During the Coronavirus outbreak, many small businesses are desperate to keep the cash flowing. I recently heard of a company receiving a big order from an existing client and both the size and urgency set off alarm bells for them ...
Another business has had a number of smaller orders from a range of new customers from similar addresses. With them offering delayed payment terms as standard, they were a bit curious as to why they had a sudden jump in sales.
We shouldn't just accept outlier orders at face value, especially when you offer delayed payment terms. Remember, if something seems too good to be true then it probably is.
There are a number of things you need to think about with new customers:
- Why is the new customer okay with any price you give them?
If you suspect there is something wrong, then there probably is!
Don't just take the caller at face value. Always do an internet search for the company name and check email addresses against the company domain. Are you sure that email@example.com represents the multi-national company they claim to?
Use Google Earth to check out the address given when a new order was placed. If it's a derelict building or a freight-forwarding address then this could be a fraudulent order. Would an IFA order a new laptop then request it be delivered to a pub?
And some clever scammers even transpose street numbers or postcodes on their ship-to locations so that the delivery address is very similar to the official company address, but not quite.
When it comes to existing customers, your guard could be down. Businesses large and small can have their email breeched and you could receive an official purchase order from an email address you trust.
Watch for anything out of the ordinary. Is the shipping address different? Is the size of the order abnormal? Did the email come from a .net domain when it usually comes from a .com one?
When something changes, you need to validate that the order is correct or you could be left out of pocket when you request payment and your valued and trusted customer hasn't got a clue what you're talking about.
If you know your customer well, call them using a phone number you have used before and speak to a known contact. If you don't know them that well, phone the number on the website (not the purchase order) and ask to speak to the accounts team about the order.
And if your existing customer is ordering something they normally never do, especially in unusual quantities, that could be the red flag you need to check they are who they say they are and that the order is real.
We all want to keep out cashflow going in these uncertain times, but for the sake of a few extra minutes and a little extra vigilance, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by ensuring both new and existing customers are who they say they are and that the orders they are placing with you are the real deal.
If you feel inspired to find out more about anything I've said here, do call me on 01908 774320 or leave a comment below and I'll be in touch as soon as I can.