ campaign is an important place for organisations to tap into expertise and help to get their business trading overseas. However, it did strike me that the help

they provide to assist in understanding the culture, market and traditions of a potential customer’s business is stopping short of the reality of trading globally. Too often, the role of effective credit

management and credit control is relegated to an afterthought, with the default position being to either credit insure, use a letter of credit or bill, or use an export factor. There is an alternative approach that

really values the contribution that professional credit management and control can bring to a business. Just because it is international, does not change the basic principles, it just makes effectively delivering them more challenging. Outlined below are the key steps to getting paid on time when exporting.

Know your customer There really is no excuse for not doing your homework on your active and potential customer base, particularly if a sale is of significant value. International credit checks have come down in cost and some companies now offer more flexible pricing packages and pay-as-you-go plans. Make sure though that you can interpret the results – different countries have

February 2016

different rules around what accounts need to be filed so the information is not always consistent

Talk to your customer It is good to talk. Often the buyers or commercial teams at your export customer will speak English. Typically the accounts or back-office team will not. If you want to have any influence on

when you might get paid, that gap needs to be closed. And do not think that an e-mail through an online translation tool is going to do it for you. We have seen plenty of examples where this has been used and gone horribly wrong, with one of four typical outcomes: l It is complete ‘gobbledegook’, which makes no sense and makes your business look unprofessional. l It is not completely confusing, but it is amateurish and a bit rude when read by someone in a different payment culture. l The outbound e-mail is acceptable but then the response comes back, not in English, and panic breaks out! l Control over the payment timeline has not been achieved. The good news is that these problems are

easy to fix. Some simple tips would be: l Create a scheduled workflow of follow-up actions from when an invoice is issued: l After the invoice has been sent, check it

has been received and ask if there are any queries. Do that within the first week and use the telephone. l Seven to 10 days before due date,

contact again. Ask if payment is scheduled and check or provide bank details. Obtain

the promise, again using the telephone. lOne or two days after due date, follow up

if payment is not received. Again, I would recommend getting on the telephone just as you would if a UK customer was late paying.

There really is no excuse for not doing your homework on your active and potential customer base, particularly if a sale is of significant value

l Build an effective escalation process – both internal and external – and stick to it where an invoice remains unpaid.

Get paid on time Applying the above processes and good practice will ensure you get paid on time, every time. It also builds a more positive relationship with your customer, removes your sales team from having difficult invoice payment conversations with their contacts when you want them selling, and shows you are a professional set up. After all, exporting is great, but getting paid is even better! CCR


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