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Apr 01 2014
Melissa Mickelsen, CCE, Geneva Rock Products, Inc.

Most likely, we've all been asked by upper management to sell to a customer we normally wouldn't approve. Hopefully, these types of situations don't happen often. But when they do, they can be frustrating and irritating.


Sometimes we may be tempted to pout when our decisions are overruled, or we may secretly hope for the opportunity to say, "I told you so!" Although occasionally tempting, such reactions aren't going to help us or the company gain success. Instead, we need to figure out how to work as a team with upper management to ensure positive outcomes in difficult situations.


First, before these types of situations even occur, it is critical to work on developing a good relationship with upper management. This relationship should be built on mutual trust, effective communication and positive results. Of course, in some situations this type of relationship is more difficult to cultivate than in others. But a positive working relationship between credit and upper management can be invaluable in promoting success.


Next, when these situations do occur, ensure that upper management understands that you have reservations about the customer and/or the sale. State your position clearly and concisely without compromising sensitive information or divulging confidential information. Consider presenting alternatives to the extension of credit terms that will allow the sale to occur.


CIA (cash in advance) or COD (cash on delivery) terms may be more appropriate to the situation. If credit is needed, present various options that could help secure the sale and increase the likelihood of payment. Avoid presenting a problem without also presenting potential solutions. Demonstrating a willingness to be creative and work toward a sale will only strengthen your relationship with upper management. Remember, you are working toward the same goal of success for your company. Show that you're a team player and not a member of a "sales prevention department."


If, after presenting your case, you're still overridden and asked to extend credit terms or forgo additional methods to ensure payment, your next step is to support upper management in their decision. Again, you're both working to make the company successful. Even if you don't fully agree with the decision that's been made, it's now your job to move forward and do whatever you can to help collect payment. There still may be some methods you can employ up front to help secure the sale. You may need to personally manage the account or make more frequent calls to the customer. You may need to work more closely with sales to obtain critical information about the customer or the sale. Consistent communication between credit, sales and the customer will be crucial in obtaining payment.

Move forward and avoid venting your frustrations to other employees. Demonstrating your support can only help build a stronger relationship between the credit department and upper management. Showing support in tough situations will give upper management the opportunity to build greater trust in you and your abilities and, hopefully, show even greater support for the credit department in the future. Working to help upper management succeed will often help you succeed as well.


In some cases, it may be in your best interest to document the decision that's been made or even to ask for the decision in writing. This can be as simple as an email from upper management stating that the sale is to be made or credit given. How the situation is handled will depend on the type of relationship you have with upper management and the specific circumstances. But such requests for documentation, if made, should be approached carefully, tactfully and respectfully.


Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to ask upper management for help in contacting a customer or requesting payment. Often, in these situations, upper management may have a relationship with the customer which will allow them to exert more influence or obtain more information. The FOB customer (friend of boss) is not uncommon. When asking for assistance, avoid a "told you so" mentality and instead focus on working together to obtain positive results.


Tough situations arise in any career. How we handle those types of situations can often turn a frustrating experience into an opportunity to build trust and rise to the challenge and, hopefully, promote greater success for all.