The Art of Negotiation: Collecting Via the Telephone
All the principles of successful negotiating apply equally for both in-person and telephone negotiations. The telephone is a delicate tool to use in resolving your business conflicts. It is even more difficult to settle very large, very delinquent open account debt balances via the telephone. In those difficult situations, the person-to-person negotiation is the route to seek. Good telephone negotiation is an art that collectors must learn because it is much easier for people to say "no" on the telephone.
Preparation of your case is important. Bring up your note screen or have your documents out in front of you. Your preparation should be no less for this telephone negotiation than what it would be for the face-to-face negotiation process. If your preparation is not at that level, then do not call until you have prepared yourself accordingly. Know what your level of acceptance will be before picking up the receiver. What is the bottom-line settlement that you are willing to accept?
From the standpoint of preparation, in-coming calls can be a problem. Solution: Avoid the incoming call unless you had previously agreed to take the call. Knowledge depends upon careful preparation. The danger is that you will not be as prepared for the negotiation of the debt balance as the person who is calling you. If you sense that you lack the knowledge to successully conduct the negotiation, politely end the call. Then, prepare your case and call back: You will be the one with the advantage.
Courtesy Brings Rewards
How do you react when someone calls you and does not introduce himself immediately? What if he never uses your name when addressing you? There is no doubt about it, people will listen to you more carefully, take you more seriously, and be comforted by you if you use their name during the conversation. This is especially true when conducting telephone collections: You want to establish a good rapport and ensure that the debtor listens carefully to what you are saying.
Here is an old but true axiom: Be a good listener. Take the time to carefully hear what the other party is saying. Better listening is needed here because you have lost the face-to-face advantages. Now you do not see the body language of your opponent. You can't see his facial expression. You can only assess the mood and attitude of the opponent on the other end of the phone by such things as the sound of his voice, the pauses in the conversation, and the choice of words. Listen closely to what he says and how he says it.
When the negotiation is completed, verbally confirm the agreement. Immediately send a written confirmation, either by fax or mail, stating the resolution of the debt: You do not want to have to rehash this negotiation because there is a dispute over the exact terms of the agreement. Follow up to assure the agreement dates are met. You may then avoid future problems.
If you would like to take a more in-depth look at how to conduct successful negotiations, I suggest that you attend one of Barry Elms' negotiations seminars, which serve as a model and inspiration for this series.
Elms can be reached at Strategic Negotiations International. 617-899-7746 firstname.lastname@example.org.