9 Rules for Selling to a CFO
Selling to a CEO is easy, because most CEOs are positive, high energy, and able to see the possibilities. But selling to a CFO... not so much. CFOs are paid to see risks and to worry about what things cost. They’re the classic roadblocks in your drive to make sales.
Not to worry. Here’s a list of nine rules that turn CFOs from roadblocks into, at worst, speed bumps .
1. Never Give a Pitch
The quickest way to alienate an accountant-type is to talk about your wonderful product, your wonderful company, or (worst of all) your wonderful self. They’re about the money, so stick to the subject.
2. Research First
Every CFO has a slightly different way of looking at financial value. Before building a financial case, find out what’s important in this situation and what kind and size of numbers get on the CFO’s radar.
3. Focus on Cost Savings
While CEOs are generally concerned with strategy and growing revenue, CFOs are generally interested in cost savings, backed with hard numbers and expressed in a way that makes sense to an accountant.
4. Be Concise
Present a top-level summary, backed by a detailed financial report with solid, quantified benefits and supporting analysis. Include a financial model so that the CFO can understand the assumptions surrounding the analysis.
5. Keep It Simple
Your financial model should not require verification based on information that’s difficult to gather. Use metrics that the CFO will find familiar. Aren't sure which metrics to use? Go back to Rule No. 2.
6. Be Realistic
Any analysis or estimate that you present MUST be backed by demonstrable real-world proof. Weave benchmark examples and case study data into the analysis, backing whatever productivity claims you make.
7. Offer Objectivity
Many CFOs prefer to have an independent analyst be part of any measurement of cost saving or ROI. If the size of the deal warrants the extra expense, hire an independent to do the analysis for you.
8. Provide Measurement & Action Plan
CFOs want to know how the financial impact of the purchase will be measured on an ongoing basis and what actions your firm will take if those benchmarks aren't met.
9. Get a Public Commitment
This is very important: As the next step, get the CFO to write an email, attend a meeting, or do something else visible to the rest of the company that will indicate the CFO is “on board” with the purchase.
The above is expanded from a conversation with Bruce Scheer, a principal at FutureSight Consulting.
GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist
Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.