Get Paid On Your Terms


As a small distributor, what are my options for specifying payment terms and making sure I get paid on time? I don’t want to be in the business of financing my customers, but demanding cash or a credit card up front doesn’t always seem reasonable.

A As a small independent distributor myself, I am advising you peer-to-peer. First, change your mindset—you’re not “demanding” cash or credit card, you’re simply requesting a deposit for the order. My terms of agreement are included with each quote and specify a 50-percent deposit at the time the order is placed with the remaining balance due within 10 days of receipt of the order, so customers understand up front what is expected. Once the customer selects their products, I generate the invoice and the customer remits a deposit via online payment. After the deposit is received, I begin the order. There’s nothing unreasonable about that request. When customers place orders online with the big dot-com companies, payment is made in full at the time order is placed, no questions asked.

Second, understand your audience. If you’re building a book of business with corporate giants, then it’s not likely you will receive a deposit, and you may have to wait 30, 60 and sometimes 90 days to get paid. I choose to work with local mid- sized businesses where I set the terms of how I get paid. 

As the saying goes, we teach others how we want to be treated. So, teach your customers that you’re a creative promotional marketer and not a loan officer. Collecting deposits will keep you from having cash flow issues. 

TC BEE, Inc.
PPAI 666528


The employees you hire and the customers you choose to do business with will determine your success regardless of your company’s size. Check a potential customer’s credit before you begin the relationship. Extend reasonable and fair terms to everyone you do business with. Many credit issues occur because we fail to follow-up on invoices before 45 days with a gentle request for payment. By reminding your clients in a timely manner you have respectfully reinforced the terms of your agreement.  

Brand Architect
PPAI 105182


We are also a small distributor and have been in business for over 10 years. We have not found a one-size-fits-all approach to this problem. We have clients with payment in advance, COD and 30-day terms. We take the time to get to know our customers and how they pay, then we adjust how we do business with them. We have some customers that pay immediately and others that take 60 days, and we price jobs accordingly for each. We make sure we send order confirmations before we start the job to be clear on what we are producing, the costs and payment terms. Always put it in writing and have them sign it.

You are a business that provides goods and services, and if your customer does not respect this, they should not be your customer. 

PPAI 344495


Don’t be bashful about being up front about getting paid. If you know the client, there should not be a problem simply stating what your terms are. Mine have always been 15 days and I have never waited more than 30 days. If you don’t know them, ask for their standard credit information, which is no different than suppliers ask of us.

If you accept credit cards, make sure you recover your service fees unless you build it in or are willing to discount your order by 2.75 to four percent. 

This information should be on all your correspondence from day one. The only reason you won’t get paid is if you let someone take advantage of you, and there are companies out there that will try.

This should apply to the order for 24 t-shirts as well as the $100,000 order from your biggest client. If it is an overseas project, collect 50 percent with the order and the balance at the time of shipment.

Matrix Resourcing Corporation
PPAI 149632


After closing the sale with a new client, discuss what your terms are. For all new clients, we ask for 50 percent of the total of the order and the balance on delivery in order to establish terms for the future, which are normally net 15 days. After discussing terms, ask what their payment schedule is.    

I found over the years, if you get the client to commit themselves to a payment schedule, it usually works in your favor.

T.N.M. Promotions
PPAI 191061


We opened our doors with a clearly stated 50 percent-down policy, provided either by check or credit card. We process the remaining balance after the product has been delivered. I am not a bank and am not going to finance orders and wait 30, 45 or 60 days to get paid. I have seen too many distributors jump into 30-day net terms with clients and then they are upside down trying to stay ahead. Our confirmations clearly state our policy, and we share it with all of our clients up front.

Initially, we had a few new clients that didn’t want to do adhere to our policy, so we walked away from each other. But for the most part, our clients are on board with this policy. 

Honestly, this method just works for us, and it takes most of the financial risk out of the process. As an added bonus, it has kept us from having collection issues as well.

Amplified Image Marketing
PPAI 493662


Do You Have An Answer?

A Supplier Asks:
Looking ahead to the upcoming trade show season, I want our company to have a more targeted approach to trade shows as an important piece of our overall marketing plan. What have other suppliers done to increase their visibility, engagement and measurable outcomes from trade shows? Are there strategies that can be borrowed from outside the industry? What pitfalls should be avoided to maximize our investment?

What’s Your Answer?
Email answers along with your name, title and company name by July 27 to for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of PPB magazine.


Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.

filed under PPB Magazine | Question | July 2018
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Comments (1)
Richard DeBiaso
September 6, 2018
With new customers I always get 100% payment at time of order, including any taxes and shipping costs. Years ago I learned the hard way, that each order is a custom order. You may say each order is custom? Yes, what may sound as a simple pencil order for XYZ company with their imprint IS a custom order because no other business could use these pencils because they have XYZ companies imprint.
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