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Sales and credit departments have a unique relationship: While a sales person’s main goal is to bring in more revenue, credit professionals are more concerned with mitigating financial risk.

Because the two don’t always align, the success of one department is often deemed as a failure of the other. While this isn’t true, it does lead to tense relationships and the separation of departments when they should be working together to bring in the most revenue possible with the least associated risk. 

We spoke with four credit managers — Jackie Hoelting, Lisa Geth, Sam Lewis, and Rachel Sales — to understand what struggles they’ve experienced when it comes to interdepartmental relationships, and what methods they’ve used to change the narrative from “opponents” to “allies”. Read on to learn how they address challenges around communication, differing perspectives, and education.

These credit managers agree that communication (or lack thereof) is the root of most common challenges between credit and sales teams, such as: 

  • Confusion surrounding the “whys” and “hows” of decisions on either side
  • Lack of awareness around competing directives 
  • Failure to recognize one another’s sense of urgency 

“We speak two different languages, so unless we figured out how to communicate better, it was going to be really hard to resolve any issues,” said Sam Lewis. 

All of the credit managers agreed that the start of the solution was to help everyone understand that, at the end of the day, they’re all on the same team. They each employ different strategies to try to prompt more successful communication, such as:

  • Creating a hospitable environment to promote comfortable conversation
  • Replacing personal language (pronouns and emotional words) with general, solution-oriented language 
  • Emphasizing working together instead of against each other. For example, if a credit professional must initially say “no” to a potential client, they can ask the sales representative to help understand why it should be a “yes”. This can be helpful in either getting the credit professional additional information necessary for a yes, or help the sales person better understand the “no” 
  • Being truly present in all meetings. Showing up isn’t enough– let your coworkers know that you care about their thoughts, goals, and directives by being an active participant in meetings

Another pressing issue stems from perspective. As mentioned previously, sales and credit departments have different priorities, and therefore different mindsets. Additionally, credit managers are often seen as the “bad guys” since they sometimes have to reject potential clients. Differing goals, misconceptions around motivations, and negative feelings toward the other department all lead to tensions between these departments. 

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To help align everyone’s point of view, it’s important to relay that while they might have different goals day-to-day, they all want to keep the company secure — and furthermore, credit personnel have no ulterior motives in their decision-making process. This is what the credit managers we spoke with have done to help get the teams onto the same page:

  • Planned fun outings like bowling, barbeques, trust courses, and happy hours, which led to more personal connections and greater trust.
  • Created fun competitions for the sales departments to help them see that they were all working towards the same main objective.
  • Gave sales representatives a “positive” following a “negative”, like helping them with existing clients’ financing after having to reject a potential client. 

Last but certainly not least is education. Like any job, one must be educated to perform efficiently and effectively. However, because these two departments work hand-in-hand, it’s vital that each understand what it is the other department does, and why they do it. Without cross-training, these are the kinds of issues that present themselves:

  • Lack of knowledge regarding the specifics of one another’s jobs
  • Resentment due to lack of understanding of the reasoning behind decisions 

For example, a salesperson may not understand why sending a preliminary notice is necessary and may even be nervous that sending one could cost them a customer. However, with the right training, they better understand that preliminary notices are essential to financially protecting a company, and that it’s rare for a customer to even be upset about receiving one, much less cutting ties because of it. 

To ensure that everyone has the tools they need for success and to promote a more positive environment, these credit professional suggest:

  • Having one-on-one meetings between sales reps and credit managers so that each party understands where the other is coming from
  • Holding trainings and seminars so that each department can learn the basic technical aspects of one another’s jobs to make working together easier 
  • Involving sales personnel in conversations regarding less black-and-white credit decisions 

Although changing a historically negative narrative isn’t easy, it’s far easier than trying to work successfully in a hostile environment. By implementing some of these strategies and being patient, your credit and sales teams can work together to contribute to your company’s continued success– without the fuss and confusion.  

For more tips and tricks on getting your sales and credit departments to work together optimally, watch this webinar to hear more about what these credit professionals advise.

Follow Jackie Hoelting, Lisa Geth, Sam Lewis, and Rachel Sales on LinkedIn.

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