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7 Steps to Selling to the CFO in a Downturn

In today's business landscape, selling to CFOs has become more critical than ever before.


As organisations face heightened financial scrutiny and a focus on maximising ROI, the CFO's role in spend approvals has grown exponentially. By capturing the attention and buy-in of CFOs, sellers gain a strategic advantage in securing budget allocation and driving decision-making that directly impacts the company's bottom line.


With this short guide, you'll gain insights and techniques necessary to navigate this vital stakeholder relationship successfully.


Step 1 - Understand what the CFO cares most about

Research and gain insights into the specific challenges and priorities the CFO faces during a downturn economy. This could include areas such as cost reduction, cash flow management, risk mitigation, strategic investments or shareholder value. Tailor your sales approach to address these concerns and showcase how your solution aligns with their priorities.


Tip: If selling to a public company, ensure you review their annual report (10K etc), in order to obtain insights into their financial trends, leadership statements, strategic priorities and key challenges.


Step 2 - Learn the art of negotiating

In a downturn economy, CFOs are often more cautious and cost-sensitive. Develop strong negotiation skills to effectively address their concerns and find mutually beneficial solutions. Understand the CFO's negotiation style, focus on value rather than just price, and be prepared to offer flexible options or concessions when appropriate.


Tip: do not use the term 'final price' if it isn't your final price. This will lose you credibility and trust. Constantly test your champions with your pricing structure.


Step 3 - Communicate efficiently with the CFO

CFOs are typically focused on the bottom line and require concise, data-driven communication. Prepare a compelling business case that highlights the financial benefits, cost savings, ROI, and risk mitigation aspects of your B2B solution. Use clear, concise and straightforward language, supported by relevant data and metrics, to demonstrate how your solution directly addresses their pain points. While you may not receive any direct face-time with the CFO, if you do, ensure your attitude, language and professionalism shows that you belong in the room with them.


Tip: Business cases are best delivered when they're owned by your champion. This will ensure the data points have been validated, refined and are supported by the champion.


Step 4 - Highlight immediate cost savings

Emphasise how your B2B solution can deliver immediate cost savings and financial benefits to the company. Provide concrete examples, case studies, or simulations that illustrate the potential impact on the CFO's key financial metrics, such as reducing expenses, improving profitability, or optimizing working capital.


Step 5 - Mitigate financial risks

Address the CFO's concerns regarding financial risks in a downturn economy. Showcase how your solution can help the company reduce financial risks, improve compliance with regulations, enhance security measures, or increase operational resilience. Highlight features that mitigate risks and provide a sense of stability and confidence during uncertain times.


Tip: CFOs have been burned multiple times on failed implementations due to adoption. Ensure you cover this specific risk as it relates to your solution, services and the customer journey.


Step 6 - Demonstrate scalability and long-term value

Illustrate how your solution is scalable and adaptable to accommodate the company's evolving needs and future growth. Explain how it can drive long-term value and help the company emerge stronger from the downturn. Provide case studies or success stories from other customers who have achieved sustainable results with your solution.


Step 7 - Offer flexible pricing and implementation options

Recognise the CFO's need for flexibility in a downturn economy. Provide flexible pricing models, such as subscription-based or pay-as-you-go options, to ease the financial burden. Additionally, offer streamlined implementation processes, ensuring minimal disruption to the company's operations and a quick return on investment.

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