Recently I spoke at the NACM Business Credit Services Winter Credit Forum in Honolulu (I know, tough duty in January). The topic was applying marketing communication tactics to the credit department to grow your company revenues and opportunities. Full credit is due to my colleague and friend Adria Campbell, National Accounts Director for Dean Foods. Her background in both Finance and Sales represents a dual expertise on this very topic. She and I both agree that the Credit Department is the unsung hero of your company. While all business flows through the financial operations team it’s the Credit Department that helps maintain cash flow, ultimately driving business operations.
“Cash flow is everything,” says Adria. “The Credit Department can play a pivotal role to increase daily, weekly, or monthly revenue.” Adria’s specific expertise in both Finance and Sales operations offers an invaluable perspective on how your Business Credit team can help your organization.
Follow these steps and soon your CFO will say: “Everything the Credit Department touches turns to gold!” Here’s how:
Make an intentional shift from Descriptive to Predictive to Prescriptive contributor. “Three types of people make up a company’s financial team,” Adria observes.
• Descriptors, who report out what happened.
• Predictors, who estimate the future.
• Prescriptive leaders: These team members offer intelligence and recommendations about the company’s financial resources.
“The NUMBER ONE thing you can do is lead by contributing insight and advice,” Adria says. “You can provide essential guidance on how to reduce days sales outstanding (DSO) and increase cash flow.”
Care about the business of your customers and vendors. And, take note. Author & speaker John Maxwell is renowned for saying “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” How does that translate into your daily work with customers and vendors? Along with ensuring you invoice them or paying them in a timely fashion, get to know their business. When and where possible, ask how you can help build their business. Turn the tables on the notion of asking for a referral and ask how you can provide an endorsement or recommendation. Could they use a positive review? You bet! If they are bidding on new business, you can refer them and provide an important endorsement. If their business grows, so does yours.
Become a collaborative partner with your Sales team: The essential next step, Adria advises, is to share this intelligence with your Sates team.
“In any business, the Sales team is a profit center. Contributing this valuable data ensures can be added to the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system or incorporated into sales calls, immediately," she explains. "For example, in the retail food sales business we have different buyers for different lines within one company.” We need to know that the ice cream buyer is paying bills in a timely fashion but the milk buyer is not. That type of guidance provides an invaluable contribution regarding not only risks but further opportunities for success in our sales efforts.”
Share your passions and joys—all in the spirit of service. At NACM Business Credit Services division, based in Seattle, WA, their CEO, Jon Flora, is passionate about model trains. Needing inspiration for his monthly blog, last winter Jon wrote about his love of trains. As he said “it had absolutely nothing to do with our mission at NACM. It was all about the spirit of Christmas and electric trains.”
The response was overwhelming. All year long Jon heard from a trove of members and customers—some responses were funny, several heartwarming, and a couple included special remembrances. He connected with each person and appreciated the many conversations that ensued.
As Jon observed, “We spend an inordinate amount of energy Tweeting, posting, worrying, and fixated on things that we can do nothing about or just don’t matter in the larger picture. We all have so much more than we’ll ever need except possibly, gratitude.”
With that in mind, what could you share? Do you LOVE to knit? Do you LOVE to follow football? Or, do you have a thirst for sharing tips you’ve learned about your business? The ideas spring from your passions and joys and are found in your desire to inspire and encourage others.
Offer a personal “Thank you”. We all say “thank you” so often. Next time, express your appreciation in ways that are personal. Send a handwritten note, make a phone call, or drop by their offices one day just to say “thank you” – all of these are very much appreciated … especially in this day and age of instant messenger, email, and texts.
The Credit Department can be a pivotal contributor to your company’s success. “You can become a Prescriptive Leader and strengthen your influence by redefining your team,” Adria says.
“It’s true that nearly every transaction concerning either a customer or vendor involves Credit. Without Business Credit, your company would not exist. A strong partnership with Marketing and Sales, and strong relationships with your customers, greatly benefits your organization’s lasting success.”
Your Four Tangible Takeaways: