Negotiation is an essential component of international debt recovery. The international debt collector will often need to negotiate in order to collect (part of) a debt. Below we are discussing seven elements of negotiation during international debt recovery which we believe are essential for achieving a solution which is satisfactory to your client, the creditor.
Understand the circumstances of the international debt
Before you start negotiating, be sure you understand the circumstances of the debt. Why does debtor not pay? Is the creditor’s claim disputed or acknowledged? Does debtor have financial issues, short-term or long-term? Are financial issues business-related, sector-related or because of domestic economic, social, political or monetary problems (currently Brazil with an economy in regression, or several other Latin American countries like Colombia, Mexico and again Brazil who are dealing with heavy currency devaluations)? Can debtor not pay because they are subject to foreign currency controls (like Argentina or Venezuela)? Which alternatives do you possibly have if you do not accept to negotiate the international debt (insistence on full and immediate payment, legal proceedings to enforce payment, or a write off and end of commercial relationship)?
Set goals: what do you want to achieve with negotiation?
Once you understand the circumstances of the debt, define what your goals are during the debt recovery process. A payment plan or a settlement, or a combination? (partial) waiver of debt in exchange for return of goods? Which target amounts or percentages will you go for and what is the very minimum you will accept for settlement or instalments?
Be realistic about chances of debt recovery
When you set your goals for debt recovery and your negotiations with debtor, be realistic about what can be achieved. What may be realistic is defined by the circumstances of the debt, how much flexibility creditor shows, your negotiations skills and to what extent you can convince debtor but also creditor. Chances for success for negotiations in international debt recovery increase substantially if you are able to find the right balance between what the circumstances of the debt allow you to do, and how far creditor is prepared to go to recover (part of) the international debt.
Show empathy for the debtor
During negotiations with the aim to collect an international debt, it is important that you show empathy for the debtor. You have to understand debtor’s position and take concerns, issues, problems and proposals seriously, and give debtor the feeling that you are negotiating with debtor with the aim to find a mutually satisfactory solution for the international debt. You will have to do this without ever abandoning your position as representative of the creditor, and keeping in mind always what would be the best outcome for the creditor.
Be straight in your communication with creditor
Equally as important as showing empathy for the debtor, is being straight in your communication with creditor. Never forget: you represent the creditor and your ultimate goal should be to gain as possible as possible from your negotiations during international debt recovery. From your negotiations, case by case, you will learn what the best possible achievement will be during the international debt recovery process. You should constantly communicate with creditor; explain to creditor the steps you are taking. What according to you is possible to achieve under the circumstances, and why. And which goals you set when you negotiate with debtor about the international debt.
Be settlement-minded during negotiations
Having read the above, it goes almost without saying that you should be settlement-minded when you negotiate during the international debt recovery process. You may often take as a fact that you will never get a hundred percent of what you are claiming on behalf of creditor. At the same time, you should want to achieve as much as possible. Perhaps that “as much as possible” is a settlement amount of 80%. Sometimes it will be 50%, or 25%. Or a payment plan of six months, twelve months, or five years. The definition of a satisfactory settlement during international debt recovery is, as already pointed out above, determined by the circumstances of the debt, and the flexibility of the creditor.
Close a clear agreement about the international debt
Once you have reached a settlement, or you agreed with creditor and debtor on a payment plan, put the agreement on paper and make sure what the terms and conditions are, what is expected from debtor, and what debtor may expect from the creditor and from you if the agreement is honored and also when the agreement is not honored. It is important to give and take. Meaning that if debtor complies with the settlement payment or payment plan, he or she receives an official release letter and perhaps the door is open again for business between creditor and debtor. On the other hand, if debtor does not honor the agreement, it may mean that the full debt is claimed again by creditor, legal proceedings against debtor are started (if possible at all) or the commercial relationship between creditor and debtor is fully terminated.
In this article we discussed seven elements of negotiation during international debt recovery which we believe are essential: understanding the circumstances of the international debt,
Setting your goals as to what do you want to achieve with negotiation, being realistic about chances of debt recovery, showing empathy for the debtor, being straight in your communication with creditor, being settlement-minded during negotiations, and closing a clear agreement about the international debt.
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