Guide

Getting paid when exporting

Managing your overseas customers' payment performance

You need to have efficient credit control procedures when selling overseas. Payment for most export transactions takes time, and you will have to finance your export activities until you are paid.

Many processes and best-practice principles for effective overseas credit control, such as offering discounts for prompt payment, are the same as in your home market. Read more about managing late payment.

Specific considerations for exporters

Ensure you have the skills and manpower to run an effective credit control operation for overseas customers.

Key issues include:

  • Language. Can your staff communicate with overseas customers? If not, chasing payment can be difficult.
  • System knowledge. Payment terms, such as letters of credit, can be complex. Do your staff have sufficient training?
  • Time zones. When trading overseas, your customers' working hours may differ from yours. Could you arrange to contact them in their working hours?
  • Communications infrastructure. How strong is the communications network in your customers' country? What are the implications for speed of communication and payment?
  • Cost. Chasing overseas debt can be time-consuming and costly. Have you got the resources to fund this?

Outsourcing credit control

If you are not confident about managing your own credit control procedures for overseas customers, or do not have the resources, you can outsource them.

Managed credit insurance schemes will obtain country information, check customer details, set credit limits and chase overseas payments for you. You will have to pay for this service, usually as part of a premium for credit insurance cover. Read more about insurance against non-payment by overseas customers. Some banks also offer this service for a fee.

You could also sell your invoices to a debt-factoring house, which will take on the work of recovering the payments. You can also raise money through invoice discounting, but you remain responsible for recovering the debt. Read about the basics of factoring and invoice discounting.

Non-payment

If you are not paid and the relationship with your customer breaks down, you should consider claiming on your insurance. Most insurance protecting against non-payment from overseas customers is tailored to suit your business. You can choose to cover your entire overseas turnover, specific customer debts or single large contracts.

Alternatively you may wish to use a debt collection agency to pursue the debt.