Sales + Credit: The Dynamic Duo

The success of Sales + Credit is not measured by the amount of risk avoided, but by the amount of profitable business secured!

A company’s sales force and credit management team must always work hand-in-hand if the business is going to succeed. Let’s face it…

…Without Sales to generate customers, the company will fail.

…Without Credit Management to collect on the sale, the company will fail.

…Without repeat customers, the company will fail.

When it comes to company success, Sales and Credit are truly the Dynamic Duo! Which is why ongoing communication between the two teams is crucial.

Without Sales to generate customers, the company will fail.

Sales is the engine that drives revenue. If your company never has any sales, you have no need for credit management. Credit simply has no purpose without sales.

It’s a two-step process: Sales brings in the business and Credit brings in the cash.

Did you know that it’s 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one? Not surprisingly, it’s also 50% easier to sell to existing customers than to new prospects.

Clearly, the sales team can’t do it alone. In order to sustain existing customers and generate repeat business, they need support from the Credit Management Team.

Without Credit Management to collect on the Sale, the company will fail.

There are four primary reasons why credit is extended to customers:

  1. Customers need time to ensure the product/service meets their needs
  2. Customers need time to process the invoice for payment
  3. Their competitors do it
  4. Credit allows the customer to sell goods at a profit

Quite frankly, credit management makes a profitable sale happen.

Without repeat customers, the company will fail.

Customer engagement is necessary for both Credit and Sales, because customer service is everyone’s responsibility. And excellent customer service naturally leads to repeat business.

“Profit in business comes from repeat customers; customers that boast about your product and service, and that brings friends with them.”
W. Edwards Deming

The sales team serves the customer by offering the company’s services at a reasonable price and landing the business. The credit department then follows up by extending credit services to retain the customer and collecting on the account (completing the sale).

By working together, Sales and Credit can grow the business and increase cash flow – paying customers pay your bills!

Keeping an Open Dialogue

How often do your sales and credit departments talk and meet with one another?

Maybe not often enough. Frequent dialogue and meetings between the two are critical for your business to thrive.

For instance, the credit department should respond to sales’ inquiries promptly, and vice versa. Weekly meetings help maintain dialog and relationships. The more the two areas engage in interactive communication, the more likely they are to make business decisions based on fact – not on friendships.

Also, Sales and Credit should have access to the same information – even share the same systems, if possible. This will help to keep communication between the two departments ongoing. Another helpful business practice is cross training. If they “walk in each other’s shoes” for a while, each area can fully understand and appreciate the other. Then when problems arise, both departments are equipped to work together and find solutions.

The Key

So what is the key to successful Credit and Sales interaction? Well it’s CREDIT. That is:

Customer

Relationship

Engagement

Dialogue

Inclusion

Teamwork

Let’s examine each component…

Customer.

Unless customers pay their bills, and unless you can collect the money, the sale is incomplete! And remember: You’re in business because of the customer. YOU can’t pay YOUR bills until THEY pay THEIRS.

To achieve this end, Credit and Sales should partner together on collections. Start by scheduling joint collection calls and in-person meetings. Remember: Each collection issue warrants a specific, coordinated solution.

Also, both Sales and Credit need to fully understand the source of the customer’s problem(s). Are they experiencing cash flow issues or decreased sales? Are THEIR clients not paying?

Once you understand the source, determine what actions need to be taken and what results are expected.  (Be sure to get all payment commitments in writing.) The objective is to recover the money and not send the account to a collection agency professional or attorney.

Relationship.

Relationships must be developed and maintained externally with the customer and internally between the sales and credit departments.

Credit’s relationship with the customer is dependent on keeping open lines of communication. For instance, how quickly does your credit department respond to customer inquiries? It’s important to do so in order to generate a positive image about your company.

Another proactive way of building and maintaining relationships with customers is to schedule regular meetings with key accounts (e.g., large or high-risk customers). These can be either conference calls or in-person meetings.   Keeping a pulse on the customer’s social media is also key in following trends, new products, boasting about new sales, new hires, layoffs, etc.

Be sure to ask the customer open-ended questions; they can be a font of information—we learn more by listening. Above all, strive to understand their business. Do you know their production rate and inventories, both raw materials and final product? How about the payment terms offered to THEIR customers?  Who do you know about new compliance challenges their industry faces?

Engagement.

Customer engagement is all about encouraging your customers to interact and share in the experiences you create for them. And it’s necessary to both Credit and Sales. When executed well, a strong customer engagement strategy will foster growth and loyalty. Businesses that focus on customer engagement provide an end-to-end valuable customer experience.

You can engage with your customers by getting to know them through positive interaction. Every customer wants to feel you understand their needs and that they can relate to your company. “Humanizing” your business will help. For instance, your credit department should be familiar with personnel at all facilities, not just HQ.

Great customer engagement must also incorporate communication between Credit and Sales. Which leads us to our next point…

Dialogue.

As mentioned above, keeping an open dialogue between the two departments is critical. But Credit and Sales should also be aligned with the overall company vision. This ensures that they’ll work together to reach their common goals.

Beyond that, an open dialogue ensures a mutually beneficial system of checks and balances. Discussions between Credit and Sales should focus on understanding each other, as well as the different personalities involved in both departments.

Inclusion.

The inclusion of both Sales and Credit should be a factor throughout the entire customer service process. This means no behind-closed-doors, unilateral decisions. Rather,

  • Sales should include Credit at the start of the business relationship
  • Credit should include Sales in setting up customers’ initial credit and risk limits

It also helps if each area would include the other in their meetings and entertainment events.

Teamwork.

What it all boils down to is teamwork–understanding that both parties play a role in the process. Once Sales fully comprehends that Credit is responsible for sales to existing customers, and no sale is complete until the payment is collected, they will gain a whole new respect for Credit. And when the credit department fully appreciates the work that goes into keeping the company’s engine running, it can then determine the proper tools and strategies that will effectively support the sales function.

Together, they truly are your company’s Dynamic Duo!

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