The Deal Economy

From a game of telephone to the Tower of Babel: translating rebate management for sales, commercial and finance teams

When it is done well, rebate management improves partner relationships, provides financial compliance and reduces audit risk, eases cash flow for customers, improves rebate accuracy and predictability and helps grow business through true partnerships between manufacturers and their customers.

In the past: managing customer rebates was like playing telephone

Unfortunately, in the past, managing customer rebates internally – never mind with external partners – was more like a game of telephone: the game where kids whisper the same message from one person to the next until the message becomes so garbled it’s almost impossible to tell what it originally was.

Like in a game of telephone, the three typical groups of people involved in managing customer rebates internally – finance, sales and commercial / analysis teams – used to work separately, so messages would get lost in translation. As a result, customer relationships suffered.

Today, with the right rebate management tools, things can be quite different. In the new world of customer rebate management, everyone can speak the same language to ensure that rebate deals are purposeful, effective and manageable. How? Let’s imagine two scenarios in which these three parties communicate: what happened in the past, and how things have changed.

Who is typically involved in rebate management? Three parties

Let’s take the example of a manufacturer that has sales people (account managers) who spend time meeting with their customers and doing joint planning work on their rebate deals in order to sell more goods, in specific places or times.

Separately, in another part of the business, commercial teams design offerings including standard rebate deal types and a variety of customer programs specifically created to serve a particular business purpose. This same team also validates the rebate deals and assesses any changes to terms that customers have requested.

Then there’s rebate accounting and claims processing: the finance team receives requests for monies from customers, validates them and pays them out if the claims are valid. They also deal with financial accounting and make provision for customer rebate liabilities in the financial accounts.

What happens if you approach rebate management the old way? (without any software except, maybe, spreadsheets)?

In the old world, when these three parties were playing a game of telephone where no-one was listening clearly, the message became garbled, and things went wrong, with pretty bad consequences like these:

  • Incorrect accruals for liabilities

Suddenly customers would make a claim your finance team hadn’t accrued for. There would be no provision in accruals, but the customer would want the money. It wasn’t just a problem for the customer and for finance: if that accrual fed into a company financial statement it was bad for investors, and for business, too.

  • Poor customer service through delays and confusion in claims processing

Customers who put lots of effort into tracking the monies due to them would ask for their end-of-year rebate. Fair enough. They have it accrued and they’re expecting it. But sometimes the manufacturer would have different records that didn’t match, resulting in confusion and many hours or days of everyone’s time to resolve this issue.

  • Lack of business insight

Sometimes rebates were offered as market development funds i.e. the manufacturer offered discounts to a certain distributor to grow their market share. Without joined-up software, how would the manufacturer know if those investments had achieved the desired goals? With limited visibility of deal success it was difficult to know the commercial viability of a deal, and to see the bigger picture.

What happens when sales, commercial and finance are able to communicate effectively, using the right customer rebate tools?

  • Systematic approach to customer rebates

Rather than rebate deals being written in typed documents and managed on the sales team’s computers, imagine a world where all the rebate deals are stored online in a structured and standardized form and are accessible at the click of a mouse, using rebate management software. In this world, people follow agreed rebate management processes that are tracked and stored systematically too.

  • Clear, unambiguous definitions of rebate deals

Because rebate deals are all stored in one online location and, more importantly, because the rebate agreement details are tracked and visible to all parties involved (including the customers, as well as the sales, commercial and finance teams), there’s no more confusion. And no need to drag old documents out the file cabinet or the depths of someone’s email inbox.

  • Readily-available information on their customer rebates

Even if a customer asks for monies to be paid that are due, but finance doesn’t even know this customer has any deals in place, the finance team can now just look up their records on the system, find the information they need relating to each rebate deal, pay them and move on with their day. Job done.

The Tower of Babel: customer rebate management software

So how do sales, commercial and finance teams go from playing a game of broken telephone to creating their own Tower of Babel where everyone speaks the same language as each other internally and, more importantly, speaks the same language as their customers? How do they make rebates purposeful, effective and manageable?

The answer is: by using customer rebate management software.

Modern, centralized, configured software systems like customer rebate management gives all team members a single view of the truth. The result? No more confusion, misunderstandings or discrepancies.

Enable rebate management can help

If you want your rebate deals to be purposeful, effective and manageable you need a best-of-breed B2B rebate management platform from a company whose mission is to make your activity better. At Enable, we are as passionate about your deals as you are! It’s our core competency. It’s what we do and focus on every single day. And we’re the leading SaaS provider of rebate management software.

If you’re managing rebates –which can literally make the difference between your company’s profit and loss and its standing on the global financial markets– it doesn’t make sense to rely on manual tools like spreadsheets that inherently cause confusion between these three key groups of people (sales, commercial and finance) involved in rebate management.

Rather, choose the right rebate management tool for the job and make sure you can translate any rebate-related games of telephone into a Tower of Babel for your company.