Selling to the CFO.

Selling to the CFO. 1024 683 admin9696

Access to power is the surest way to secure a sales process. Similarly, not being granted access to power should be interpreted as a warning signal.

Even though Challenger Sales recommends that sales people focus on mobilizers as to create consensus and catalyse action in multi stakeholders sales cycles. Simplistic approaches may consider champions as the key element of their check list. We do believe sales raps should “cover all bases” to borrow a term from baseball. From economic buyers to technical decision makers, from functional sponsors to users, individualized access to stakeholders in complex buying processes is a must.

Among the key power players: the CFO. If you sell solutions that address directly CFO needs, such as ERP’s or financial planning tools, the CFO is probably your primary point of contact. The same applies if you sell products or services which amount and impact systematically require the approval of the CFO. You probably have already the keys to sell to the CFO.

On the other hand, this article may be of interest to you if:

There’s always a good reason to talk to the CFO. First because the alway win over the CIOs and the CPOs. Second because their role and their scope of responsibilities go well beyond finance. Last but not lea, because if you have access to the CFO early n the sales cycle, even if he or she relies on his team for the evaluation and decision process, you will be able to reconnect or escalate when your opportunity stalls. Access to power, including the CFO, must be achieved or negotiated as soon as a pain or a need is shared in the discovery phase.

Build your CFO persona :

Any project has an impact on finance, either the top line, the bottom line, or somewhere in between. The good question is: is the impact big enough to involve the CFO? It depends on what you sell and the size of the organizations you target. How do you know and how do you create a viable and consistent relationship with finance? List all the possible stakeholders that could be addressed by your product or service and leverage the value pain chain. You will figure out if your offer can legitimately be linked to a critical CFO problem or concern. If you sell a talent management platform, you may find it hard to make the CFO your primary contact. Fair enough.

An yet, the cost of recruitment, the ability of new hires to become productive quickly, or the inability to retain your best talents have a quantifiable impact on profits. And decreasing profits translates into declining earnings per share. Right on the mark! In the same way, a CRM platform or an ABM solution, when properly linked to sales costs and productivity and to new accounts opening goals can have a seat at the CFO table.

Onboard the CFO :

Linking revenue achievement or key account targeting issues to the CFO’s scope requires a minimum of creativity. If you make it right, and avoid far fetched approaches that may go awry, you win. Almost. As the saying goes : beauty is the eye of the beholder. Speaking about aphorisms, here is another: « people buy from people”. When highlighting the sales discipline and reliability enforced by your CRM, you touch on predictability and accuracy Forecast accuracy is important to a CFO for sure, but a CFO is not an accountant.

Hence the need to link your approach to a critical and personal issue : forecast accuracy is a question of credibility toward CEOs and shareholders whose trust determines the share price. Forecasting is no longer the issue in itself. the problem relates to corporate survival (critical) and keeping one’s job (personal). While addressing his or her personal reasons to act or buy, you activate the levers to onboard the CFO. The reason to buy is no longer only rational but becomes emotional.

Speaking the CFO language:

Selling to the CFO requires one skill : comfort with power. Your investment in learning and your marketing department efforts will help get your the right to talk to the CFO and monitor the basics of the conversation. However, if your are nervous or tense, if you lose composure each time you have an opportunity to speak to a board member, or conversely sorely lack humility, work out your soft skills. Secondary soft skills such as confidence, how elusive they may sound, can be improved.. Primary skills such as ambition or growth mindset are harder to hone or acquire.

The CFO profile is too often summarized around characteristics such as risk aversion and rational analysis. Sales reps are therefore equipped to address the “C” (compliant) of their personality traits. The ones rooted in figures and facts, rigor and analytical thinking. That’s OK, but we should bear in mind CFOs are people with power, and therefore “Ds” like Dominant. They do like ROI approaches based on facts and figures but they also love large scale and bold challenges and opportunities. As far as risk are under control.

Speaking to the CFOs requires knowing their metrics and idiom. Confusing payback (months or years) and ROI (percent), or leading with an overoptimistic ROI of hundreds percent will qualify you out. If you talk about value, make sure you can prove it through a credible and collaborative approach and that the final value delivered is mutually agreed. Speaking of value, when pitching your value proposition, do not get into features and functions: highlight what you do, a couple of relevant customer references – if possible in the same industry – the benefits, and the quantified impact.

On ROI, think always cash flow in minus cash flow out. Assuming that a euro spent today does not have the same value as a euro spent in the future, use discounted cash flow and net present value. This will make you “cost of doing nothing” or “cost of delay” approaches more convincing.

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