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The Care and Feeding of Sales People
By Steven Kozack

Many credit managers are unfortunately involved in an ongoing struggle with their company's sales department. Experienced credit managers recognize that disagreements between sales and credit are neither inherently good nor inherently bad and that the respective roles of the sales and credit department ensure credit decisions are not made in a vacuum and do not become too conservative and risk averse. There are a number of techniques the credit department can use in order to interact more effectively with the sales department including these:

  • Respond to calls and email messages received from sales as soon as possible and always the same day they are received.

  • Always notify sales about a negative credit decision [such as a decision to hold an order or a decision not to extend credit to an applicant] before informing the customer of that decision.

  • Remember that salespeople are hired for their tenacity, as well as their sales ability. Expect them to try to influence your credit decisions with the same degree of effort and intensity as they use to convince customers to purchase your company's products and services.

  • Never assume that the salesperson actually knows what you do let alone the goals and expectations that management has established for the credit department. Take time to explain what you do, and how you arrived at a particular decision.

  • Keep emails to the sales force to a minimum. Try to communicate by telephone or in person. Doing so will significantly reduce the chances of miscommunication.

  • Realize that your company has created a compensation plan for salespeople that include incentives for them to be aggressive advocates for their customers. Recognizing this fact, it is much easier to understand the actions and the motivations of your salespeople, and sales management.

  • Do everything possible to keep maintain a positive working relationship with sales management. Ask them to copy you on any and all memos and emails sent to the sales force so that you can stay informed. Ask to attend sales meeting as a guest or, better yet as a presenter. Try to stay informed about changing conditions in the competitive marketplace.

  • Keep reminding salespeople and sales management of your department's goals and objectives, but try to keep these discussions positive. For example, you might remind the sales department that your objective is to look for reasons to release orders - not for excuses to hold orders or deny credit.

One final thought: Salespeople are rainmakers and their contributions are easy to measure and highly visible. The same cannot always be said about the work done by the credit department. Why? Because it is difficult to quantify the delinquencies that were avoided and the bad debt losses that occur because the credit department did its job effectively. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid head to head conflicts with the sales department whenever possible.

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