Soft Approach #2

I seldom have accounts receivable more than 30 days old. One reason is that I price fairly and deliver more than expected. The other reason is that I collect aggressively (but not harshly). Depending on circumstances, I use a series of e-mails and phone calls to "check the status," and few clients dislike that. If they do, that is a red flag.

In this case, a corporate client called me to begin an executive coaching assignment, and invited me to tour their new U.S. headquarters. Since she played a large role in the planning and design, she was clearly proud of the results.

INX GmbH is a medical device company, and one amazing feature was life-saving testimonials stenciled on some of the walls. They also had a wall of stars, one for each person they had saved. Truly inspirational.

Even though it was June, it was the company's year-end, and she asked me on Wednesday if I'd mind getting her an invoice later in the day so she could pay me on Friday. I didn't object at all. I expected payment within a week, but no check appeared. Having worked for the company many times before, I didn't worry. I waited nearly 30 days to query her, perhaps a bit too long.

There are three e-mails in this series:

  1. Here is the invoice—June 18
  2. Did you receive the invoice?—July 16
  3. Can you help with this?—July 22
In addition to the e-mails, I left two voicemails on the client's cell phone requesting status of payment. I received payment in full on July 23, 34 days after sending the original invoice—but no other response from the client by phone or e-mail. She disappeared. Her lack of response is troubling, since open communication is such an important part of our effectiveness as consultants. The good news is that we have $7,000 in our Wells Fargo account.  

Three e-mails follow. I attached the invoice to each e-mail for easy payment by the client. INX GmbH is the client company, and Konnor was the name of the new executive coaching client.

E-mail #1

To: Lisanne Feufer
From: Bill Frank
Sent: June 6, 20—
Subject: Lisanne, Invoice for Konnor Toke

Thanks so much for the tour of your new U.S. headquarters. As I told you, it's magnificent, and I see your fingerprints on the walls, in the huddle-rooms, in the coffee bars—and everywhere. Congratulations on your world-class achievement. Thanks to you, INX GmbH is poised to grow exponentially in the future.

I left Konnor and voicemail and e-mail letting him know we're ready to begin.

Here is the invoice you requested.
Best wishes,

E-mail #2

To: Lisanne Feufer
From: Bill Frank
Sent: July 16, 20—
Subject: Lisanne, Did you receive my invoice . . . ??

Hi Lisanne,
When we met on Wednesday, June 18, you wanted an invoice from me that day because of yearend. I got the impression INX GmbH wanted to pay it by Friday, June 20.

I haven't seen a check yet, so wonder if you received the invoice.
Will you please check for me?
Many thanks,

E-mail #3

[I forwarded the July 16 e-mail as a reminder, and added this short note.]

To: Lisanne Feufer
From: Bill Frank
Sent: July 22, 20—
Subject: FW: Lisanne, Did you receive my invoice . . . ??

Hi Lisanne,
Can you help with this . . . ??
Thank you,

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