October 15, 2019

Plan for Success: Include Finance in Your Project

By now, we all understand the value of cross-functional teams at the office.

Regardless of the project (creating a business plan, solving a supply chain issue, investigating a technology acquisition or sale, etc.), by including a diverse set of coworkers, you will create a team  that can bring different insights and experience from all aspects of the company.  The diversity of marketing, sales, and operations are commonly included in new projects, but don’t forget to include finance!  This is a department that should not be overlooked (but often is!).

Meetings
Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/meeting-business-architect-office-2284501/

Priorities vary from department to department.  Having a cross-functional team that includes finance should bring to light any misaligned priorities.  For example, I was working with one client where the executive staff was pushing the field for multi-year maintenance deals.  Why were their words falling on deaf ears?   While the field reps understood the need for long-term annuity revenue, their current compensation plan discouraged multi-year deals by rewarding the reps for one-year deals only.  Your finance department may be best suited to sleuth out these types of discrepancies.  With the broad spectrum of input, there comes inspiration and speed to solve problems.  Finance could work with compensation to draft a revision or short-term spiff to the published plan.

At another client, I was recently included on a team that was working to upgrade a segment of current customers from their installation of an older software version to the client’s current platform.  Marketing and Sales Enablement had drafted much of the sales play collateral.  Throughout the collateral, the term “trade-in” was used.  When I inquired about what exactly was being traded for the new software upgrade, it became clear everyone had a different impression of what the term meant.  In the end, the customer was not going to send anything back to the client, but there was a special discount, an existing customer discount, to upgrade.

The term “trade-in” was removed from the collateral and replaced with the phrase “incentive to upgrade.”

If you are promoting a true trade-in program, be sure to work with finance to determine from whose budget the trade-in credit might.  Who will cover the cost of shipping the returned product?  How will the returned product be handled?  Will it be used for parts?  Will it be refurbished and sold as used?

At yet another client, there was a desire to move customers off end-of-life products.  When pushing product updates in cold accounts, the purchase is likely unbudgeted.  By including your financing team, finance can work the product management to establish a marketing-funded program around special payment terms (three month deferral, ramped payments, etc.).  These special terms can be presented as a low cost (or no cost) option to customers, thus overcoming a common objection to unsolicited proposals or unplanned purchases: “no budget.”

In summary, when preparing a product promotion, marketing campaign, or focused sales play, be sure to involve a cross-functional team the includes finance.  Be sure to include finance from the initial planning stages through the formal rollout.  Finance can be a key ingredient in making your effort a success!