Group Leader of Finance Operations at Dun & Bradstreet, Christopher Rios shares insights his company has captured in recent years for its goal of the CFO to play a larger role in the go-to-market strategy of its operations as noted in his paper entitled Maximizing Finance Operations, published by the Credit Research Foundation.
As Rios notes, operational or support functions, often referred to as “back office” functions, are typically relegated to cost center status and never an engine for change — and certainly not for revenue. At Dun & Bradstreet, five years ago the global CFO issued a directive to his leadership team, which included Finance Operations: “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!”
Rios notes that “there is an inherent relationship between finance and sales, but it breaks down when both fail to capture what each is contributing to meeting the organization’s vision and align on that collective objective.”
Dun & Bradstreet set out to educate its sales organization on exactly what the finance organization does in order to loosen the significant tension across the company’s various business units. Leaders of various work streams (product, sales and marketing) were shown the areas of finance operations most critical to their respective processes. Similarly, the finance teams gained a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each of these respective business units, most importantly sales.
Rios says that “In short order, we were able to create new synergies between finance and sales. By simply inviting our sales colleagues and opening our doors to educate them about the multitude of ways finance supports them, sales leaders began to view finance as an indispensable tool for valuable information.” This translated into an opportunity to provide “cost-avoidance techniques, cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, and to help reduce sales cycle time. This new-found synergy between finance and sales helped improve customer relationships.”
Finance professionals have a mountain of data. Rios asks: “So what data do we comb through routinely? How are we using data in reports? Most importantly, how can those reports be repurposed?” By asking yourself such questions, you begin to refine how you deliver information to your sales organization, which in turn helps you target and prospect more effectively.
As one example, Rios says that today compliance reports are provided to sales channel leaders at the beginning of every new period. These reports include severely delinquent customers and customers who could potentially be written off as bad debt and/or canceled. By delivering these reports a month in advance of any action finance might take in regard to a particular customer, it allowed the company to more effectively resolve issues without resorting to reactionary or defensive approaches to problems.
This way, finance is helping sales resolve issues before they become customer-facing. Having an opportunity to partner with sales on potential issues allows for healthier dialogue and insight into customers’ behavior and risk. “This concept of ‘first-touch’ resolution allows finance and sales to address issues more quickly and provide better customer service.” Having the tools at hand to do this work, such as an invoice to cash platform is essential and that is where VersaPay can help!