Best lemonade – ever!

when i grow up1

Think back to when you were a kid. What did you want to be when you grew up?

One of the studies on the internet indicated that the largest group of women (about 11%) wanted to be a teacher. From there it ranged down to veterinarians, writers, singers, nurses and paramedics. The largest group for men was athletes, followed by pilots, scientists, lawyers and astronauts.

Doctors, police officers, fire fighters and others will make the list in different degrees, but have you noticed what is NOT on the list?

That’s right. Nobody said, “When I grow up, I want to work in Accounts Receivable. I want to call people up and collect on past due invoices…I want to be a collector!”

In the province of Ontario there are 4,320 collectors working for agencies and about the same number in British Columbia. Just three years ago, there was an estimated 136,100 collectors in the Unites States and that again is only third party. Add in the banks, credit unions as well as all of the commercial credit departments and we’re talking some big numbers.

No matter how you measure it, that is a lot of people working in a field they not only didn’t plan for but many never knew about. So how did they get there?
They fell into the job, just like the rest of us.

Sandy applied for a position in accounting. She didn’t even know about a position in ‘receivables’. William was asked to fill in for a few months for an employee who went on maternity leave. Sofia wanted a job – any job and what about Derrick? He was just to be ‘too abrasive for customer service so let’s move him over to the collection department where his attitude may work in our favor’.

Yet, for me and many of us, it has become a profession, rather than ‘just a job’. It is not a matter of ‘bugging’ people in one form or another to make their payment, but to realize a true professional has realized the objective is to work with people to help them to do something they don’t want to do…and like it. If they are going to hand you a lemon, don’t just make lemonade, mix up and serve the best lemonade – ever!

Allow me to share with you some of the secrets my formula, tested and developed over thirty some odd years in many countries to different cultures and palates and delivered in our in-house and online programs as well as in conferences:

Tim’s Secret Recipe for Best Collection Lemonade – Ever!

  • Sugar
    Why should your customers pay you rather than somebody else? What is in it for them? This means we have to go ‘walk about’ in their shoes and know the reasons before we make contact. The very best collectors demonstrate empathy. They can see through the eyes of the customer/debtor
  • Lemons
    In successful collections as well as negotiations, the best collectors will not take it personally. Yet, a bit of tartness (bitter lemon taste) is helpful. The taste buds stand up and pay attention to great lemonade! Good collectors can handle losing, despite their best efforts they will not always get paid, yet they very much want to win.
  • Water
    Sure, you can make lemonade with water from a tap or anywhere else for that matter, but why not filter and take out the impurities? Some of us in my business believe you can train anyone to be a reasonable collector in two days of training.
    It is ‘sort of’ true, it just doesn’t give the full story. Start off with candidates who have more of ‘what it takes’ to be a good collector. That means using selective criteria, something like the C.I.A. (Collectability Index Assessment) that we have developed.
  • Cool to room temperature
    The very nature of our business means we will often deal with customers who are under the influence or got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. Nothing will give you as much of an advantage as keeping your cool when the other side ‘loses it’.
  • Remove seeds
    Allow the customer/debtor to be involved in the negotiation, work on the same side of the table as you rather than across, in general ‘save face’ and none of the drink will ‘stick in the teeth’, it will be much easer to swallow, accept and keep commitments
  • Garnish with a sprig of?
    This may say more about presentation than content – find a style that works for you. It may be something that sets you apart in the introduction, the closing. Look for it, find it and improve on it.
  • Taste test your audience
    How did you like our lemonade and how could we make it better?
    Perhaps you cannot ask the debtor the question but at the end of at least one call every day: What did I do that I should do more of? What should I stop doing, change or improve?
  • Your lemonade can always improve
    Read at least one collection book each year and attend one program of conference on the subject. There is plenty of them, live or on-line so money should not be an object
  • No Secrets
    Share your formula with others. I for one, would love to hear about your recipe

Pithy Quote of the Month: 
If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Then, find somebody who live has given vodka…and have a party.”
…Ron White