Smarten invoicing to optimize payments

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June 24, 2010
Money Health
Mary Ann Reilly

This report originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of DOTmed Business News

For many medical supplies and equipment professionals in a down economy, an efficient invoicing process is essential to maintaining a healthy cash flow. Smart invoicing can significantly shorten the time between completing work and getting paid for it. It can also reduce the time spent sending invoices and handling payments.

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Results from the Spring 2010 American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor reveal that 60 percent of the entrepreneurs surveyed are experiencing cash flow issues, with their biggest cash flow worry being the ability to pay bills on time. In an economic downturn, customers can take longer to pay and this can mean less available cash for medical supplies and equipment professionals to pay their own bills.

No matter what their current invoice process is, medical supplies and equipment small-business owners can take steps to help improve both how quickly they are paid and customer relations. These tips can serve as a roadmap to improve your invoicing:

Check References: Before establishing relationships with new customers, research their credit and payment histories so you can avoid companies with payment issues. Have them complete a credit application and check their references. Conduct a credit check with a credit reporting agency, such as Dun & Bradstreet or Experian, before accepting a large order. Consider requiring a deposit from those whose credit reports raise concern.

Adapt to Your Customers' Preferences: Contact new customers to inquire about the information they require on invoices. Time spent on this process can go a long way toward ensuring that your invoices move quickly through a customer's payment system. Here are some things you'll probably want to ask your customers concerning what they need on an invoice:

Do they need a purchase order number or will your company invoice number suffice?

Is an itemized breakdown of work completed required on an invoice or just a general description?

Should you provide a description of the goods or services delivered?

Do you need to include your employer identification number on the invoice?

Also determine how your customers like to receive invoices. Some may prefer faxed invoices; some require mailed copies; and others will only accept invoices delivered via e-mail. Consider setting up a receipt process so you will know your invoice was actually received.