If there ever was a secret, foolproof (and legal) method on how to get a client to pay an invoice, every business owner on the planet would want in on it.

Of course, when it comes to getting your clients to pay their invoices in full and on time, there’s no such thing as a 100% success rate. That’s just the unfortunate reality of business. In this article, we will give you a few strategies and negotiation tactics you can use to increase your chances of getting paid—without upsetting your customers in the process.

Strategy #1: Send Invoices (and Follow-Ups!) on Time

Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. Don’t be tardy when it comes to invoicing. The main reason is obvious—since payments are commonly based on net days upon receipt of invoice, late invoicing leads to late payments.

But there are also more subtle factors at play, like your customer’s perception of your expectations.  Imagine you have two regular contractors. The first one, without fail, bills you within one business day of the project being completed. The second one takes anywhere from one day to two weeks to send their invoice.

Here’s the question: If you ran into any cashflow issues and could only pay one of their invoices on time, which contractor would you prioritize? Most likely, you would choose the first one—but why?

People will treat you the way they expect you to treat them. It’s not true in every circumstance of course, but it holds true most of the time. And you’re only shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t make use of it. The same goes with following up. After a certain number of days past due, you should be following up to communicate expectations through actions.

The bottom line—if you want to get your payment on time, send invoices and reminders on time.

Strategy #2: Make it as Convenient as Possible for Them to Pay You

Most business owners dread the thought of having to sit down and do ‘admin’ work. And for your customers, paying invoices typically falls under this tedious umbrella.

So, don’t make it difficult for them. Increase your chances of receiving your payment on time by making it the easiest invoice on their list to pay. Given human nature, they’re more likely to pay yours first.

Strategy #3: Offer Your Customers Flexibility (If You Can)

Sometimes, you just have to empathize with your customers. Many of them want to pay you in full and on time, but cash flow issues may prevent them from being able to. In an ideal world, they would’ve anticipated potential problems so they could fulfill their payment obligations, but that’s not always the case.

The truth is, 82% of business failures are from cashflow issues. Harsh judgment will not help them—or you. So, if you can offer them flexible payment plans that might gel better with their own cash cycle, why not? It’s a win-win situation. When they see you’re willing to work with them, they will be more willing to work with you—and keep using your product or service.

How to Get a Client to Pay an Invoice: 3 Negotiation Tips from an FBI Hostage Negotiator

All of the above strategies work great with the type of customer that sincerely wants to honor their obligation, but either forgot or ran into a situation that they’re scrambling to fix.

But then there are those who opportunistically try to take advantage of you (if you let them). To learn how to deal with those types, there’s no better source than Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator and author of the best-selling book on negotiation, Never Split the Difference. 

While the whole book is full of gems, here are three negotiation tips you can use when writing payment request emails to clients.

Tip #1: Be polite, deferent, but firm

First tip on how to write an email to customers for payment—your tone. Be polite, deferent, but firm. Politeness is professional, and firmness is an obvious must, given the nature of the issue. Deference seems contentious—but there’s a good reason for it.

As Chris Voss sums up in an interview, “Deference is a weapon.” People like it when you’re deferent to them when you don’t have to be. And likeability is one of the six pillars of influence cited in the bestselling classic, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini. As long as you remain firm, remember that deference is a tool that can be used to get what you want.

Tip #2: Get their attention with a ‘no’-based email

If there’s one thing more frustrating than a late-paying client, it’s a late-paying client who ignores your emails. Is there any point in being polite, deferent, and firm in your emails if they are ignoring them?

Chris Voss has one powerful tip to grab their attention—the ‘No’-based email.

Here’s how it works. Simply send your client an email with only a single line. It can be something like:

  • Have you given up on paying for the remainder of the projects? OR
  • Have you given up on us working together/our good working relationship?

Feel free to tweak these, but you get the point. Chances are, they’ll respond with an indignant ‘No.’ Work from there.

Tip #3: Withhold Delivery of Work (Without Being Confrontational)

When the first two attempts don’t work, you may have to withhold work. While this might prompt payment, it’s inherently confrontational, and may result in losing that particular client.

Voss recommends the ‘How can I do that?’ response. If your client asks you for the work you’re withholding, respond with a variation of, “I’d love to deliver the work, but how can I do that given my invoices haven’t been paid?”

The genius of this response is twofold. First, it’s much less confrontational. Second, by asking how, you’re letting the other party solve your problem for you. If they’re truly unable to pay your invoice on time, they might offer to pay late fees down the line or an initial smaller payment as a sign of commitment. Let them work it out—they’re the ones who owe you, anyway!

Biller Genie Gives You the Tools You Need to Increase Your Odds of On-Time Payment

Biller Genie has everything you need to carry out some of the strategies above and so much more. As the all-in-one solution to your business accounting woes, Biller Genie automates your invoices and reminders to ensure they’re always sent on-time, gives your customers an easy payment portal for maximum convenience, and eliminates duplicate work to make reconciliation a breeze.

Try Biller Genie for free today and give yourself the best chance of getting your invoices paid on time.