TERMS OF SALE – “Don’t Give Away the Farm to Get The Sale!”
Too often exporters are more than happy to find a new market for their product or service and assume they can approach the details of the sale in the same way they bill a domestic client, rushing through the customer application process and offering open account terms. You should start by asking for your payment up front and negotiate only when asked to do so; many foreign buyers are accustomed to paying in advance and you will give away your advantage unnecessarily. You should at least ask for other US suppliers who offer them terms and conduct your background research on them. You may also work toward open account once you’ve learned how they operate, noting their ethics and expediency in paying. The majority of new export customers will end up paying when given terms, but will often stretch a 30 day invoice to 60 or 90 days, short pay the wire transaction fee or haggle over other details. Move slowly but surely and you will prove that you are a discerning and serious supplier, winning their respect and having more control over your cash flow.
GET IT TOGETHER – “Everything together in a single E-mail”
Leading up to the day of shipment, you have been keeping your customer abreast of your expected ship date. Now that the day has arrived and you’re shipping the goods make sure to package all information into one handy email message where your customer, their receiving department, accounts payable, and above all their custom’s clearance agent can access everything in one place. You may create a group list for that particular customer with all names/titles/email addresses handy for your shipping department’s use. Then make sure the email goes out with all necessary information such as the carrier tracking number, documentation (invoice/cert of origin/packing list etc.), weights/dimensions/# of boxes and photographs as needed – note that photos can be a good way to prove that goods left your location with all items in box, undamaged, in case of future claims.
BORDER CROSSINGS – “Don’t assume, it makes an A@@ of U and Me”
We can make the mistake of assuming that since we’ve shipped out the goods and that we’ve done such a fantastic job of putting all relevant shipping information into a handy email, notified customer and their forwarder, that we’re now at the countdown to getting our payment. Not so fast! It often happens that a break in the line of communication goes unnoticed for days, sometimes even weeks, and boxes are sitting on the dock at the freight forwarder or custom’s broker’s location – not only collecting dust but maybe even demurrage or storage charges…and the clock is ticking on your invoice. Make it a routine to set a reminder and call at 2 days, 1 week and 2 weeks after shipment to the forwarder and customer to ensure they have what they need and goods are moving smoothly. You’ll get a repeat customer for the excellent service, and get paid on time!
PAYMENT – “Don’t wait for Mañana”
Now that you’ve ensured that the goods are through customs and received at your customer’s location, make sure to send an informative and friendly email to the accounts payable contact – and then follow up with a phone call the next day, with a smile in your voice. You want to make sure the invoice has been ‘capturada’ or captured into their system, and ‘programada para pago’ or programmed for payment. You know because of your frequent communication with the forwarder and customs broker, and your customer, that goods have arrived. You’ve sent A/P the email confirming this and with the invoice attached. Now kindly get this A/P person to commit to a payment date according to the terms negotiated. No need to get nasty about it but smart to stay on top of this and allow no means of escape!