In many companies, credit and sales goals aren’t totally contradictory, but they’re not perfectly parallel either—a dynamic that can cause unproductive friction that hurts the whole business. The sales team wants potential customers to be approved quickly and seamlessly—receiving a generous line of credit that they can start using immediately. Meanwhile, credit staffers want to take the time to make accurate assessments about risk exposure—even if that means putting the brakes on an approval temporarily.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to soften this resistance and help the two departments cooperate. Consider adopting measures, such as the following, that can help credit and sales teams operate more productively.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” Cross-training provides departments with an inside perspective of what it’s like to do someone else’s job—to gain a deeper understanding of their coworkers’ experiences, challenges, thought processes and goals. If sales and credit staff are aware of each other’s pain points, they can both practice empathy when something goes wrong and work to prevent challenges for each other in the future. Allow these departments to periodically participate in each other’s meetings and have open discussions about solutions to their problems.
Involve credit in the sales process—and vice versa
To further the idea of mutual understanding, you may also want to institute ride-alongs, where credit goes on sales calls to learn about what happens before they receive a prospect’s credit app. Likewise, have sales weigh in on credit’s email or call scripts, as their familiarity with customers’ concerns can improve communication on the front end. These insights help both parties be more efficient—and improve customer service as well. You may even decide to implement sales bonuses that are tied to payment, incentivizing sales reps to sign high-quality customers instead of focusing solely on the dollar amount of the deals they land.
Share information in real time
Consider implementing a shared portal for access to customer information. Millennials in particular value transparency and collaboration, and they expect to have access to the appropriate technology that’ll help them achieve this openness at work. A shared portal allows credit and sales to see the same information about customer applications, the status of credit decisions, and purchase and payment activities, helping everyone serve customers more efficiently.
Take advantage of automated risk decisions
Manual credit applications take far too long to complete and process, which can create the perception that the credit team slows down deals. Automated risk decisioning allows credit to provide faster decisions and forecast the likelihood of delinquency, evaluating each applicant’s risk category and recommending an appropriate line size. This same system can allow credit to pre-screen prospects—helping the sales team prioritize their time by eliminating customers who wouldn’t be approved and immediately moving qualified prospects into the sales funnel.
Lead from the top
At the end of the day, each person needs to know that his or her job is just as important as that of the person at the next desk. Make sure senior managers and C-level executives are sending the message that credit and sales are interdependent—and are both critical to the company’s success. Managers must also be mindful about the messages they’re sending indirectly—for example, if they’re only congratulating sales for increased revenue, they could leave credit staffers feeling unrecognized for their hard work on the collections side of the business.
By adopting some or all of these measures, you can help sales and credit understand how integral they both are to the business—ultimately cutting tension and encouraging collaboration.