The Australian runner John Landy was the second person to break the four minute mile after Roger Bannister. He may be best remembered for a race in Vancouver in 1954 when nearing the finish line, he looked over his left shoulder and the same Roger Bannister passed him on the right.

He may have been the winner without that mistake just near the finish line. Starting is important in a race but also in a negotiation and a collection call where an estimated 80% of success depending on the first 10% of the call. It can all be for naught with a mistake near the end.

Statue of Landy and BannisterLate last year I was called in to observe and recommend changes to a firm’s training program. Part of the process was to listen in to a sample of collection calls. Duncan (not his real name) was listed as an above average performer, but not their best. He was assertive, bordering on being too aggressive but the mistake was made near the end of the call. After determining the reason for delay in payment and arranging a ‘reasonable’ payment program, Duncan ‘looked over his shoulder’.

“O.K.,” the customer said, “I’ll make that first payment at your office tomorrow.”

“See that you do,” Duncan said and hung up, but not before I could hear the customer exclaim, “What did you…”

Two days later, the payment had still not been made as initially agreed. We know the customer ‘should’ pay and perhaps there are many reasons for them to do so but when push comes to shove in this business, they need to ‘want’ to pay. It is a good idea to spend a bit of time not only on the best ‘opening’ lines for a collection call, but how to finish as well.

Two suggestions:

“That’s great Mr. Austin. I’ll keep an eye out for that payment and will update your records accordingly.”

“Thank you.” (Keep it simple.)

Getting close to home from a long motor trip is dangerous, we start to relax. Same applies in a negotiation or sales of collection call. It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.

Pithy Quote:

 “Don’t look back ‘cause you might fall over what is in front of you.”
…Kate Williams, Age 7