Tracking rebates? How to do this more strategically

Tracking rebates? How to do this more strategically

The manual way of tracking rebates – spreadsheets

We wouldn't be surprised if your company uses spreadsheets to manage supplier or customer rebates. A compelling (albeit perhaps apocryphal) statistic says 99.99% of the world’s businesses are estimated to use Microsoft Excel. And an Enable survey recently found that over one-third of companies still use spreadsheets to negotiate, document, and share deals – a sure sign that digital transformation has a long way to go in this area.

Don’t get us wrong, spreadsheets are great. Or, at least, they can be great for managing simple records and even limited data analysis. But when you’re dealing with hundreds or even thousands of rows of data, complex spreadsheet formulations, and numbers that might even impact your bottom line, never mind your supplier relationships, spreadsheets are probably not the way to go for tracking rebates.

John Sanford, Vice President of Procurement at Auto-Wares, the largest automotive aftermarket distributor in the U.S., says they were managing everything with Excel before they put a proper system in place.  

Unsurprisingly, using spreadsheets was incredibly frustrating for him. In this video he explains why: “All the rebates come through my team, and we deal with where they need to go within the company, so it's important. It's over 10 million and it grows every year. We need to know, are we receiving the right amount? Did we receive it on time? And then to accrue or forecast for what you should receive and when, as well as, taking advantage of tiered rebates if you hit a growth target. Our previous tool was spreadsheets, we knew there was an opportunity to improve our process here, but just didn’t know a tool like Enable existed.”

Auto-Wares was not alone in their frustration with spreadsheets. Before Carparts found a better way of managing complex rebate deals, they were struggling, too, causing concern for their growth plans.

“As we grow into a billion-dollar company... we need a system that can handle hundreds of complex deals and accurately track the earned rebates. Excel was no longer cutting it.”

– Jerome Dziechiasz, Senior Category Manager,

Advance Auto Parts were also dealing with the exasperating, manual process of analyzing spreadsheet information.

Then something changed. They realized their rebate strategy was critical. They needed a tool to help them manage and track rebates far more effectively.

Today, Bob Gay, Rebate & Incentive Program Specialist at Advanced Auto Parts explains, “Employees once responsible for sifting through spreadsheets are now helping analyze which rebates programs work best and how to optimize these programs for mutual growth.”

Reasons to keep track of your rebates

Being able to track, calculate, automate and manage rebates shouldn’t require excessive numbers of human-powered tracking, investigation, and cross-referencing. But that’s just the beginning. A complete solution can cover all aspects of the trading relationship: from contract to claim; integrate with anything; improve sign-off visibility and security; completely systematize your processes and improve accruals so earnings can be calculated accurately at all levels. Automated rebate management tools also allow you to forecast more accurately while improving your team’s flexibility to adapt to special deals. They help you provide the support your team needs and, most importantly, track deal balances and profitability (with a complete audit trail) and more, as we explain below.

  • Revisit your deals

Whether you’re considering renegotiating B2B contracts or simply assessing the status of existing ones, managing current rebate statuses using spreadsheets is a nightmare. In a fast-moving world, deal performance may change daily, if not hourly. Unfortunately, the nature of static data means that spreadsheets are outdated almost as soon as they are created.

The alternative is a system that provides comprehensive, up-to-date dashboards, supports integration with multiple systems (including, but not limited to, your ERP), and even lets you extract real-time, granular data to share with the right team members.

  • Pay/collect on time

Delayed payments are one of the greatest aggravations for all parties managing rebates. Sadly, this delay is almost inevitable for companies that don’t use an automated rebate management system. It takes a long time to extract, analyze, interpret and check data using spreadsheets.  

However, with rebate management software, it’s almost difficult not to pay on time. When all the data is there, and can easily be reconciled with deal performance, analysis pain simply goes away. As a result, disputes between trading partners are reduced. Payment can be made on time. And relationships can begin to improve.

  • Find new revenue opportunities

Historically, B2B rebate trading partners haven’t enjoyed the best relationship. As we explain in our blog post on why customer rebates are the best thing (for customer success) since sliced bread, in the past, those giving rebates have been accused of dishonesty and trying to make it difficult for their customers to claim rebates. This led to great customer dissatisfaction as, in many cases, the accusations were valid.

The alternative is a new way of managing partnerships for mutual benefit. In this webinar about leveraging your data to drive rebate growth, Bob Gay, Rebate & Incentive Program Specialist at Advanced Auto Parts, explains the purpose of a rebate management system: To obtain mutually-beneficial goals based on the programs that you are designing for your company and your customers’ business. “If you obtain that mutually-beneficial situation where you’re both improving sales and margin, then everyone’s happy.”  

How to be more strategic – use a rebate tool

If you’re still not convinced that one of the most obvious ways to manage and track rebates more strategically is to use automated rebate management software like Enable, perhaps these other stories will convince you.

When John Janis, Director of Supply Chain Management at Chadwell Supply, joined the company, he discovered that many of his team members were tracking supplier rebates with an Excel spreadsheet. “I won't say it was managed well, but it was managed,” John explains candidly. Without any advanced visibility, they could not maximize their rebate collection.

“[Before Enable] it was all done on spreadsheets. My category managers didn't have much visibility of targets or even if a rebate was owed to us. And they had no forecast capability, or the ability to track pace of spin, just to where we may reach another tier level for rebate.”

- John Janis, Director of Supply Chain Management, Chadwell Supply

Now, John believes that Enable won’t just improve their current processes and maximize returns from their partner agreements – he actually plans to transform the rebate function from being viewed as a cost center to a profit center.

Amanda Barnard, Systems Coordinator at Unitas – a groceries buying group – has a similar story. She says that their members couldn’t track their rebates until the end of the year before they moved to Enable. Once they had Enable in place, though, they found the following benefits:

  • Missing rebate was uncovered
  • They improved cash flow management, leading to faster payments  
  • They could track earnings and tiers earlier in the year
  • As a result, deals became much easier to track and understand.

This is why their Transition Director, John Schofield, would recommend Enable.  

“Enable’s intuitive, central repository for all our trading agreements has improved member visibility and maximized their incentives to achieve target volumes. I would strongly recommend them.”  

– John Schofield, Transition Director, Unitas

Not convinced that a rebate management tool is right for you?

At Enable, we’re more than just rebate management software. Our vision is to empower thriving partner ecosystems of manufacturers, distributors, and retailers where people can find the best products, services, and value. But, while we build this vision, we will continue to enable trusted trading relationships to serve customers better together.

As our Director & Evangelist, Mark Gilham, says, “To fully leverage rebates, companies need rebate strategists who know which incentives will maximize volume and profits, optimize the sales mix, and mitigate risks posed by misalignments with supply chain partners.” And you need a digital rebate management platform to provide you with trading partner visibility, help predict demand (and determine whether you and your partners can meet it), and provide insight into supply chain operations.

“Rebates are powerful financial tools that help companies adapt to shifting market conditions, negotiate creative and lucrative pricing agreements, and build healthy relationships with their partners. But rebates don’t develop, negotiate, and implement themselves.”

Mark Gilham, Director & Evangelist, Enable

Rebates don’t develop, negotiate or implement themselves. But by tracking rebates properly they can be a vital tool for B2B business growth when managed by savvy rebate managers or strategists who use them to negotiate innovative and effective deals, track the performance of their financial strategies, and improve partner relationships.

If you’re ready to track rebates more strategically, we’re here to help!

Elizabeth Lavelle

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