Technology has allowed businesses to make substantial improvements in their customer invoicing processes. The good news is that when you implement these technologies, you will almost always get paid much faster.
If it’s been a few years since the last time you’ve changed your accounts receivable processes, it’s time for a new look. Here are 5 tips you can use to rate your own invoicing process.
- Invoice Creation
The best way to create all of your invoices is by the push of a button from one of about five types of systems that already have all of your data:
- Time and billing (if you bill hourly)
- Estimating and project management (if you use proposals)
- Customer relations management (CRM) systems that have invoicing as a feature
- Point of sales systems that track open accounts
- Accounting system that includes an A/R component
There are a couple of key best-practice concepts to follow at this step:
- Eliminate any duplicate data entry you can. You should only have to enter your invoicing data in one place, and it should flow to every other system that needs it.
- Automate as much of the process as possible. NEVER start in Word or Excel, because this always means duplicate data entry somewhere.
- Create an easy SOP so someone else can do the data entry if needed.
- Keep your invoice data real-time so you can benefit from the next step, which is….
- Invoice Delivery
How you create your invoice will vary by the type of business you have, but the main thing to make sure of is that the invoice is approved quickly and sent out to the client as soon as the work has been done.
The only way to do this is electronically. If you’re still printing, stuffing, stamping, and mailing your invoices, you’re losing anywhere from two days to nearly a week before your customer even sees the bill. Change that by using email or delivering the invoice electronically.
- Invoice Terms
When do you want to get paid? Most people feel it’s realistic to aim for 30 days. But if you set your payment terms to Net 30, you’re more likely to get paid in 45 days, not 30.. Am I right?!
INSTEAD, we recommend setting your terms at 10 days, because many small businesses pay two weeks late.
- Payment Method
How does your business rate when it comes to payment options? If all you take is checks, you can add another week’s delay to your payment. INSTEAD, we recommend accepting debit and credit cards through MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover.
When you get paid electronically, it’s in your bank (or your merchant account) within minutes. If you bank online, you can see things immediately now (it’s really amazing!). When you receive a check, you have the overhead of preparing the deposit and making the trip to the bank. If you have hundreds of paper checks, you may also have additional bank fees incurred from processing the checks.
If your accounting system interfaces with your bank, then you save a lot of time and money not having to post those transactions.
Why not get out of the invoicing business altogether by offering a pay-in-advance option? Your Accounts Receivable balance goes to nothing, to name one of many benefits. Not every industry can adopt this practice, but if you think creatively, you might find some ways you can implement this in your business.
How did your A/R process rate on the 5-point checklist? Got some ideas for improvement? As always, please reach out if you have A/R questions or if we can help you implement your best-practice invoicing system.