April 15, 2024 | Sean Makar

What is Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)? Understanding and Optimizing Accounts Receivable for the Health of Your Business

Efficient accounts receivables management is essential for a steady cash flow and financial stability. Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) serves as a key metric in evaluating the performance of your receivables. Use our calculator to determine your business's DSO and learn how Raistone can help.

DSO is a straightforward yet potent measure, representing the average time customers take to settle their credits and invoices. By optimizing DSO, you gain greater insights into your company’s cash conversion cycle, spot potential challenges in customer payment patterns, and empower informed decisions to enhance accounts receivable management.

Understanding DSO is critical for businesses of all sizes to achieve financial agility and resilience. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of Days Sales Outstanding, examining its significance, relevance, and, most importantly, strategies for utilizing it to enhance your company’s liquidity and financial well-being.

Whether you’re a seasoned finance professional or just starting to navigate the complexities of accounts receivable, this guide will provide the insights and strategies you need to take control of your DSO and unlock new opportunities for growth and success.

Why is Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) Important For Your Business?

Your Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) metric is more than just a number – it provides a glimpse into the inner workings of your accounts receivable and the overall health of your business, especially at a time when external economic market trends impact good companies that offer quality products. By closely monitoring your DSO, you can gain valuable insights that inform critical decisions and uncover opportunities for improvement.

First and foremost, DSO provides a clear picture of your customers’ payment patterns and behaviors. This metric becomes even more important when threats of increased prices, inflation and more continue to impact many companies. A high DSO, for example, may indicate that your clients are taking longer than expected to settle their invoices, potentially due to cash flow challenges on their end. Conversely, a low DSO could suggest that you offer attractive payment terms or that your collections process is highly effective.

But DSO goes beyond just customer behavior and external market conditions – it can also shine a light on potential challenges within your own internal processes. For example, a consistently high DSO may indicate problems with your processes, policies, or even your invoicing system.  

Your DSO is a powerful tool for understanding your business, identifying areas for improvement, and ultimately, driving greater financial success. Raistone can help you improve your DSO, giving you greater control over your cash management and growth, especially in these challenging times.

Days Sales Outstanding vs. Days Payable Outstanding: The Interplay Between Receivables and Payables

When discussing Days Sales Outstanding (DSO), it’s important to also consider its counterpart – Days Payable Outstanding (DPO). While DSO focuses on the average time it takes for your customers to pay their invoices, DPO reflects the average number of days it takes for your business to pay its own suppliers and vendors.

Understanding the relationship between DSO and DPO is crucial for optimizing your overall cash flow management. Ideally, you want to maintain a healthy balance between the two metrics, ensuring that your customers are paying you in a timely manner (low DSO) while also taking advantage of the payment terms offered by your suppliers (high DPO).

Think of it as a seesaw—if your DSO is significantly higher than your DPO, it means you’re financing your operations primarily through customer payments, which can put a strain on your cash flow. Conversely, if your DPO is much higher than your DSO, you may be taking advantage of supplier credit at the expense of your customer relationships and brand reputation.

By carefully monitoring and managing both DSO and DPO, you can strike the right balance and create a cash conversion cycle that works in your favor. This may involve negotiating better payment terms with your customers, leveraging early payment discounts from suppliers, and implementing more efficient accounts receivable and accounts payable processes.

To take this optimization a step further, many businesses turn to Raistone’s more comprehensive financing solutions. Raistone can help you accelerate payments on your outstanding invoices to improve DSO, while also providing supply chain financing options to extend your DPO and better manage payables. By leveraging Raistone’s expertise and non-debt working capital offerings, you can unlock the full potential of your cash flow and achieve an optimal balance between DSO and DPO – a critical factor in driving your overall financial health and success.

Calculate DSO: Days Sales Outstanding Formula

Knowing how to calculate Days Sales Outstanding is essential. Luckily, the formula to get to the DSO calculation is relatively straightforward:

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) = Accounts Receivable / (Net Credit Sales / Number of Days)

Let’s break down the components of this DSO formula:

Accounts Receivable: This represents the total amount of money owed to your business by customers for goods or services provided on credit.

Net Credit Sales: This figure includes all sales made on credit, excluding any cash sales or sales returns and allowances.

Number of Days: This is typically the number of days in the period you’re measuring, usually 365 for a full year or 90 for a quarter.

To demonstrate this calculation, let’s use a hypothetical example:

Imagine a company that is a HR consulting company. Over a period of one month, it records 450,000 in credit sales while maintaining $390,000 in accounts receivables. These receivables are typically settled within 60 days. Let’s determine its Days Sales Outstanding (DSO):

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) = Accounts Receivable / (Net Credit Sales / Number of Days)

DSO = (390,000/$450,000)*60

DSO = 52 

It’s important to emphasize that DSO calculations exclusively account for credit sales. Cash transactions do not impact accounts receivable or recovery time and maintain a DSO of 0.

This DSO of 52 days suggests that the company may be operating in a market environment where external factors are impacting its customers’ ability to pay promptly. Economic conditions, supply chain disruptions, or other industry-wide challenges could be contributing to delayed payments despite the company’s internal accounts receivable management practices. Try it for yourself below.

In situations where customer payment patterns are heavily influenced by external market forces, businesses must take a proactive approach to managing their Days Sales Outstanding. This may involve renegotiating payment terms, offering incentives for early payment, or exploring alternative financing options that can help bridge the gap between when the invoice was issued and customer remittance.


While internal strategies are certainly important, it’s crucial to also consider how broader economic and industry trends are affecting your customers’ cash flow and ability to pay.

DSO Calculator

By understanding these external influences and developing a multifaceted approach to DSO optimization, you can position your business for greater financial resilience and success, even in the face of challenging market conditions.

To further support your efforts, solutions like Raistone’s Accounts Receivable Financing can provide an additional layer of protection, empowering you to get paid faster on your outstanding invoices. By leveraging Raistone’s expertise and non-debt working capital offerings, you can take confident strides towards mastering your Days Sales Outstanding and strengthening your overall financial health.

Benchmarking Your DSO: What is a “Good” Days Sales Outstanding?

Now that you understand how to calculate your Days Sales Outstanding (DSO), the next step is to put that number into context. There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to defining a “good” DSO, as it can vary significantly depending on the industry, business model, and other unique factors. Generally speaking, industries with shorter sales cycles and payment terms, such as retail, tend to have lower DSO compared to sectors with longer lead times and more complex billing processes, like construction or government contracting. For example, according to National Summary of Domestic Trade Receivables Results, the average DSO across all industries in the U.S. in Q4 2023 was approximately 36 days.

With Raistone, companies across all industries can get help reducing their DSO. Raistone’s Accounts Receivable Financing solutions enable businesses to get accelerated payments on their invoices, often in as little as one day, without taking on additional debt. By leveraging Raistone’s non-debt working capital offerings, companies can maintain or even extend their customer payment terms while still improving their cash flow and DSO metrics.

The Impact of a Low DSO vs. a High DSO on your Accounts Receivables

When it comes to DSO, the numbers can make all the difference in the world. Understanding the implications of a low DSO versus a high DSO is crucial for making informed decisions and optimizing a company’s accounts receivable management.

A Low DSO: The Advantages

A low DSO, typically in the range of 20-40 days, is generally viewed as a positive indicator for a business. It suggests that their customers are paying their invoices in a timely manner, which can provide several key benefits:

  • Improved cash flow: With customers settling their bills quickly, companies have a steadier influx of cash to reinvest in their operations, fund growth initiatives, or meet financial obligations.
  • Reduced credit risk: A low DSO indicates that the company has a robust credit management process and is working with financially reliable customers.
  • Enhanced business agility: The ability to convert their accounts receivable into cash more rapidly gives them greater flexibility to adapt to market conditions and take advantage of new opportunities.

A High DSO: The Challenges

On the other hand, a prolonged DSO, typically 60 days or more, can expose a company to a range of challenges that require urgent attention. When customers protract the payment process, it can create cash flow bottlenecks, constraining the business’s ability to meet its own financial commitments or pursue strategic investments.

External market conditions can further exacerbate these DSO challenges. Customers may struggle to meet their financial obligations due to factors beyond the company’s control, leading to a higher DSO and the associated cash flow and credit risk implications.

A higher DSO, often 60 days or more, can signal potential internal challenges, but increasingly, companies are faced with pressing external factors outside of their control:

  • Strained cash flow: When customers struggle with cash flow and take an extended period to pay, it can create cash flow bottlenecks, making it difficult to meet a company’s financial obligations or pursue new investments.
  • Increased credit risk: A high DSO is often associated with a higher incidence of late payments or bad debts, potentially straining relationships with suppliers and lenders.
  • Market-driven payment delays: Prolonged accounts receivable cycles can be a symptom of broader economic conditions, supply chain issues, or industry-specific payment trends that are beyond the company’s immediate control.

These DSO challenges can be further exacerbated by external market conditions, such as economic downturns, supply chain disruptions, or industry-wide payment delays. Customers may struggle to meet their financial obligations due to factors beyond the company’s control, leading to a higher DSO and the associated cash flow and credit risk implications.

In situations where a company’s DSO is heavily influenced by external factors, it becomes crucial to take a proactive approach to managing accounts receivable. This may involve renegotiating payment terms, offering incentives for early payment, or exploring alternative financing options, such as Raistone’s Accounts Receivable Financing, to help bridge the gap between invoice issuance and customer remittance.

Analyzing Your Days Sales Outstanding in Context

While your inclination might be to aim for a lower DSO, your optimal DSO will vary depending on your industry, customer base, and overall business strategy. However, the goal should always be to maintain a DSO that is competitive within your market, supports healthy cash flow, and aligns with your financial objectives.

When evaluating your own DSO, it’s important to consider the unique characteristics of your business and industry. A DSO of 60 days, for example, may be considered perfectly acceptable in the construction industry, but could be problematic for a company operating in the technology sector. And even if a high DSO is considered acceptable in your industry, Raistone offers accelerated payments on invoices, enabling companies to significantly reduce their DSO and providing them with more working capital and opportunities for growth.

Additionally, you’ll want to track DSO trends over time. Is your DSO consistently high, or does it fluctuate seasonally? Understanding the underlying drivers behind your DSO can help you identify areas for improvement and implement targeted strategies to optimize your accounts receivable management.

Strategies to Optimize Days Sales Outstanding

Now that you have a solid understanding of what DSO is and why it’s so important, it’s time to explore practical strategies you can implement to optimize this critical metric and improve your overall cash flow management.

  1. Define clear and competitive customer payment terms: Review your current payment terms and ensure they are in line with industry standards and your customers’ expectations. Consider offering more attractive options, such as early payment discounts, to incentivize prompt payments. Working with Raistone can give you an advantage here – allowing you to offer longer payment terms to your customers while giving you access to accelerated payments.
  2. Identify and address problematic customers: Closely monitor your customer payment history and quickly address any issues with late-paying or high-risk clients. This may involve tightening credit terms, requiring upfront payments, or, in some cases, parting ways with customers who consistently undermine your cash flow. You may find that the 80/20 rule applies here, meaning that 80% of your late payments come from the bottom 20% of your customers.
  3. Implement effective accounts receivable management practices: Streamline your invoicing process, automate follow-up reminders, and maintain meticulous records of outstanding payments. Regularly review your AR aging report to identify potential problems and address them proactively.

In addition to these strategies, many businesses rely on Raistone’s Accounts Receivable Financing solutions to help decrease their DSO. Raistone offers accelerated payments, which empower companies to get paid faster, while cash flow management allows them to maintain or extend payment terms without impacting their customers. Companies can get paid in as quickly as one day for invoices due at a later date, without taking on additional debt.

Raistone’s non-debt working capital solutions coexist and complement other early pay or lending facilities, enabling companies to accept longer payment terms and larger orders, ultimately facilitating additional sales and improving their overall financial performance.

By implementing a combination of these strategies and leveraging Raistone’s financing solutions, you can take a proactive approach to optimize your Days Sales Outstanding and ensure that your accounts receivable are working in harmony with your overall business objectives.

Mastering Days Sales Outstanding for Improved Cash Flow and Financial Health

In today’s fast-paced corporate landscape, effectively managing your accounts receivable is crucial for maintaining a healthy cash flow and ensuring the long-term success of your company. At the heart of this lies a deep understanding and mastery of Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) – a powerful metric that provides valuable insights into your customer payment patterns and the overall efficiency of your accounts receivable processes.

Throughout this article, we’ve explored the key aspects of DSO – from defining what it is and why it matters, to calculating and benchmarking your performance, and finally, implementing targeted strategies to optimize this critical metric. 

By gaining a comprehensive understanding of DSO and taking proactive steps to improve it, you can unlock a world of benefits for your business, including:

  • Improved cash flow management and financial agility
  • Stronger customer relationships and brand reputation
  • Increased operational efficiency and cost savings
  • Reduced risk of late payments and bad debts
  • Opportunities for business growth and expansion

Remember, your DSO is more than just a number – it’s a reflection of the health and vitality of your accounts receivable, and a key driver of your overall financial success. By making DSO a priority and leveraging the right tools and resources to support your efforts, you can position your business for long-term prosperity and take confident strides toward your goals.

While many options are available to help optimize your DSO, it’s important to carefully evaluate the potential solutions to ensure they align with your unique business needs and financial objectives. By exploring the strategies we’ve discussed and combining them with Accelerated Receivables Financing from Raistone, you can develop a comprehensive strategy that empowers you to take full control of your accounts receivable and drive sustainable growth.

Raistone’s Accounts Receivable Financing solution enables you to get paid weeks or months earlier on your outstanding invoices, without taking on additional debt. This improved working capital can then be reinvested back into your business to fund new sales, increase marketing, hire new personnel, or simply stabilize your cash flow. By accelerating your payments and optimizing your DSO through Raistone’s offerings, you can take confident strides towards your goals and unlock new opportunities for long-term success.

Learn more about how Raistone can help you decrease your DSO and increase your working capital.

About the author

Sean Makar serves as an Analyst on the Accounts Receivable Finance (ARF) Sales team at Raistone. He manages ARF programs across a wide portfolio of clients, is responsible for onboarding new clients, and growing and maintaining existing relationships. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.

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