Commercial Collection Agencies of America

Negotiation Skills Are the Key to Collections

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As you make collection calls each day, it can be easy to forget that you are negotiating with people and not just talking at them about debts.

A collection call is not just an ordinary conversation in which your attention can move in and out without affecting the outcome of the call. It is an active negotiation that requires full attention in order to do the best job for both your company and your customer.

Here are six negotiating techniques that can help you gather the information you need to move toward a commitment to pay:

  1. Give the debtor time. Recognize that a debtor needs time to talk and give him or her adequate time to speak. If you don't rush a debtor, he or she is likely to reveal important information you need to settle the debt.

  2. Pay attention. Concentrate on what is being said, not what's going on around you or what you plan to say next. By focusing on the debtor's words, you are more likely to pick up on subtleties that will help you collect.

  3. Give feedback. Encourage the debtor to continue speaking with such prompts as "Go on," "I see," "Uh-huh," etc.

  4. Save your questions. Badly timed questions can cause a person to stop giving information. In fact, the person might withhold information that might otherwise have been revealed. Wait until the debtor has finished his or her thought before asking a question.

  5. Don't be critical. Most debtors know that the right thing to do is pay the debt. Harping on this subject will only lead to negative attitudes.

    Instead, create a positive climate by focusing on what the debtor is saying. Let the debtor know his or her input is important. This will increase the debtor's self-esteem and encourages them to work with you.

  6. Don't give advice. Advice implies that you are not listening and that you are only interested in presenting your point of view. Let the debtor state his or her case, then ask for suggestions to resolve the situation. Once the debtor has given his or her suggestions, then you can offer your ideas--preferably accepting one of the debtor's solutions or adapting it to fit your company's needs better.

By treating each collection call as an active negotiation, you will be more likely to listen to what is being said and make the most out of the tools the debtor offers you. This approach can improve both customer relations and collections.

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