Scrutinize your AP automation partner the same way you would a contractor

Corporate Payments And Payables

Paul McMeekin

Paul McMeekin

Feb 8, 2022

Imagine in your role at a property management company, that you’ve sat down with a contractor to discuss a wholesale replacement of an HVAC system in one of your buildings. They wow you with their words and some compelling visuals; they promise you a more effective replacement within a month, and they tell you they can get it done for less than any other bidder. You’re so impressed that you shake hands. You sign the dotted line. And you get ready to pay for the benefits they’re sure to deliver.

Six months later, you have a half-finished project, the costs are ringing up, and you can’t heat or cool your building properly. At that point, you’re cursing yourself for not doing more due diligence and letting a fast talker win you over and wondering if you’re out a huge amount of money you’ll never recoup.

Chances are you can laugh about this scenario because you’re too diligent to let that happen. A contractor who isn’t up to snuff or is intent on bilking you out of your money isn’t going to skate by your level of scrutiny and your expectations for a partner.

Payment automation partners won’t be banging around in the vents in your buildings— nothing good would come of it—but they too can wind up making a slick pitch that they can’t possibly live up to. Today, every business needs to get on board with payment automation, but few need it as badly as real estate companies, which have too many disparate bank accounts and check payments to effectively navigate the modern world. Regardless of where you are in your digital transformation journey, payment automation is key, and getting the right solution in place is a big decision with huge ramifications for the entire business.

While the projects, scope, and outcomes are very different, you should absolutely treat the payment automation providers you’re evaluating like any HVAC contractor your business might hire. Here are a few tips for applying the rigor you’re used to giving to contractors when evaluating payment automation providers.

Ask for examples of what they do

We know not every AP automation provider will have a case study to hand over for real estate, which may or may not be a fatal flaw for you. They should be able to show or at least tell you in detail how they work effectively with your ERP or other system of record, provide internal or external studies about their efficacy in transforming payments processes and give you a sense of the customers they’re working with within your field.

If they’re not familiar with real estate’s unique challenges or at least can’t articulate how their solution fits any industry snugly, they may not be the right fit for you. Unless you want to take a shot at an impressive rookie, experience is essential.

What are the benefits of choosing them?

There are a dizzying number of companies promising some level of payment and process automation, but how many of them do it well? The better question, really, might be how many of them offer something unique.

Ask them about rebates, which have the potential to drive revenue to the traditional cost center that is accounts payable. Ask them about fraud prevention, and how they stand between you and increasingly sophisticated criminals trying to intercept your payments. Ask them about visibility, and whether they can provide any tools or solutions to what a scattered and opaque AP process might be.

Finally, be sure to ask them about how they onboard your vendors to payment types like ACH and card, because your overworked AP team does not want to be left holding the bag on that major project. Ask them if their vendor onboarding is a one-off, or continuous. A credible provider should offer all these things, and they should be able to articulate how they do them well or even differently than anyone else in the market.

The internet is your friend

Too often, we take what we hear as truth when a little follow-up is warranted. When you’re vetting a business relationship as critical as the one with your payment automation partner, plan to treat it like a first date: you might hear a lot of talk about them, but you might not be getting the full story.

Before, and then after, you talk to the partner you’re evaluating, take the time to search them online. Is their website reputable and full of the kind of insights that makes it clear they know what they’re talking about? How do they perform in independent research? Simply put, does the company seem positioned to do what they tell you they can do?

With careful vetting and a skeptical eye, you can get the best payment automation solution for your business and reap the benefits of streamlining, securing, and digitizing every payment you make. Take the time to get it right, just as you would with any other major project your real estate business will be paying for, and don’t ask them to touch your HVAC system.

And, if you’re interested, we’ve put together a simple buyer’s guide gleaned from hundreds of interactions we have each year with companies looking to automate their accounts payable.

Related topics

Ap Automation
Paul McMeekin

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Paul McMeekin

Paul McMeekin, VP solutions marketing and channel sales enablement, has a passion for building high performing teams and disciplined marketing which has been proven to efficiently grow the business. This is achieved through formulating key strategies, precise market positioning, creating unique value props and executing campaigns.

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