It is easy to think that once you have closed a sale, you can relax. Far from it. Often, shaking hands is simply the first in a series of steps to ensure the deal goes through smoothly.

Firstly, remember to enter the sales negotiation armed with information. If the value or risk of the business transaction is high then it is wise to get as much financial information about the client as possible, to minimise the level of risk to the business and protect against bad debt.

Many sales people simply see it as their job to close the deal and to then leave the rest of the details to others. However, successful businesses need to make sure that all departments in their companies are working to the same ends – making the business profitable. This means that the sales department and the accounts team are working in tandem, providing each other with the information and details they both need.

Closing the sale is not simply a matter of asking for an order. The person closing the sale must also establish terms of delivery and payment. The best way to do this is through standardised paperwork which state the credit terms to the buyer and present them with your credit application form. It is always essential to establish a named contact responsible for payment.

Credit reports

For very small orders, a credit report may be uneconomic and you may wish to take the risk yourself. However, for significant orders, buy a credit report. Bank and trade references should always answer specific questions such as; can I grant £500 credit? Or what proportion of this firms payments to you are overdue? However, bank and trade references alone should not be relied upon.

Decide a credit limit. A credit reference agency may recommend one or do it yourself, deciding whether a firm is a high risk, a late payer with adverse information such as county court judgements against it or dubious individuals involved; or low risk, with a good payment record and good credit references. If you decide to grant credit, set up an account and write to the customer confirming this.

Finally, always have delivery confirmed with a delivery note and follow up with a phone call, confirming that delivery was satisfactory. Invoice immediately, restating credit terms, and quoting an order number if appropriate.