How To Avoid Friction Between Finance And Sales

Aligning finance and sales
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A good relationship between the two teams is critical. Matt Miller, CFO of Showpad, talks about how to make the relationship work.

CFOs need to focus on aligning with sales to get the best outcomes for their companies, says Matt Miller, CFO, London-based Showpad—and current economic headwinds are adding to the pressure.

Miller spoke with StrategicCFO360 about how to improve relations, from starting with a “shared north star,” to choosing the right software, to making sure you have the right talent to get the most out of your IT.

What does friction between the sales and finance teams mean for business?

Friction between sales and finance teams can prove paralyzing for any organization. Harmony and synchronization are critical between the CFO and the team they lead, and their sales counterparts. There needs to be transparency, collaboration and reciprocity between the two parties to drive maximum value and impact to a company’s top and bottom line.

Finance leaders and CFOs want and need sight of sales metrics—and how far they’re advancing towards their targets. In return, sales teams want and need to feel supported by their CFO—and that there is the necessary budget available to input the right tech and SaaS infrastructure to accelerate them toward meeting their targets.

How can finance and sales teams better collaborate to showcase company ROI?

A shared strategy and alignment on operational initiatives is critical to collaboration between finance and sales—it’s all about having a shared north star. From there, you can identify the right software to help address the outcomes that teams are striving to deliver.

When it comes to software, I don’t just mean the obvious functions of a tech stack.  I mean the specialist SaaS software—and more specifically, sales enablement software, which is designed to augment the value and volume of deals and the ability to close deals faster, which has a direct impact on a company’s top and bottom line. 

Once this software is in place, it’s possible to isolate sales enablement data and insights to address inefficiencies, gaps and bottlenecks, and in turn achieve increased ROI, impact and deliverables against a backdrop of clear and meaningful measures of success.

And that applies to all sales software, which must have the right people, processes and roadmap to drive the right measurable outcomes. Because just buying additional software is not a successful strategy. Rather, deploying the right sales software with the requisite intelligence is what is used to facilitate and accelerate a successful sales strategy.

How does a company’s IT system impact revenue generation and sales enablement?

Experience tells me that it’s often surprising how out-of-date many companies’ IT systems are—and this, even in isolation, can limit revenue growth potential. This is a very real problem and, in the U.S., recent Showpad data demonstrates that companies without adequate IT infrastructure are losing in the region of $1.6 million in annual revenue.

Sales enablement is ever more important—particularly with the economic climate that we’re all facing, but the first question to ask is whether an organization is digitally mature or whether its digital infrastructure is antiquated. This will determine to some extent how far they can advance their revenue generation and sales enablement capabilities.

While sales enablement and revenue generation technology are typically very easy to integrate, they must be supported by a reasonably modern IT system if they are to deliver maximum value and ROI for the customer.

So what does a modern system look like?

Having IT systems that offer integrated, frictionless capabilities aligned with a customer’s journey from concept to cash is key to accelerating deal cycles and ultimately revenue. Prospects and customers shouldn’t have to deal with gaps in their buying process created through poor investments in their sellers’ IT systems.

How many times have you spoken to a company and the advisor has said, “Please hold while I find this information” or “Our systems are running slow today”? These all create friction within the buyer or customer experience and encumber time that few sellers can spare.

More than ever, there’s a blur between internal and external IT systems that can result in a poor buyer experience. Weaknesses and misfires create a poor brand image and frustration if a buyer has to do more work. Indeed, they will most likely look elsewhere for a supplier who’s easier to do business with.

Ultimately, the best sellers expect IT systems that work well end to end. They know they make more money when they’re spending less time providing the glue between the companies’ systems and the time to sell. And in the war for talent, if the tech doesn’t work, sellers have a harder time selling and they will leave and find a place where they can be more successful. Because sellers are up against enough challenges, they don’t need another one that is very much avoidable.

Any advice for CFOs around sales enablement solutions?

Some CFOs can be tech-resistant, but the simple message is to shed any reservations up front if you want to secure stronger growth for your organization. Meaning, a digital strategy and clear understanding as to where you lie on the digital maturity path is critical as you embark on the implementation of software, like sales enablement solutions.

Also, every CFO is looking to reduce costs, particularly in light of the economic headwinds currently facing the global economy, placing a new pressure and emphasis on ROI. CFOs need to strongly consider not just the cost reduction targets, but the opportunity to make quick returning investments that drive sales velocity across the sales team by leveraging sales enablement technology; investments that will grow the top line and ultimately the bottom line.

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