Sales and accounts receivable teams each share common goals – gain new customers, maximize customer satisfaction, eliminate sales and payment obstacles, and improve the company’s financial operating metrics.
To reach these goals together, each department has to understand how the other works and the methods they utilize to be successful. It is good for sales to understand the analysis used to mitigate bad debt risk and extend credit to customers. Similarly, accounts receivable could benefit from utilizing a sales mentality when interacting with customers.
You may be thinking “how can A/R use sales tools in their everyday business?”
We address the question of “how” in more detail below, but to start, we need to answer the question “where will A/R find the time?” The answer is automation.
Customer centricity and familiarity are at the heart of every great salesperson. In order for accounts receivable teams, especially from the credit perspective, to successfully put this into practice they need time.
One simple way to gain that valuable time is through an automated electronic accounts receivable solution. With automated A/R, teams increase efficiencies and expand bandwidth to improve DSO, mitigate risk, and especially enhance customer relationships.
In our experience, we’ve learned that A/R and sales efforts must combine to meet customers’ needs and exceed expectations. We’re sharing some proven sales approaches that accounts receivable professionals can use to provide an improved customer experience and increase collections.
Remember that invoicing is an intricate part of the customer journey. Regardless of how great a product or service may be, the customer experience can be ruined at the point of payment.Hiten Shah states, “The best salespeople have always been helpful. As humans, one of the most genuine things we can do is to help each other. When you’re selling a product or services, it’s hard to go wrong if you’re genuinely looking to help the other person. That’s really when selling becomes more than just sales. It becomes all about building a genuine, meaningful relationship instead of just selling what you have to someone.” For accounts receivable teams, putting this into practice means being a proactive problem-solver. Be attentive to customer needs, capabilities, and limitations. Anticipate and resolve any payment friction before it occurs. Try to establish a partnership with your customer where lines of communication are always open. When issues that can slow payments arise, customers will be more likely to reach out to a helpful vendor and address the problem early instead of waiting for an uncomfortable collection call that may create more critical problems.
Sales reps are often faced with new challenges or unique demands from their prospects. Likewise, accounts receivable teams often face challenges that can stall the payment process. For both, these challenges may require flexibility and customization in order to be resolved. Flexibility doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover. Instead, knowing your company’s limits and customers’ needs will allow you to create a solution that works for everyone.
In your role as a problem-solver, offer your customers payment options such as delaying to a near-term date, payment plans, or accepting credit cards. Your flexibility and creativeness will go a long way to building loyalty with your customers, especially if the late payment is only due to a short-term cash crunch.
Being flexible and working with customers not only provides insight to their payment issues, but it also allows you to make a more educated decision between stopping shipments and jeopardizing future revenue, and coming to terms and maintaining a good customer.
Sales executives are taught to build their sales strategies by listening carefully, being responsive, and sharing customer feedback with their team. For accounts receivable professionals, this is true as well. Providing your undivided attention to customers can be the difference between an uncomfortable call and a productive one. Being patient and empathetic demonstrates understanding and builds upon the business relationship.
If customers feel like you would rather not be speaking with them because your attention is obviously somewhere else, they will quickly look for alternative vendors who are happy to be interacting with them.