Four years ago the global CFO of Dun and Bradstreet issued a directive to his leadership team: “We need to change the perception, real or imagined, that finance is an impediment and barrier to sales growth, and we need to enable sales.” His team got the job done. The company’s path of progress is neatly outlined by a white paper written by Christopher Rios, who is Dun and Bradstreet’s Group Leader of Finance Operations. It is published by the Credit Research Foundation. Finance leaders are constantly being asked to do more with less. But, as Rio asks, what if you could consolidate work streams, increase productivity, maximize efficiency and contribute to the top line? To do this, Dun and Bradstreet moved beyond the notion of finance being a “cost center.” Often the back office finance operation is thought of as an expense-heavy institution that tended to erect more barriers than it tore down. Dun and Bradstreet’s view today is that everything a finance professional does should tie back to the organization’s vision. Dun and Bradstreet understood that the sales and finance departments should be closely linked. There is an inherent relationship between finance and sales, but this can break down when both departments don’t fully appreciate what each contributes to meeting the organization’s vision and align on that collective objective. As accounts receivable departments know, collecting payment from a satisfied customer is a key component of the company’s relationship with that customer. Confusion and mistakes in collecting those funds can undermine a relationship that has taken a long time for the sales department to build. Taking the time to resolve misunderstandings can be difficult if accounts receivable is still bogged down in a labor-intensive, email and even paper-intensive system. At Dun and Bradstreet, accounts receivable can now deliver compliance reports to sales channel leaders. These reports include severely delinquent customers and customers who might be written off as bad debt and/or cancelled. By delivering these reports well before any collection action, the sales department could more effectively resolve issues without reacting to more reactionary or defensive approaches to problems. Being able to partner with sales on potential issues allows for healthier dialogue and insight into Dun and Bradstreet’s customers’ behavior and risk. This concept of “first-touch” resolution allows finance and sales to address issues more quickly and provide better customer service.
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