Credit advice

When you're chasing invoices you come across excuses all the time. They're never very creative and more often than not are just delaying tactics. Everyone tells white lies from time to time but here are some tips for addressing the most common and least credible.

"The director who signs the cheques is on holiday."

A common excuse, especially during the summer months and before and after bank holidays, but it is frequently used to delay payments. The arguments given by debtors can be reversed and used to secure payment. If you are told the director is on holiday, find out what provision has been made for signing salary cheques and paying utility bills. Normally in these circumstances signed cheques will have been left to settle important accounts. You can put pressure on the person dealing with you by stressing how important your account is, making them feel they will be going against the wishes of their boss by withholding payment.

"The computer is down."

Find out how often these problems occur and how long faults generally last. If this is a genuine problem the debtor ought to be willing to send a manual cheque. If they refuse, it will become apparent they are trying to avoid payment.

"The cheque is in the post."

Ask for cheque and postage details. If they have not sent payment, they won't be able to answer your questions.

We are waiting for funds from a large customer and can only pay you when these funds are received.

Ask the name and address of their debtor and the expected date of payment. The company should be able to arrange some form of credit with the bank on the security of the debt. Suggest they do this and find out how quickly this can be done.

We seem to have misplaced your invoice - can you send a copy?

Ask whether this is the only reason for late payment and offer to fax a copy immediately. If the debtor does not agree to pay straightaway, they are admitting that their requests for copy invoices were a delaying tactic.