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Any suggestions to improve relationships and systems between Sales & Finance to increase the bottom line & cash flows?

Laurie Gray's Profile

Answers

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I suggest you sit with the Sales team and ask them what information they would like that will increase their ability to provide revenue generation. Remember to ask in what format (non-accountants love graphs).

Give them the opportunity to run these reports without Accounting/Finances intervention along with ad hoc reporting.

You'd be amazed at the buy-in from the Sales Team at all levels.

Sarah Jackson
Title: Associate Editor
Company: Proformative
(Associate Editor, Proformative) |

Great question Laurie and good thoughts, Wayne!

Laurie, you might want to take a look at these free white papers here at Proformative:

“5 Ways to Improve the Sales/Finance Relationship”

“Taking Control of the Order to Cash Cycle”

“Improving Working Capital Management and Cash Flow Intelligence”

Enjoy!

Best... Sarah

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Building off of Wayne's comments, I would use the opportunity to:
1. ask them to describe how their normal day goes - prospecting, closing, what helps them win, what frustrates them
2. learn and understand their business; e.g. how do they evaluate prospects, prepare proposals, evaluate the financial/risk aspects of a deal
3. find out what shadow systems (excel files etc) they use and how accurate those are -
4. go on a sales call with someone (could be a visit or a conference call or listen in on an outbound sales call).

The more finance/accounting people actually know what their customer facing colleagues do, the better there is a chance for integrating processes, system flows, data flows, better FP&A insights and improved financial elements of decision making in the sales area. That is where you can really add value to the organization.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

I worked in an organization that conducted monthly Sales meetings with Regional Managers and Finance Support. It was very effective. Communication and the understanding of each other's roles increased, as did partnership. These meetings were orchestrated by the head of Sales.

Topic Expert
Linda Wright
Title: Consultant
Company: Wright Consulting
(Consultant, Wright Consulting) |

I suggest having quarterly performance to plan sessions and sharing KPI's. Understanding credit quality as a shared responsibility will make both departments more effective and the company more profitable.

Joshua Hurni
Title: Account Exec
Company: AMS
LinkedIn Profile
(Account Exec, AMS) |

Are your CRM and Accounting systems integrated? This could go a long way toward making sure each team is working with the same information.

(Agent, JKS Solutions, Inc.) |

The responses here are good, but when you are looking to improve relationships in this area, the Accountants should be mentored first before you send them out to "make friends" with sales. Accountants can come across as judgmental because they are analytical while sales people generally are looking at what is in it for them. The time sales takes to talk to accountants is generally wasted time in their opinion because they don't get anything for the time they spend. Sales people are creative and look for ways around the rules to achieve their purpose in selling, so your accountants need to understand they need to lighten up, ask some relationship questions and spend a few minutes selling themselves to the sales people before they launch into their analytical and control questions.

Sales leadership understands they need to manage the numbers, but those in the non leadership roles usually need a little more getting to know you time so they don't feel like you are judging them or going to escalate them to their boss immediately. And its the non leadership roles that are usually the culprits for non compliance with regard to expense reports and other things related to accounting, although I've seen my share of executives use noncompliance as an entertainment platform for their own sport.

If you can't get them to talk to you about what exactly keeps them from performing the details you need them to, then no system is going to help.

You have to make your process work "broken" first, as in if you are using spreadsheets, you have to get your spreadsheets working first before you move into a system, otherwise your system will start out broken and have little chance of giving you the ROI you seek.

Coach your accountants about talking to sales people, make friends, be nice, set expectations, but explain why accounting needs certain things. Let sales in on the big picture first and if they ask for more give them more details. If they do something right reward them, they will do it right again.

I really stay far away from memos, emails, and policy statements when talking to sales. They don't care about the rules because the job they have does not rely on rules to make money. Once the accountant understands that, it will be easier to communicate and the relationship will improve.

You can do all this without wasting the time of the leadership, and they will be happy you didn't bother them.

brian Norton
Title: Director
Company: Dynamic Business Innovations
(Director, Dynamic Business Innovations) |

I believe the core of the issue in getting sales and accounting thinking the same way is to ensure that that measurements are aligned across the organisation. If the sales team are measured on gross sales and not overall profitability they will chase sales and not profit. Talking to accountants that are concerned about things other than sales is in their opinion a waste of time. It does not impact on their measurements. If sales take on more work that involves more overhead or capital expenditure they will relegate these decisions in their minds as not worthy of their consideration. If accountants are over analytical and not seen to be contributing to the sales teams measurements the dialogue will be difficult.

Sales have to be measured not on gross sales but on the profitability of their decisions which includes the impact on gross profit, the increase in overheads and any increases in capital expenditure required. Now that is a different way of thinking for most sales people but once they understand it and are measured and rewarded on it they perform. To do this requires top management buy in. If you do not resolve this core conflict the accountants willbe tinkering around the edges.

This conflict does not only apply to the sales function but all functions including production and logistics. If production is measured on units produced and efficiencies they will end up in conflict with sales (they will produce the wrong things in order to make their units targets and efficiencies) and are likely to end up with too much stock and that will lead to a problem with the accountants.

The decision making and performance management frameworks have to be aligned. Too often they are not and these types of conflicts occur all over the place

Topic Expert
Al Cochran
Title: CFO
Company: Amendia, Inc. and Vivex Biomedical, Inc.
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, Amendia, Inc. and Vivex Biomedical, Inc.) |

We have a bit of a unique management approach at Greenway. Our CEO innovated a program whereby we direct the Company's activities through task forces that drive the organization's performance - Service, Innovation, Growth and Human Capital. These task forces collaborate with each other regarding initiatives, successes, challenges, needs, etc. and the benefits are to create transparency and break down the silos that sometimes develop.

I have served as co-chair of the Growth Task Force, which includes leadership and representation from our direct and indirect sales forces and our marketing team. In this role I can bring perspective to them regarding controls and procedures and developing metrics and ROI evaluating profitability of initiatives that are proposed. I also gain a better understanding of what they face in the field. We also do a better of critically evaluating our expected return on new programs and initiatives and taking appropriate corrective action in a more timely fashion.

I agree with the points noted above and believe that, as in anything, communication is the key. There is a natural, healthy tension that exists between finance and sales and that can be leveraged to establish appropriate controls and adherence to policies. However, we owe it to our sales professionals to listen to their points of view. Let's face it, none of us would want their job - so let's do what we can to help them perform better.

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