Sellers have been told for years to “sell higher in the organization.” This is especially true for complex sales, which require the approval of the CFO or another senior-level financial leader. Unfortunately, financial approval remains elusive, partly because sellers are often unprepared.
Selling successfully to financial executives requires a focused approach that illustrates your solution’s bottom line impact. By the time your deal crosses the CFO’s desk, it should be abundantly and persuasively clear that your solution is a good fit for the business. The only questions to be considered at this point are why invest and why now.
Here are five actions you can take to help drive a favorable decision.
5 Steps to Sell to the CFO
Show the size of the problem.
Begin this activity during your early conversations with the buyer as you conduct your discovery process. Ask the buyer what’s wrong with the status quo, how much revenue is being lost, how many people are affected, what is the desired future state, etc. As you collect this information, calculate how much money these issues are currently costing the company.
Use financial terms to present your solution’s value.
Deliver a business case that includes established financial metrics such as return on investment (ROI), net present value (NPV), and payback period. At all costs, avoid nondescript and unsubstantiated claims like, “You can save time and cut payroll by 10%.”
Prove your solution’s value.
Increase the CFO’s level of confidence in your solution by showing them where else you have delivered value. This can be done using case studies, testimonials, and other proof points. You can also reference industry benchmarks, analyst reports, and other third-party data to illustrate what your customer’s industry peers have achieved.
Show your work.
Present your financial justification concisely and at a high level. If the CFO is remotely interested in your solution, make it easy to drill into the analysis to see how the numbers were calculated. Your business case needs to be transparent for it to be credible.
Balance positives and negatives.
Be up front about the potential downsides or drawbacks to investing in your solution. Your aim is to provide an accurate and realistic perspective, not a perfect picture. It’s a good idea to show the projected outcomes as a range of maximum, expected, and minimum results. You can also think of this as a “best case, worst case” scenario. If the CFO thinks you’re hiding something, you will lose credibility.
Follow these principles when selling to the CFO, and you’ll increase your chances of convincing them that your solution is worth saying yes to.