I am a purchasing agent for foreign companies. My clients find me on the Internet. I provide services so my clients pay me my service charge. They don't personally know me before they contact me. I met quite a lot of businessmen. They disappeared after they got what information they needed so I end up empty-handed. Some businessmen even told me in email,"OK, regarding your payment, I will wire the money to you tomorrow." After a few days, no email from him and no payment arrived, when I sent an email to ask what was happening, the businessman became unresponsive as if he was dead. Of course I don't mean all businessmen. Some businessmen are really good. Later I always request a upfront payment before I formally start to work on a project. However, a new problem arises. Some businessmen don't accept this request because they claim that they don't know me. It is true that they don't know me before they contact me. I suggest that I could provide testimonials from my previous clients, but it seems that quite a lot of businessmen are not interested in seeing testimonials. Then we reach a stalemate. How to solve this problem? Do you have any ideas?
If I take a non-payer up in court, it will cost me a lot of money and time and I don't think it is worth doing it. My service charges are not too much.
That's a dilemma. You have few remedies in this but prepayment for services for the new clients and especially if you have the list of countries that have more non-payers then others would be a preferable. If a foreign business tell you that they won't pay you up front because "they don't know you" then consider these are not your clients paying up front is a common practice in b2b for new clients coming in. And if they don't want to pay they are welcome to find someone else who would. The issue is that it's not that they don't know you but the fact that you don't know them.
Another option is Escrow. Not sure that the amount of money involved but you can certainly do the number crunching to see if you can take advantage of this.
As far as courts are concerned think about this. How would you collect if you receive the judgement in China against a company in another country?
As Karlson says, anyone that pulls the "I don't know you" card, is not necessarily going to be a good client anyway. That said, there's a few things you can do in this situation, however here's what I woud do:
First, you can acknowledge their concerns and then point out that you also do not know them.
This puts you both back onto even territory - but right into a no-win situation. To break the no-win situation, you can either insist on payment up front, or compromise at 50% up front and 50% on completion.
Offering a 100% money back guarantee is also a great way to help build trust, along with testimonials from previous clients.
It's possible you're just not managing expectations.
My suggestion would be to for you to clearly state what your process is upfront in writing, which would be the first step in your process. Then within the this process statement, it should include you stating when you expect payments, and how they will be calculated. Then second step in your process should be getting confirmation that the potential client understands the process, and has voiced any concerns about it; which one would hope would included any concerns they have regarding payments and the delivery of what you're selling.
As for the general topic of building trust, I'd highly suggest producing videos and doing video conferencing if the spoken language is not an issue. People really like seeing who they're talking to, the persons expressions, etc; looks really aren't that important, though a clean background, good lighting, sound/video quality is important.
Clearly my suggestions might not apply to you, or be a fit for you - but if you have any questions, or additional information about your needs, just let me know.