One of the greatest advantages in selling is the ability to understand how the CFO, (a typical approver) thinks. That’s particularly true if you’re selling a technology solution. Why? Tech sales generally represent large investments, and the job of any CFO is to make sure that any major expenditure will yield measurable results and a good ROI.
As the steward of money within the company, the CFO wants to make smart investments. Your job as a seller is to provide proof of value. Although you might be extremely personable, like-able, and engaging, it’s important to realize that the typical personality of a CFO is not built to make decisions based on whether or not he or she likes you. Treating them to nice dinners or a round of golf at an expensive resort might be pleasant and enjoyable, but ultimately those activities are not going to help close a deal if the CFO doesn't see a sound business case for investing in your offering.
Financial officers will always be looking for hard facts and evidence that the company should free up funds to purchase your solution. That means your proof of value has to be unbiased, polished, and persuasive. Here’s how to increase your chances of persuading a CFO to give you the green light.
1) Quantify the benefits of your solution. CFOs want to see value in terms of currency (dollars and cents in the US). What ROI can you offer?
2) Show why your solution is a good use of funds. Make sure that you customize your presentation to the company -- show why your solution is relevant for this particular company, at this particular moment in time. Don’t use a generic story to sell your solution.
3) Prove your solution’s value. Show the CFO where else you’ve delivered value. Include proof points, case study examples, and other references. This will increase their level of confidence in your solution.
4) Show professionalism in your work. Your presentation cannot appear as though it was put together the night before in a hotel room. No matter how genius the idea, a back-of-the-envelope proposal will get passed over every time. Spelling errors and typos can fatally undermine your credibility. And, needless to say, any mathematical error will make your entire analysis invalid. Double check your work and enlist the aid of other professionals (copyeditors, designers, technical experts, etc.) to put your best foot forward. Or, better yet, use a tool that has already been tested to be accurate.
5) Show your work. If the CFO is remotely interested in your solution, he or she will want to drill into the analysis to make sure they understand how the numbers were calculated. Your business case needs to be rooted in logic. Avoid fuzzy math.
6) Incorporate an unbiased perspective. Reference benchmark studies, analyst reports, statistics, or any other third-party data to help convince the CFO that your solution is a worthy investment.
7) Balance positives with negatives. Not every solution is a perfect fit for a company. Your aim is not to provide a perfect picture; your job is to provide an accurate and realistic perspective. Be up front about the potential downsides or drawbacks to investing in your solution. If the CFO thinks you’re hiding something, you will definitely lose credibility.
Follow these principles when selling to a CFO, and you’ll increase your chances of convincing them that your solution is worth saying yes to.
What are your biggest challenges when selling to CFOs? Share your thoughts in the comments section.