Building a profitable relationship between the sales and finance function

Irrespective of the sector or industry a business operates in, one consistent obstacle which stands in the way of success and harmonious cross departmental relations is the seemingly opposing functions of the sales and finance departments. While the sales team are driven by targets and endeavor to bring as much money into the organisation as possible, the finance department are responsible for sifting through the vast number of prospective customers to assess the plausibility of each. There is a steady proliferation of free company check websites which make it easy for the finance department to check both the background information and the financial stability of a prospective client before they become a customer. However, the refusal to do business with certain organisations and individuals will inevitably affect sales commissions, which is where much of the tension lies. With this in mind, here are five tips to help you strengthen relations between the finance and sales function to foster more harmonious and productive working relations.

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Create a mutually appreciative environment

In an ideal world, the work of the finance and sales teams would be complementary, with each department appreciating just how heavily they rely on the work of the other. With no sales team there would be no new business. With no finance team much of the new business might not be profitable. One method of increasing cross departmental appreciation is to provide the sales team with a weekly breakdown of the financial figures, prepared by the finance team, with key performance indicators (KPIs) such as anticipated commission, value of sales and bad debt exposure.

Share successes

The success of the John Lewis Partnership in recent years has shown just how valuable sharing successes across all business functions can be. The same tenet should be applied between the sales and finance function. The fortunes of both are closely linked, so regular meetings should be arranged to celebrate successes, identify potential issues and rectify problems with mutually beneficial resolutions. This method provides further insight into the problems the other faces, helping each to better anticipate potential sticking points.

Exchange information

The profitability of a business can be improved by simply disseminating information from one department to the other. If the finance team are aware which type of customer is most profitable, sharing this information with the sales team will help them to target this sector or client type specifically. Similarly, if a particular client demographic is more prone to late payment, targeted information can ensure these leads are avoided.

Champion the brand

To a certain extent, inter-departmental rivalry is healthy. However, striving to outperform other teams should never come at the cost of profitability. Communication should be actively encouraged between departments. Credit managers within the finance team should work closely with sales to improve their understanding of the customer and how they impact on business profitability.

Have you ever experienced a particularly counterproductive sales and finance relationship? Perhaps your business has implemented strategies which have not been mentioned above? Either way we’d love to hear from you, so please leave your two cents’ worth in the comments section below.

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