Sales teams aren’t just selling to specific personas anymore. According to Forrester, 61% of companies report that their CFO is the final decision maker on all purchase decisions. But whether the CFO has the final say or not, finance is involved in buying decisions 100% of the time.
The problem for sales teams? The CFO isn’t going to take a meeting. How do we build their confidence in our product or service if we can’t get them on the phone?
“I really want to trust the frontline manager or whoever the initial contact was to know their business domain, and the tools that they need to solve their business problems. If you have a champion who's willing to stand behind the ROI and prove that theory out, any good CFO is going to say yes.”
This is a direct quote from David Crenshaw, my CFO here at Ambition. Although he’s the one making the final call on spend, he relies on his internal champions to vet and identify the tools they need to hit business goals. When a frontline leader is willing to remove one system to purchase another or put their number on the line, CFOs like David are more inclined to find the budget.
I recently sat down with Del Nakhi, Sr. Director of Global GTM Strategy, Operations, and Enablement at MariaDB and Zachary Miller, VP of Sales at Highspot for an ask-me-anything-style webinar with David, and it became abundantly clear that our greatest leverage when it comes to CFO buy-in is our internal champion.
What does the CFO really need to know about your solution? How do we coach and enable our sellers to speak to those value drivers and equip an internal champion? We asked the CFO himself.
3 Ways to Align Your Tool with the CFO’s Agenda
First, let’s get clear about the CFO’s agenda. Their primary objective is to drill down on efficiency and cost savings at their company. They have high-level business and financial goals to answer to, and they won’t spend money unless it helps them achieve those goals.
“Your tool could be the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I hope this does not sound callous, but I really don’t care. What I care about is that there’s a cost reduction impact, a revenue increase impact, and if this is going to help us hit our board targeted budgets,” David said.
This is what we need to keep in mind as we train and coach our people to have the right conversations with internal champions. Here are 3 ways to start.
1. Get rid of ambiguous claims like “value,” “quality,” and ROI.
Your solution surely offers value, quality, and ROI, or you wouldn’t be selling it—but you have to know your audience. Value means something different to everyone, and ROI can be inflated based on who collects the data. Neither is objectively personal to the CFO’s agenda. Instead of stuffing a pitch with empty claims, do the hard work of personalizing what that value means for a particular company. How will you help them hit their business goals? How will your tool impact performance, revenue gains, and cost savings? The CFO needs an outcome to believe your solution is worth buying. Prep your internal champions with a point of view on how your solution positively impacts performance.
“The critical thing is to position your solution as a productivity and efficiency driver that ultimately is going to drive profitability and value. I think if you can key into that, you're going to probably be in a good place.” – Zachary Miller, Highspot
2. Quantify the pain of not making a change.
The status quo is often our biggest hurdle. People are more inclined to stick with what they know, simply because change is hard. Quantifying the cost of doing nothing can be a powerful motivator for your internal champion to stand behind what you’re selling. Will that champion miss their goal because they said no to your tool? What do their numbers look like without your solution? Prep your internal champion to answer the inevitable CFO question, “What happens if we don’t make a change?”
“How do we identify the business impact, whether it's positive or negative, for them not to make a change? Making that business case, especially when it comes to a CFO, is going to be what ultimately sells it. Does it align to their objectives? That's something that we're encouraging our sellers to really be focusing on.” – Del Nakhi, MariaDB
3. Don’t ask your champion if they have the budget for your tool—ask if they’ve talked to their CFO about it.
These days, no one is spending money if they don’t have to, but the “budget freeze” is kind of a myth. If your internal champion can prove to their CFO that your solution will either help them save money or make them more money, their CFO will find the budget for it. Ensure that the CFO is on board early in the process to confirm your champion’s investment in the deal. That champion is your greatest advocate. If they believe in your solution, their CFO will believe in it, too. Early alignment ensures the CFO can forecast accordingly and work with their champion to find or reallocate budget.
“I've seen great collaboration between leaders, saying, ‘We really need this tool. It's multi-functional. We're willing to take away and give more to sales and take some out of product budget to support this tool, because we really believe we can hit our total overall goal that way.’” – David Crenshaw, CFO, Ambition
These are just a few of the eye-opening takeaways from our conversation. Watch the full webinar here to gain valuable insight on what’s going through the CFO’s mind when they see a deal on their desk, hear David answer questions live, and get Zachary and Del’s perspectives from the sales and enablement sides of the house.