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The rise of the rebate accounting professionals

Posted by Elizabeth Allcock on August 6, 2020 09:03:53

For decades, many of the world’s strongest trading relationships have been built on rebate agreements.

The people trusted with managing these mutually beneficial business deals have played vital roles. But by necessity, they’ve been cogs in a much larger machine. Their time has been absorbed by administrative tasks: collecting and keying-in data, performing audits, corresponding over disputes.

Now, the limits of rebate management are expanding.

Businesses are realizing the need for—and immense value of—even closer collaboration with their suppliers and customers. And at the same time, technology is automating rebate management administration, enabling deeper strategic insights, and supporting new ways of working together.

Liberated from mundane tasks, empowered to analyze and collaborate...

Ambitious rebate analysts and rebate accountants are redefining their roles—to supercharge their careers, and help their companies thrive.


  1. Why it's an exciting time to be a rebate accounting professional
  2. Freeing yourself from admin
  3. Showing the strategic value rebate professionals can deliver
  4. Spearheading closer collaboration
  5. Get started with collaborator

1. Why it's an exciting time to be a rebate professional

Closer collaboration between suppliers and distributors is becoming a must

Today, close trading relationships are more important than ever, especially with tech giants like Amazon Business entering the world of B2B distribution. This is damaging margins and creating a race to the bottom on price. For distributors and suppliers who want to buck this trend towards marketplaces they don’t control, closer supply chain collaboration is essential. It allows them to achieve things the likes of Amazon can’t: sales based on expert knowledge and value-added services, better margins, deeper customer insights, and greater brand differentiation.

With rebate agreements already at the heart of many successful B2B relationships. Rebate accounting professionals are ideally positioned to make this happen, working together to amplify the benefits of the supplier/distributor model. Rebate analysts are already engaged in B2B planning—they just need the time and insights to drive closer, mutually beneficial collaboration with distributors. Rebate accountants have the data to drive more strategic planning—they just need the time and insights to elevate their role.

Other advantages of closer collaboration include gaining better value for your business. The better you know your suppliers, and the better they know you, the more likely you are to benefit from dedicated service, preferential pricing and special terms. Also, the more reliable you are, the less likely to leave you for a competitor. Through this, your supply chain becomes more efficient, cost effective and productive.



Thanks to recent technological revolutions—cloud software, process automation, collaboration tools—their needs are being met:

Although some rebate professions are still lagging behind when it comes to rebate management software and collaboration tools, the most visionary rebate accounting professionals are successfully seeing the real benefits of SaaS tools such as ours. Those that are implementing rebate management software in their organizations are freeing up their time, providing deeper strategic insights, and supporting closer collaboration and planning. This leads to realising higher profits and better margins. We know this, because Enable has been helping them do it.

The stats below only enforce the need for companies to evolve and adopt digital transformation for their rebate management.

47% of supplier collaborations fail (Forbes) 80% of contracts are still managed with clunky, manual processes (IACCM) 68% of large firms are still using spreadsheets for accounting (Robert Half)

 


2. Freeing yourself from admin (while optimizing rebate processes)

Most professionals complain of spending too much time focussed on tactical and administrative work meaning they are forced to neglect their value-add duties. For example, research from Concur found that finance leaders say their teams are spending nearly a day a week just on general admin tasks.

In the rebate accounting team, there is growing interest from the rest of the organization to provide more business advice, so there is a pressing need to adopt digital tools to automate processes. Freeing rebate accountants to focus on strategic tasks using their expert knowledge rather than reducing them to number crunchers.

Some of the ‘admin’ tasks that occupy a lot of time for rebate analysts and accountants include:

  • Inputting figures into excel
  • Performing financial forecasting and reporting
  • Analyzing financial rebate data
  • Processing invoices
  • Emailing over reports to finance
  • Filing away agreements
  • Chasing suppliers to sign off on agreements
  • Figuring out the complexity of deals

Make financial spreadsheets a thing of the past

Spreadsheets in particular are causing more admin headaches than their worth. Data can be lost, overwritten, or not copied correctly. With hidden rows, complex formulae and pasting errors all contributing to this. The spreadsheets can get too big or too complicated: although spreadsheets start off simple, soon they swell in size with the amount of data, or the complexity of the deals.

Plus, easy collaboration is impossible as it is difficult to coordinate multiple people working on the same spreadsheet at the same time. Edits can be lost, or people need to be told to "save and quit" from the spreadsheet. Then you have the problem of how you share the excel document with your financial peers or suppliers which you would think would be best through email. But this method is subject to duplication or extremely large data that the email server wouldn’t allow a file this size to be emailed out.

Financial spreadsheets are also vulnerable to staff turnover, because they are usually managed by one person with intimate knowledge of the spreadsheet. Bringing other people up to speed is difficult and risky if the employee leaves suddenly. This brings us onto security issues, how is access to the spreadsheets managed? Who can access these spreadsheets?

There is also no version control if your deals change, or data needs to be re-uploaded it means creating multiple versions of the same spreadsheet. Keeping this in sync is impossible and there is no audit trail of what has changed from version to version.

Then finally, financial spreadsheets can be difficult to decode: How can you guarantee the accuracy of the results without constantly checking all of the formulas are intact and the data is there? There is the increased likelihood to miss rebates or cause disputes with your supplier.

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Stop relying on paper

Two-thirds of businesses waste £2000 per employee every year due to an over-reliance on paper and 60% of employees print out physical document’s multiple times a week. The manpower to print and store these files can really add up. By decreasing your reliance on paper, you reduce the time taken to print, store, locate and retrieve files. Going totally paperless might be impossible but analyze the areas in which you use the most paper and where you could cut down. Preventing unnecessary printing of emails and other digital documents is a quick and easy solution.

Automate reporting

At month end, you'll likely have a hectic workload. For many organizations, the monthly static financial reporting process continues to be demanding, especially if it's still performed manually. It's a time-consuming process and relies mostly on transferring data from the ERP into spreadsheets, with lots of switching back and forth. The process is slow because every new reconciliation affects the numbers, making the static spreadsheet-based reports instantly out-of-date, forcing the regular creation of new versions.

We have seen that many rebate accounting professionals are moving away from spreadsheets and ERP systems to dedicated rebate management systems that minimize errors and automate key tasks.

“The complexity of managing hundreds of contracts, in a confidential manner, was proving to be almost impossible until I discovered Enable.”
Mark Kirby, President, ATCO

 

“It was all being managed on an Excel spreadsheet and we didn’t have a way of checking if the payments of our suppliers were right,”
Jon Samuel, Commercial Manager, MKM

 


Dive deeper:

How to streamline your deal approval process
Discover five steps to faster approvals

Excel errors: why spreadsheets are so dangerous for rebate accounting
Find out why spreadsheets are slowing you down

How automating manual rebate processes can benefit your finance team
Discover the many benefits for finance teams to automate their manual processes


3. Showing the strategic value you can deliver to your employer

Until now, rebate accounting professionals have been able to deliver strategic value in many ways such as unlocking the value of rebates, capturing data, finalizing trading agreements, processing rebate payments, reporting and forecasting but as the role is beginning to change there is so much more they can do to add more strategic value to their business.

How can rebate accounting professionals deliver more strategic value now?

Many rebate accountants that we work with have managed to deliver more strategic value by ‘leaning-in’ to the possibilities of their role, they’re raising their profile with senior stakeholders, and advancing their careers. By doing the following:

1. Spending more time on analysis

With a desire for more analysis and insight and the adoption of new tools to drive this, rebate teams have needed to upskill and develop in order to keep pace with the change. To get the best out of data analysis, rebate accountants need a range of ‘soft’ skills such as critical thinking, a willingness to ask questions in the pursuit of value and a whole range of people skills in addition to their reporting abilities. After all, it is people who make decisions based on the parameters before them, and who will ultimately shape the rebate department’s contribution to the wider business.

2. Identifying risks in your role

Rebate professionals can provide more strategic insight into identifying emerging risks. For example, one of these is Excel spreadsheets which remains a central technology for 68% of firms; however, this presents its own risks including data being lost, no version control, lack of security, missed rebates and a lot more.

3. Improving commercial awareness

Rebate professionals must have a broad understanding of the needs of the business, knowledge of the marketplace in which the business operates and who it interacts with, such as clients, customers, regulators, investors etc. They should have the ability to persuade and manage the expectations of stakeholders as they take on a more prominent role in providing advice to the wider business. Commercially aware people are proactive thinkers, they are a positive force for change in any business and help drive teams and businesses forward.

4. Increasing their skillset 

Rebate professionals need to be diversifying their skill sets and restructuring their roles to create more resource for strategic tasks. By being more skilled in presenting new data driven ideas, they can persuade other areas of the business such as finance and procurement to do the same as they work more closely together. Learning the skills to ask the right questions of the data they collect will provide them with the ability to test the validity of their instincts. Without upskilling, even the most skilled individuals will struggle to deliver more strategic value.

5. Implementing a rebate management system

Those rebate accounting professionals who have played a part in moving their rebate management processes to the cloud are making use of their additional capacity and new tools to deliver more strategic value to the business, e.g.:

  • Uncovering issues relating to miscalculated rebate
  • Uncovering when rebates are being left on the table (e.g. through coding errors, missed thresholds)
  • Analyzing and advising on the impact/performance of rebate deals in greater depth
  • Strategically advising procurement and finance teams
  • Driving more efficient internal and external approvals, improving cashflow

Rebate accounting professionals need to play a critical role in ensuring organisations continue to thrive. This requires investment in new practices, technologies, and skills that increase the business’s capacity to adapt at pace. Emerging rebate accounting professionals will be the game changers; they will apply new tech to new ways of working and senior members of the team will have to learn to lead a diverse team of individuals with technical skills that don’t necessarily overlap with theirs.

 

“The rebate management system had a positive impact on cash flow. Payments were faster, and they could now track their own potential earnings and achieve higher growth levels and targets, meaning they could stay one step ahead of the competition.”
Amanda Barnard, Systems Coordinator, Unitas Wholesale

 

“Enable gives us one place to record and track the rebate deals we negotiate on behalf of our
members. It will free up huge amounts of time that we currently spend on forecasting, monitoring, and reporting.”
John Fisher, Credit and Receivables Manager, LMC

 



Dive deeper:

Cloud migration: an opportunity to transform rebate management
Find out how a cloud-based rebate management system can also give a significant boost to revenue and margin.

Regain control of your supplier rebates and maximize your rebate revenue
A guide to help you understand supplier rebates and make sure you’re claiming every dollar of rebate revenue you can.


4. Spearheading closer collaboration with trading partners

Compelled—and enabled–by the digital transformation of the business, you might be spending much less time on administrative tasks and be able to focus on more strategic internal and external collaboration. You might be part of a smaller team performing only core functions. Or, if your title is rebate manager, you might have been the driving force behind expanding your organization’s rebate function and increasing its strategic scope.

Whatever your role we have seen many rebate professionals supporting mutually beneficial business relationships because they have a direct impact on the bottom line. For example, rebate deals hold a lot of power in trading relationships. Suppliers can use them to influence the behaviour of their trading partners, and distributors can use them to inform their purchasing decisions. With greater visibility of rebate agreements, and a strong understanding of what’s involved with each deal, there’s a lower risk of disputes that could damage or even jeopardize collaboration.

How rebate professionals are making use of their new collaboration platform:

  • Spending more time developing relationships with trading partners
  • Virtually eliminating disputes
  • Spearheading intelligent planning with trading partners
  • Deepening collaboration across internal teams (e.g. with procurement and finance for distributors)

Organizations that collaborate with their trading partners are reaping the benefits of a successful partnership. These companies are more open to sharing ideas and fostering a better relationship, whereas non-collaborators are leaving immense value on the table. We believe technology is fundamental to the success of any future collaboration with your trading partners.

"With Enable’s collaborator portal, my colleagues have access to the contracts, and suppliers can also login and see what it is they have signed. The agreements can’t be changed, it's locked down at the point of everyone signing it. It’s very visible to everyone who is a part of that contract."
Barney Craft, Finance Manager, Travis Perkins

 


Dive deeper

Why collaboration is key to supply chain success
Discover how collaboration can improve the supply chain

Forging stronger relationships through distributor rebates
Learn that collaborating with your trading partners around mutually beneficial distributor rebate agreements can provide the most benefit.


5. Getting started with Collaborator

With Enable’s collaboration portal you can easily and securely share your deals with your trading partners, giving you the ability to work together to boost your rebate earnings. That single view of contracts and deals can be invaluable internally aswell, enabling purchasing and sales to work together to maximize rebate revenues, and finance to monitor, accrue and claim for all rebate due – with a full audit trail. We need to stop thinking about trading agreements as contracts to be fulfilled and think of them instead as mutually beneficial relationships to be improved on.

How easy can collaboration be? Take a tour of Enable’s Collaborator portal.


Chat to our experts

Get in touch with Enable if you’re looking to transform your role as a rebate analyst or accountant and want to find out how we’re able to help you build your business case.

Talk to our experts

If you’re further along the line, and want to see exactly what a rebate management solution can do for your business, we’d love to show you.

request a demo of Dealtrack software

Topics: Rebate Management, Rebate Accounting, Rebate Management System, Rebates