Sales = good cop, AR = bad cop?

Accounts Receivable teams are often perceived as tough enforcers and blockers to sales.  With the rise of eCommerce, AR teams have an opportunity to cement that label or shirk it off and become the co-operative partnership with Sales and Marketing teams.  Here’s how.

Online Sales or Omni-Channel Sales?

Talk about DSO and Value in Dispute to Sales, and they may glaze over. Yet, they expect the whole company to get excited about their shift to an Omni-channel sales strategy, which sounds like something that requires a tremendous remote control.  It’s not.  Omni-channel strategies work. They drive higher sales and retention, greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The Harvard Business Review’s recent study is just one piece of research to underline the power of following your customer across multiple platforms with a joined-up experience. If your marketing and sales teams pursue an online ordering portal strategy for B2B eCommerce with some vigour, they may also be dancing with the dark art of omni-channel sales strategies.  So what does that mean?

Omni-Channel is about a presence and availability across devices

Omni-channel retailers allow customers on social media, phones, tablets, apps, computers, kiosks and stores to interact on one channel and have that record of an interaction follow them through all other ways they engage. Unlike a multi-channel strategy, omni-channel strategies are integrated and offer customers continuity and convenience. Ever called a customer service team that has no access to the details of your account, who can do nothing for you except transfer your call at least once? Frustrating, time-wasting and disorganised, isn’t it? Phone or utility companies and banks are pretty well known for it. It’s why when you find a company that gets it right, it’s so remarkable. 

Shopify and Google’s direct integration makes it easy for shoppers to discover and buy your products with Google Smart Shopping campaigns. A user can go from keyword search to product location to buying it and picking it up in-store while hitting multiple, interconnected touchpoints in the process. The best retailers in the consumer world are setting standards and expectations that carry across to business buyers. 

Boosting B2B sales online

Online, a fierce battle for customer attention and loyalty is being waged. Business buyers also expect to research products on one channel and buy on another. Harvard Business Review found 73% of consumers use multiple channels in this way and, given the opportunity, will continue this in-store using QR codes and iBeacons to get more detailed product information on the spot. Office Depot is one company that found a 3x higher return on investment with seamless user experiences from offline to online. They use Google’s new Local Inventory Ads to achieve this.  Businesses know that the chance for customers to find a better offer and be disloyal is rising. And it is far worse for small businesses who have less pressure upon them from AP teams to restrict the number of new suppliers they choose in order to reduce their workload setting up those new payees on their ERP systems.

Even so, customer defection is a risk, as it is missing the chance to win new customers because the online experience is broken. Suppose your Sales team are moving this way; good on them. They want to reduce customer defection, and that can help the AR team too. It means fewer new accounts to analyse. As old clients defect, you lose the payment history that helps you predict their credit risk. It is in the AR Team’s interest to support sales in multi-channel and omni-channel initiatives. 

How to be the sales enabler 

AR teams can be a disappointing problem for sales if the invoice to cash experience is not online, omni-channel and seamless in the way the search to delivery process is.  Conversely, AR teams can implement a platform that makes the process of order to invoice, invoice to delivery, delivery to query, delivery to payment all perfectly satisfying across channels.

How? You need a single platform – like Corrivo, for all your invoices. All orders are processed on one platform, converted to invoices and sent out by the channel of your customer’s choice (for example, some customers want invoices by EDI or direct into their AP portals). Or, more interestingly, for your sales team, you can offer one customer multiple touchpoints for invoices. They can receive invoice notifications by email, either shortly after ordering or after delivery, as you choose, and then collect those invoices from a secure online portal that is accessible anywhere on any device.

Not only is it accessible, but it is readable on mobiles – properly formatted so be legible on small screens.  One platform, many delivery channels for your invoices. Here is an example:

1.Order online – paying on invoice terms, 30 days from invoice issuance.

2. View Invoice online – click to access the buyer portal as soon as the invoice is ready, which could be within minutes of the order being placed if relevant. 

3. Query invoice online (where needed) and view responses in the same way – customers are notified of a response and retrieve it from the portal.

4. Remit online – customers can add remittance advice or even pay there and then by card, either fully or in part, if some items are in dispute or have not been delivered.

5. Confirmation online – customers can then check their account at any time and will see when their payments have been received and applied, thus freeing up more credit and giving them the green light to place new orders – oh and when they go to the portal, they see a special offer on a product related to those they’ve recently bought, and so they click and return immediately to your online ordering portal – and the next order is a few clicks away.

6. Update all areas – If sales, customer service or delivery have a question about the account details, account status or previous orders, they can self serve this information by logging into the eInvoicing platform in the same way as the AR managers do. Their views are restricted to what they need to know, and their ability to execute and respond is also suitably managed by permissions in the system, but, at any time, they may view the information they need themselves, without asking, bothering or blaming the AR team for obstructing the process of handling customers and sales.

How to fail

To succeed, you need an eInvoicing platform that can convert orders quickly to invoices, deliver them online and via mobile-friendly platforms, as well as by PDF attachments, but which can also meet the needs of customers who wish to receive invoices via EDI or by post. You need to tick all those boxes and some.  You also need a supplier that can let you brand the buyer portal and use it as a messaging space for promotions and can integrate an online payment option. And, remember too that their needs to be a facility to make queries, complaints and other invoice related communication fast, digital and tracked – fully recorded and transparent online to both parties. So, if you choose an SME grade eInvoicing platform, you won’t have the speed, scale or flexibility to do this. Choose a large ERP system’s extension for AR, and similarly, the options will not be there without a lengthy and costly development project. And still, no guarantees that all the workflow tools you in AR need to manage queries with the speed online buyers expect will be there.

How to Succeed

Talk to us. We have extensive experience working with leading B2B and B2B2C retailers and B2C utility providers. We can help you to help your sales department and, in the process, become the sales enabler, not the sales blocker.

Please email me via sales@datainterconnect.co.uk or direct to my mailbox here.  Better still, call me on:  07939 360176 for an informal discussion.

David Harris

Author David Harris

David Harris is the Business Development Executive at Data Interconnect. Dave works with companies planning the implementation of Corrivo, the cloud-based credit control software which improves cashflow, minimises aged debt and streamlines processes for finance departments. If you would like to know more, contact Dave on: Davidh@datainterconnect.co.uk

More posts by David Harris

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