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How to sell to the CFO

In these difficult economic times, selling to the CFO has become crucial. If you sell to the CFO, and convince them of the need for your tool, then you’re far more likely to turn your prospect into a closed-won. But selling to the CFO can be difficult. That’s why we spoke to Jan Benedikt Mundorf, an Account Executive at Pleo, to learn about how he goes about doing it. 

But with an estimated 71% of sales people wasting time every week on poorly-managed meetings and no-shows, selling directly to the top has become more critical than ever before.

Focus on ROI and implementation

One of the key considerations for CFOs is ROI? In what sort of timeframe they can expect to receive it? How much is it likely to be? How much will it be? “What they are looking at usually is a return on investments within like the first six to nine months,” explains Jan. This means that a robust implementation plan is crucial. “We have a really dedicated onboarding team that is building together the steps to work towards the ROI that we agreed on during the purchase or negotiating process.”

Read also: Why Oneflow is a contract management platform for everyone

Reduce risk with free trial periods

Using free trial periods can also help mitigate risk and build confidence in your product. “You can test this out with agreed days, agreed persons, agreed outcomes that the contract signature will follow when the success criteria or keystones are met,” says Jan. This approach reduces risk by providing references, clear ROI scenarios, and a solid implementation plan, and gives them “a good feeling about the tool”.

Position yourself as a strategic advisor

To truly stand out, it’s essential to move away from merely selling your product or tool, and toward becoming a strategic advisor within your niche. “If you go in like what this underlines really is to see yourself as a strategic advisor,” Jan emphasizes. By doing so, you take the lead in the evaluation process, providing the buyer with all the necessary social proof and recommendations. “You, as a seller, take the lead in the evaluation, and you’re not handing it over to the buyer to a large degree. That way, the buyer doesn’t feel alone in this process.”

Reaching out to CFOs

When it comes to contacting CFOs, traditional cold calling and relying on inbound leads are the most common ways salespeople go about it. However, targeting CFOs who have recently changed jobs can be particularly effective. As Jan says, “CFOs that have been in the company for three months or less, that have just switched their job, will need to come in and deliver impact”. Tailoring your outreach to address their needs can make an immediate impression, and significantly increase your success rate.

Read also: Flow through the sales cycle

Handling some common objections

Addressing objections often boils down to reinforcing the ROI case, offering testimonials, and ensuring robust implementation support – all the things we’ve discussed so far. “When you buy a tool like this (Pleo), you usually look at three things: the admin experience, the reviewer experience, and the export. We at Pleo recommend you evaluate this tool in this way,” Jan says. This approach positions you as an expert in both the tool and the company’s processes.

Make a personal connection

Building a personal connection with the CFO is crucial in all of this. “Everyone will ask you how’s the weather today? What I do is I take one point that I find interesting about the company… and say, ‘Hey, just saw you got a new website update. I’m so excited to speak to you about that. I use that as my ‘in’'”. This personal touch differentiates you from other sellers and helps build rapport. Jan sees it as the secret weapon in arsenal.

Quantify impact

CFOs are numbers-driven, so quantifying the impact of your solution is vital. “Have you thought about how much time you actually spend on the process if you try to quantify this?” This leads to a more effective discussion about metrics and the implicit pain points, making your pitch more compelling. As Jan says, “I say something like, “Hey, I see you’re the CFO at OneFlow. I guess you’re a numbers person right?” 99% of people will say yes. Then I add, “Have you thought about how much time you actually spend on this process?” Then you get to a quantified pain and that’s perfect.”

Selling an unknown brand

When selling for a lesser-known brand or startup, the approach remains largely the same. “I actually sold a super unknown startup before, so you can still be successful in that way,” Jan explains. It’s still essential to understand the personal ambitions of the CFO, quantify the pain, and mitigate the risk of buying. Highlighting the benefits of a smaller company, such as faster processes and greater influence on product development, can also be an advantage when selling an unknown company.

Read also: 9 tips to implement a data-driven sales strategy

Advice for new salespeople

For those new to sales, especially when meeting a CFO for the first time, curiosity and genuine interest are key. “If you’re really interested and excited about just understanding that person, what’s driving them, and what’s success for them in their company, then you’re on a good start. Be excited and be interested about the person in front of you and try not to just talk to sell”, Jan advises. It’s essential to listen more than you speak, and to ask good questions.

The key takeaways

To wrap up our conversation, Jan highlighted the importance of having a mutually agreed action plan (MAP) during trials. “You say let’s go on a trial, make the dates, keystones, and outcomes clear that we want to achieve to make this a success.” This ensures both parties are aligned and serious about the potential purchase.

By focusing on ROI, mitigating risk with trials, positioning yourself as a strategic advisor, and making a personal connection, you can significantly improve your chances of successfully selling to the CFO.


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