How many books on accounts receivable management have you read this year?

It’s a question I often ask at my seminars. On a few occasions, a single hand will be raised. Often, no hands, even if I extend to the last five years. This is our business. We must get good and stay good. Education never stops. After all, who would want to deal with a doctor who hasn’t read anything since medical school?

I am not so modest that I don’t recommend my book, ‘Paid in Full’, to anyone working in receivables, but I tell people that if they were only going to read one book to help them improve accounts receivable, it should be ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie.

If you are not familiar, Dale Carnegie was an American writer who developed famous courses on self-improvement, salesmanship, public speaking and interpersonal skills. His book was written eighty years ago and is just as relevant today. A core principle is that it is possible to change other people’s behavior by changing one’s behavior toward them.

Here are the two main fundamentals, but it is worth your investment of time to read ALL of the book.

  1. Be genuinely interested in people. Don’t try to get them interested in you. Find out how they spend their time, what makes their heart go ‘pitty-pat’.
  2. Frequent and genuine praise. Sure, it’s work, but you will be able to find something worth a positive comment or two. Think of the last person who sent some praise your way. Made you feel good, didn’t it? Also made you feel good ‘about’ the other person.

Early in my career I avoided Dale’s book, thinking it was all flattery and bulls**t. But, he is right on the money – the interest and the praise should be genuine – more work, but worth the results.

What else would Dale Carnegie consider if he was collecting a past-due invoice?

The word debtor would not cross his lips and ‘deadbeat’ would not cross his mind. They would be customers, start to finish. Granted, some may be financially or even ethically challenged, some got up on the wrong side of the bed when they were fourteen and have been getting up on the wrong side ever since – but still, customers. Dale knew the words we use and think about will influence our attitude.

A few of his quotes will give you some additional thoughts to his approach:

‘Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn – and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.’

‘When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.’