Sales & Credit: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

At a recent gathering of petroleum credit managers, a brave VP of Fuel asked the credit group “what do salespeople do that annoys you?” The spirited responses came quickly and were mostly related to the fact that salespeople were relentless in wanting a fast answer on credit approvals. If the answer did not come quickly enough, there were interruptive phone calls, emails and other activities that slowed not only the credit approval process but superseded other important activities like collecting.

On the one hand, you have valuable, perhaps somewhat aggressive salespeople out talking to customers every day and bringing as many as possible into their book of business. On the other hand, you have more conservative, methodical credit staff going through the process of running credit reports, checking credit references, verifying business information and other criteria for credit risk measurement. These are two very different behavioral models.

Both sides of sales and credit are key parts of building a strong, healthy customer base. In terms of speed, using a process for credit risk measurement is not the quickest way to credit approval, but it is certainly the best way to truly measure the amount of risk attached to the customer.

The interesting thing about the relationship between credit and sales is they both have a lot in common: achieving their own goals, advancing company growth & profitability and being recognized as an important part of the team. In spite of common goals, the two very frequently find themselves in a relationship comparable to a cat and a dog, not always on the best terms.

To bring the two sides together, working in tandem instead of against each other, it is helpful to set up:

  • A face-to-face meeting for the purpose of agreeing upon the methods and timing expectations for new customer Explaining the “why” behind processes goes a long way.
  • A specific process for gathering and processing complete customer information, with both sides agreeing upon the value of requested information.
  • Regular meetings, which include a helpful moderator, to discuss important customer issues, bottlenecks, and problems.

A well written, detailed Credit Policy is also a helpful tool to state what Leadership’s expectations are in the complete start-to-finish new customer process. Once Leadership sets the tone, and both sides of the sales/credit staff are aware of the expectation, it should become a more team-oriented relationship.


Ann Pitts

The Best Captains Are Not Made From Calm Seas