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The 3 + 1 steps to 'calling' in your debts

By Ignus K

If you own a small business, you have almost certainly had that awkward conversation with a customer about an overdue payment for goods or services. And you’re not alone. The most immediate way to resolve a cash flow crisis is to call your debtors. But, let’s be honest, no one likes making those phone calls.

Here are 3 steps (plus a bonus step) to ensure your phone call results in a debt paid.


Before you dial a number be sure you have all the relevant information. You will need contact name, phone number, amount outstanding, what the debt is for, date of last payment, number of attempts to collect the debt etc.


When you make the call, identify yourself and confirm you’re speaking to the right person. If no one answers, leave a message but don’t reveal that the call is about an outstanding account.

Stay calm and professional. Be a good listener, don’t argue, judge or moralise but stay firm in your quest to recover the outstanding payment.


Once you have established that payment is overdue, ask for payment in full. Ensure you get a promise of when payment will be made and be sure to document this agreement in a letter or e-mail.

If the customer can’t pay in full, offer a payment plan. Start by offering to split the bill into two payments with specific dates. You might suggest weekly or bi-monthly payments instead of monthly payments.


Calling the people who owe you money is the fastest way to resolve a cash crisis, but Cloud Accounting solutions like Xero have a number of innovative tools that will help you to keep track of debts and prompt for payments in an efficient manner. Better yet, payment gateways like PayFast and Peach can also provide an easy way for clients to pay their bills.

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