This article is part of our vendor management guide.
Vendor invoicing can be a painstaking process on either side of the table. And the more vendors you’re managing, the more important and challenging it can be to stay organized. But managing your vendors and paying them on time doesn’t have to feel like complete chaos each month. With the right vendor management systems in place, you can handle your vendors proactively, without the invoice processing headache. In this article, we’ll take you through vendor management best practices and ways to reduce your invoice processing time.
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What is a vendor invoice?
Vendor invoices are payment requests for goods and services rendered. Vendor invoices can be representative of an ongoing business relationship or can be a one-time deal, depending on what it is you’re seeking a vendor for.
What is vendor invoice management?
Vendor invoice management is the process of managing supplier or vendor invoices. It’s an accounts payable function that includes receiving, approving, and auditing invoices. Companies can save time and money by eliminating manual invoice management processes and replacing them with automated workflows.
5 important components of a vendor invoice
Every vendor invoice you process will have these five key parts. Each component can help improve the functionality of your vendor invoice management and payment process.
1. Invoice number
Every invoice issued will include a unique invoice number or purchase order number to help maintain tax and accounting records. Ideally, if you’re consistently using the same providers, they’ll implement a sequential numbering system to help everyone stay organized, i.e., increase the number by one every time they issue a new invoice.
This may seem like an obvious line item, but likely there will be multiple dates on a vendor invoice. In this case, the date refers to the official transaction date and is typically the same date a vendor bills a customer. Vendor invoices also will include a payment due date, which is generally 30 days from the initial invoice date, but can change depending on the transaction.
3. Contact information
When you’re processing vendor invoices, it’s important to know who, what and where you need to send payment. Both parties will need to be able to contact one another to make sure there aren’t any issues. Generally, both the buyer and seller information will be listed and include:
- Business or client name
- Business or client address
- Business or client phone number
- Personal or work email address
4. Description of products or services
When a vendor submits an invoice, they’ll include a line item for every product or service included in the order. The order lines will include the price per unit and the total number of units ordered. At the bottom of the vendor invoice, there will be a subtotal for the goods or services followed by any taxes or additional fees.
5. Payment terms
Before the vendor billing stage, a company will usually provide a quote or estimate for their goods or services, which allows the client to compare prices among the competition. As the buyer, it’s important to negotiate with vendors before making a commitment to a particular vendor or their payment terms.
Vendors may offer a line of credit to give their clients the option to pay for goods or services over time, rather than in a lump sum, typically with a monthly or quarterly bill. But either way, you’ll likely run into these common invoice terms:
- Payment in advance (PIA): when a vendor requires payment before providing goods or services. In some cases, like with freelance writers, you might be asked to pay half upfront and half upon delivery.
- Cash in advance (CIA): similar to PIA, cash in advance is when a vendor expects a full payment, in cash, upfront before delivering goods or services.
- Upon receipt: when a customer is expected to pay in full immediately after receiving a vendor invoice.
- Net 7, 10, 30, 60, 90: refers to when a net payment is due (i.e., 7, 10, 30, 60 or 90 days after the initial invoice date). In some cases, vendors will offer a 2% discount on a Net 30 if they receive a payment within 10 days, also known as 2/10 Net 30.
- End of month (EOM): when the seller expects to be paid in full by the end of the month of the invoice date. For example, if you received a vendor invoice dated 11/11, you’d be expected to pay in full by 11/30.
How to streamline your vendor invoice management
Have an invoice processing procedure in place
As a buyer, you’ll need to inform vendors of your accounts payable process and negotiate as needed, for which you’ll likely need to:
- Decide if you’ll need a purchase order, which contains a detailed description of the project, including quantity or unit price if the vendor is providing goods, payment terms and delivery information.
- Establish a preferred method of invoicing and be consistent.
- Figure out what invoice information you require from vendors. If you’re ordering T-shirts do you want precise details on colors, sizes, weight, and materials? This is important for invoice approval and auditing.
- Make sure the payment terms, including any discounts for early payments and potential late fees, and due date are clearly marked on the invoice to avoid any hiccups.
Create an official accounts payable process
Whether you’re a small business or a Fortune 500 company, having an accounts payable procedure is crucial to avoiding mishaps. Even if you’re on the small side, you’ll likely want to have more than one person handling the process to avoid errors and fraud. Ideally, you’d have one person receive the invoice and check it against any other information, like a purchase order, and another person approve and schedule the payment.
But the best way to streamline this process is to get automated. Small business accounting software can help you stay organized and further eliminate human error. Features like AI-powered invoice processing, multi-level approvals, and one-touch payments can all help you save time and avoid costly errors.
Make payments on time
Just like your personal credit score, your business credit score can take a hit if you don’t pay your bills on time. You can avoid late or missed payments by capitalizing on early payment discounts, keeping your invoice processing system up to date and making sure you have adequate cash flow at all times. Using a corporate card wherever possible can help you stay up-to-date with what you owe. And using vendor specific virtual cards for business can further help you track and control spend.
Ramp’s vendor management services give you all your subscriptions in one place to streamline procurement and keep communication on track with Slack integration, ultimately allowing you to close your books 5 times faster through automation.
Harness the power of automation to simplify vendor invoicing with Ramp
Ramp, the only finance automation system designed to save you both time and money, is a critical tool for streamlining vendor invoice management. With a software-first, card-second mentality, Ramp automatically tracks and predicts upcoming payments for your company’s subscriptions and vendors. With Bill Pay, you’ll be able to streamline your payments and cut back on hours wasted with automatic bill payments, bill creation, approvals, and accounting.
Ramp’s vendor management platform allows you to plan your spend by collecting all of your vendors and contracts in real-time and housing them in a centralized location. Streamline the procurement planning process with seamless approvals that take just seconds to review and approve.
Duplicate invoice spend accounts for roughly 1% of annual disbursements, even among top-performing companies. With Ramp, you’ll never pay for the same service twice as the system works to create actionable ways to cut back on wasted spending by detecting duplicate subscriptions and redundant vendors.