Guide to Payment and Negotiation Strategies for Unpaid Accounts

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Training your staff on basic negotiating strategies can have a positive impact on your cash flow and your organization’s brand reputation.

Late paying consumers may experience many different factors leading to delinquency. Teaching staff negotiation strategies helps your business:

  • Recover more late payments
  • Improve the overall customer experience
“Successful negotiation is not about getting to 'yes'; it's about mastering 'no' and understanding what the path to an agreement is.”
Christopher Voss
Author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As if your Life Depended On it

Basic Negotiation Strategies

Negotiation strategies are an important part of payment collection. They help companies recover more unpaid debts, settle outstanding invoices faster, and come to payment agreements that work for both parties.

Christopher Voss, well-known FBI negotiator and author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on It is an expert in the field of negotiation.

He and other negotiation experts have spent their careers learning (and teaching) effective negotiation strategies that lead individuals and businesses to success.


Voss says tactical empathy is a way to understand what the other party in a negotiation is feeling and how that might influence their choices. You can use this negotiation strategy to create mutually beneficial deals when discussing a past-due account.

Keep these three items in mind when using tactical empathy during a negotiated agreement:

  • Tone of voice - Avoid angry, rude or combative tones and language. If you don’t, the person you are negotiating with will not be receptive to your offers.

  • Avoid denial or disagreement - Do not deny the validity of the other person’s view. This will cause an unwillingness to negotiate a fair deal.

  • Make them feel heard - Build trust by validating the other party’s point of view during negotiation.

💡 Quick Negotiation Tip

Reframing questions you ask to customers can steer them toward a more helpful answer.


Often taught in speeches and other writing, Aristotle’s modes of persuasion are a powerful negotiation strategy. There are three approaches to persuasion, as follows:

  • Ethos - An appeal to ethics. This approach involves convincing a person of your viewpoint using your authority or credibility.

  • Logos - An appeal to logic. This strategy persuades a person through reason, using facts and figures.

  • Pathos - An appeal to emotion. This approach convinces people of your viewpoint by creating an emotional response with an impassioned plea or story.
“Emotions aren’t the obstacles to a successful negotiation; they are the means.”
Christopher Voss
Author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As if your Life Depended On it


Once you understand the basic components of successful negotiation techniques and strategies, you can use creative thinking to reach your negotiation goal.

  • Understand underlying interests - Successful negotiations only come about if you understand the other person’s goals as well as your own. Find out what your consumers hope to achieve through open ended questions and use active listening. This can be a powerful tool for negotiating payment terms with customers.

  • Problem solving - Foster an attitude of collaboration. Working together with consumers instead of against them will help you both feel comfortable solving the problem together.

  • Compromise - Negotiation should help you reach all of your goals. Occasionally, though, you'll have to give up some things you want to reach an agreement on both sides. Compromise as a negotiation strategy helps you find a mutually beneficial solution during hard conversations.

💡 Quick Negotiation Tip

Acknowledge what angry customers have to say and then tactfully direct the conversation back to the topics you must cover.


Without planning, even the best negotiation strategies won’t ensure a successful outcome.

Using a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) helps you plan for every outcome. With a BATNA, you decide before the negotiation what you will do if things don’t go as planned.

Ask key questions:

  • What happens if we cannot reach an agreement?
  • What will I do?
  • What will they do?

Be ready for a variety of outcomes and understand the best alternatives for both parties. This will prepare you to identify the terms you should and shouldn’t accept.

Payment Negotiation Strategies

The main goal of customer negotiation is to come to an agreement over payment terms. The negotiation strategies you use might change based on several factors.

  • Your company’s current credit terms and payment options
  • The amount owed–a large balance may be handled differently than a smaller payment
  • How late the customer is to pay their bill
  • Whether you are the original creditor or a third party who has been hired to recover the funds

Some of the most effective ways to negotiate payment terms are:


Top down is a negotiation strategy that starts every conversation asking for payment in full.

It’s easier to work your way down to a lower number than ask a consumer to pay a higher amount later.

In starting from the top offer and working down, you have plenty of room to negotiate terms that work for everyone.

💡 Quick Negotiation Tip

Instead of providing a concrete number, be prepared to give consumers payment options without offering a minimum.


Don’t let consumers set long-term, low dollar schedules that don’t bring you any money. Use negotiation skills to improve the recurring payment schedules you create:

  • Higher monthly payments, shorter schedules - Recurring payment schedules are a good negotiation tactic to get paid. The higher the monthly payment, the faster a balance will be paid off. This prospect is a good motivation for consumers. Suggest $10 or $15 more per payment, or a few high dollar, short term payments.
  • Offer down payments - Down payments help customers bring down the initial balance of a payment schedule. This is an advantage because it can lower monthly payments or reduce payoff time.
  • Don’t mention a minimum acceptable payment amount - when negotiating payment terms, you shouldn’t mention your minimum acceptable payment amount. Once a minimum is mentioned, that is likely the only offer a consumer will agree to.

💡 Quick Negotiation Tip

Get full, current, complete information during every call. The more an employee knows about the situation, the more solutions they can offer.


Any staff members who might engage in negotiation strategies with consumers need proper training.

Teach staff how to show empathy, refocus conversations and have a better call with a win-win outcome.

  • Focus on positive language - Eliminate negative language from consumer conversations. Positive framing makes consumers more receptive to your negotiated payment terms.
  • Teach conversational intelligence - Your staff should be trained to be emotionally intelligent and understand how to have natural, warm conversations with consumers. Part of this training needs to include how to remain friendly on a call without crossing the line and asking inappropriate questions.
  • Overcome stalls and objections - Train staff to recognize common stalls and objections. Have scripted responses available and give staff the opportunity to rehearse responding to common objections.
  • Make empathy a top priority - Life is unpredictable. Customers might miss payments due to unexpected financial hardships or other personal reasons. Your team should show empathy to consumers throughout any negotiation strategies they use. Teach front line staff to identify those who are able to pay bills right away and those who may need to hear other options.

💡 Quick Negotiation Tip

Really listen to what customers with complaints have to say. Ask for specific information about the points of the bill the customer disagrees with.


Investing in tools and materials is a long-term strategy that will standardize agent practices and benefit your business for years to come.

  • Call scripts - you can build good negotiation strategies into your call scripts, so your agents have a guide for how to proceed during calls. Scripts keep staff consistent and compliant, and improve consumer experience.
  • Training programs - If you don’t have the time or resources to handle training staff, look to training programs offered by industry professionals and trade organizations. They may be a better solution to get payment negotiations on track.
  • Software - A big part of securing a payment agreement is staying in control of calls. PDCflow payment software offers a variety of tools that make bill negotiations easier.

Payment conversations with customers can be difficult. Negotiation skills are essential for companies that experience chronic late payments or have a high volume of outstanding invoices. Otherwise, the payment collection calls you make won’t result in revenue.

Are you looking for tactics to prevent past due invoices from happening in the first place? Read this article for more information on how to reduce past due invoices from customers.