Whether you report expenses weekly, monthly, or on an as-needed basis, the following tips help make expense reporting easier.
Establish a routine
If you're in sales, expense reporting will likely always be part of your job. Make a conscious effort to establish a routine that includes:
- Tracking receipts Keep all receipts in the same place, every time.
- Documenting mileage Record mileage in the same place each week or month. Don't count on notes scribbled on paper scraps or gum wrappers as a reliable means of tracking mileage.
- Reviewing phone logs Spend the extra few minutes each month to review reimbursable phone expenses.
Know your company policy
Understand your company's expense reimbursement policies, and keep track of all policy updates. Claiming ignorance of a policy change does not go over well with accounting or sales management. Indifference toward company policy is a huge red flag to management.
Many sales professionals have been fired for dishonesty on expense reports. Don't fall into the trap of trying to slip a small false expense past company auditors. Finding a few more customers a year to increase your commission is wiser and more valuable in the long run.
Plenty of tools — such as PDAs, portable computers, and planners — are available to help you track and report expenses. In addition, most organizations have expense-reporting templates that are easy to complete. Become familiar with these tools, and get into the habit of using them.
Develop a checklist
By having a checklist of items to include on every expense report, you can eliminate most common mistakes. For example, your checklist might include the following questions:
- Have you signed your report?
- Are all the dates accurate?
- Are there receipts?
- Is client information correct?
Do it now
Letting expenses stack up for weeks or months at a time is a bad habit that can lead to inaccuracies on expense reports. It's easy to say, "I'll remember what I spent" or "I'll remember what I tipped the bellhop." But over time, you can easily lose track and end up guessing. If you do not report expenses immediately after incurring them, you run the risk of losing money or being perceived as unorganized.
Expense reporting takes effort, but following these guidelines makes the process easier. Deviating from your routine can cause one of these sales professionals' nightmares:
- Having an expense report sent back to you several weeks after your credit card bill is due.
- Reporting the same expense multiple times. You don't want to ask yourself, "Did I really tip that person three times in one day?"
Effective expense reporting is part of being professional, and it benefits both you and your company in many ways.
About the author Brad Douglas is Vice President of Sales and Marketing with Shipley Associates, a professional services company focusing on sales and business development consulting, training, and process improvement.