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How To Sell to a CFO

Most big money B2B sales involve getting the approval of the CFO. However, selling to a CFO isn't like selling to a CEO or a department head, which is why so many sales pros find it challenging. Fortunately, here are six rules that, if followed, will ensure that the CFO gets on board:

  • STEP #1: Create a financial model. Forget features and functions. A CFO wants to see tangible, grounded numbers using the financial metrics he understands. Your model should build a financial case that documents solid, quantified benefits of your offering.
  • STEP #2: Express the benefits in ROI. Once you know the financial impact of your offering, make sure that the impact is expressed in terms of ROI. If possible, determine what kind of ROI the CFO prefers to use for decision-making.
  • STEP #3: Document your assumptions. Every financial model and ROI involves some kind of analysis of how the numbers were generated. You need to list out those assumptions so that the CFO knows that they make sense.
  • STEP #4: Document your proof-points. Any analysis or estimates presented to the CFO should be backed up by demonstrable proof that the value proposition has been proven in the real-world. Weave benchmark and case study data into the analysis, offering concrete evidence of your claims.
  • STEP #5: Explicitly state your success criteria. CFOs want to know how the impact of your solution will going to be measured throughout the life of the project and, more importantly, what remedial actions your firm intends to take if those performance benchmarks aren't met.
  • STEP #6: Include an objective opinion. Many CFOs prefer to have an independent analyst be part of ROI analysis and measurement. This helps the CFO better assess the positive impact that the solution might have upon the overall corporate performance.
  • STEP #7: Create your final documents. Prepare an executive summary that highlights the entire report. In most cases, you'll want two final documents: a presentation (which relies heavily on the summary) and a report (which provides all of the above.)
  • STEP #8: Have your documents copy-edited. CFOs are sticklers for accuracy which is why they got into finance and accounting in the first place. So make ABSOLUTELY certain that there are no typos are misspelled words.
BTW, the above is based partly on my own (fairly extensive) experience pitching to financial types, and upon a conversation with Bruce Scheer, principal at FutureSight Consulting, a marketing consulting firm.

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