Selling managed IT services to CFOs is markedly different than selling to CIOs for a wide variety of reasons from the messages that you need to use to how you need to pitch the value proposition. CIOs are certainly concerned about the financial side of the equation but may be more focused on exactly how you will be able to take the pressure off of their teams and make the organization more efficient and effective. In some ways, this is a much more straightforward pitch because you are solely focused on the ROI and the other financial metrics of the proposition. Get ready to toss out your beloved sales tactics and get down to brass tacks when you’re talking to the financial head of large organizations.
It’s Not About the Competition
Sharing which of the competition is using your products is a well-known way to encourage individuals to consider your solution as a competitive advantage that simply must be acquired. It’s also an incredibly useful way to show your relevance in the conversation, as CIOs and other technology leaders are often familiar with the tech that is being used in the marketplace — which can give you a quick “in” and add legitimacy to your claims. CFOs are much less interested in whether the competitors are using your services and much more interested in the value you are delivering to their organization, so give this tactic a hard pass when you’re building your deck.
Face Reality: Users Rarely Love Anything New
Telling a CFO that users will appreciate the fancy new features and functionality that your solution offers could even engender some eye-rolling from cynical CFOs. No matter how revolutionary your system or how well-engineered your services are, there’s a strong possibility that introducing anything new to the organization will cause angst and frustration — and those are the positive reactions! Anything new that you bring in will cause business disruption, and finance chiefs know it. Don’t try to downplay the organizational impact of a change, but do share how you’ve been able to overcome these type of challenges in the past and you will already be a step ahead of any competitors.
Be Sensitive of Legacy Systems
It’s not unusual for a CFO to have been a part of determining which legacy systems have been utilized for the past 5, 10 or even 15 years and they can become a bit sensitive to the problems that they know exist in these solutions. Coming into a CFOs office and claiming that your solution provides the same functionality is not realistic, and stating that the legacy system is “outdated” or “antiquated” certainly won’t gain you any points. Be straightforward and address the positive gains that you can offer the organization and leave the legacy-bashing for internal folk.
Leave the Strongarm Tactics at Your Office
Any conversation around the timing of the sale or how you could potentially get in trouble for offering such a low price has no place in the office of the CFO. They will be much less interested in closing a deal based on your timeline and more interested in how it meets or exceeds their financial and results-based metrics. The CFO may be the final decision maker on whether or not to utilize your services, and you don’t want to alienate this important individual with a high-pressure sales technique. They have probably closed a great number of vendor and partner agreements, and know that this “one day only” price that you’re authorized to offer will probably be there next month about this same time.
Keep Your Messaging Clear of Technical Jargon
Don’t assume that CFOs know (or care about!) your level of technical knowledge — save that level of detail for when you’re impressing technology leads. It’s important that you show a great enough understanding of your solutions that you can describe them to a layman who may or may not have a deep level of technical knowledge. Start out with a simplified version of your messaging that demonstrates the ROI of your services. If you can determine the financial metrics that will be utilized to measure the project’s success ahead of time, be sure to include those in any leave-behind for further analysis. Be diligent in following up with more information, even if you have to get some support from your lead financial guru. The finance office has plenty of complex terms and concepts that may be a bit unfamiliar to you or your sales staff, and not all organizations utilize the same financial success metrics. This is particularly true if you’re selling to non-profits.
Selling to CFOs may require you to get into a different mind-space than the more familiar conversation you’ve had with countless CIOs and technology leads, but it allows you to analyze your offerings from a shifted perspective — not always a bad thing! CFOs are increasingly becoming a part of the decision making for technology as IT costs increase and change accelerates. Staying away from these trigger points may help you create a positive rapport with the head of finance that will help you win the project.