5 Quick Tips for Expert Collection Negotiations

| Mary Shores

Negotiating is one of the most challenging parts of any collector’s job. This is because to negotiate successfully, we have to ask the consumer for higher payment arrangements, and these conversations can become uncomfortable.

We're leaving a lot of money on the table when we're negotiating without a strategy. We’re also leaving money on the table when we're not establishing payment arrangements that are effective, affordable, and quick.

If you’re uncomfortable negotiating, you’re not alone. Here’s a good way to look at it: it’s always best for everyone involved to get the account paid off in the fastest time possible.

In other words, it’s always best to rip the debt off like a band-aid.

Before we dive into the quick tips, here are some important elements you need to achieve higher payment arrangements:

  • Use active language rather than passive or aggressive language

  • Be empathetic by consistently using validating phrasing

  • Know how to respond to payment offers that are too low

Negotiating effectively may seem challenging at first. You just need to know how to get there.

That’s why I’m sharing a few quick tips to up-level your negotiations instantly.


Quick Tip #1: Start Your Payment Arrangement Negotiations High to End High

It’s important to remember that no matter what, a consumer will most likely say “no” to the first payment arrangement offer, especially if it's on the higher end, so you should trust the process and follow the strategy that will get you the highest arrangement. Simply put, the higher you start, the higher you will end.

"Simply put, the higher you start, the higher you will end."

If the consumer can pay, great! If not, that’s ok too. You have to get comfortable hearing them say “no” to negotiate effectively. Remember: the higher you start, the higher you will end.

This first attempt is something radically different from what you’ve done before. I know it’s going to be hard. It might not seem like it now, but once you try this a few times, eventually you’ll find a rhythm and become stronger at your negotiation skills, and you’ll be so happy about the arrangements you’re going to make.


Quick Tip #2: Face Your Fear of the Freak-Out

When you start with high payment arrangement offers, you might be worried the consumer will become frustrated and upset. I call this fear of the freak-out, and it's a fear many collectors face each day.

The good news is, you can combat that fear. It all starts with how you communicate.

If you approach negotiations with empathy and compassion, the consumer will be more receptive to any offers you make.

For example, your negotiations are a good opportunity to let them know that you truly do understand what they’re going through, and you’re confident about finding a solution that works within their current budget.


Quick Tip #3: Negotiate Down in Small Increments

One mistake I see collectors make is starting off with a high arrangement and then immediately jumping down to a low one. For instance, they might offer a three-month arrangement and then offer a nine-month arrangement after the first "no."

Instead, we can take the consumer down a ladder one step at a time. After all, it wouldn’t make sense to go from three payments to nine payments because that’s leaving a huge gap.

We want to negotiate down in small increments, like three months, then six months, and then nine months. That way, we're not overwhelming the consumer, and we're still likely to end up with a higher arrangement.


Quick Tip #4: Use the Psychological Pause Between Offers

Make sure to use the psychological pause between attempts to give the consumer space to process and consider your offer.

If you struggle with feeling uncomfortable during a psychological pause, try taking a sip of water after making your attempt. That way, you won't be able to interrupt the silence.

The psychological pause is especially important when you're top-down negotiating because the consumer needs time to consider if a higher arrangement will work within their budget. If you interrupt, you may get a counterfeit yes or a "no." So, use the psychological pause and watch your payment arrangement negotiations improve!


Quick Tip #5: Make Three Attempts Before Asking a Question

Ultimately, you'll want to offer three arrangements until the consumer is comfortable giving the commitment yes. If they reject the third offer, you may want to start asking some questions to gather more information.

A great question to ask after they’ve rejected three payment options is:

“Is this something you intend on taking care of?”

Or another great question is:

“How long do you need to pay off the account?”

When they answer this question, it gives you an idea of your next move.

These are great reflective questions that will remind the consumer that they are committed and also provide you with some information to help you continue your negotiations.

Your Assignment

My challenge for you is to use at least two of these tips in the next week. If you do, email me at to let me know how you did!

I talked in depth about my signature negotiation strategy at Collector.Live! 2022. Have you registered your team for this year’s event yet? If you haven't, you'll be happy to know that there’s still time! Register here.

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