"Most companies assume that if a company is a slow payer or a bad credit risk, it's not worth selling products or services to, but that's not necessarily true," notes Les Kirschbaum, the president of Mid-Continent Agencies, an accounts-receivable-management firm based in Rolling Meadow, Ill. "If you can negotiate the right credit terms and interest charges up front, you can make a sale to a slow payer pay off." His suggestions:

· Use your accounts-receivable records to develop a payment profile of customers before any sale. "If you can predict, based on past performance, that a company won't pay you before 90 days elapse, then price the transaction at a high enough level to cover that payment delay."

· Once you've identified slow payers, require them to agree to added interest charges. "Just tacking a 1.5% charge onto each month's bill won't help if your customers ignore the surcharge. But requiring them to sign a contractual agreement early on will improve your chances of collecting the full bill eventually, especially if a lawsuit proves necessary."

· Track slow-paying customers closely. "Make certain your receivables records can tell you when to expect your payment." Then, urges Kirschbaum, "if your records tell you Day 60 and it's the 61st day, your collection staffers need to get on the phone and start heavily tracking the payment. Remember, some slow payers eventually default on their debts and go out of business."

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