Uplevel Financial Acumen – Fast – to Retain Customers & Win Deals
By: Anand Shah, CEO of Databook
B2B sellers, who are already under pressure to close deals, are now facing new scrutiny from a formidable buyer: the CFO.
The volatile economy is prompting these notoriously exacting executives to keep close watch on major purchasing decisions, so sales teams need to craft their strategies to pass muster. Just 29% of CFOs say now is a good time to take greater risks, according to Deloitte’s latest CFO Signals survey – well under the two-year average of 50%. Annual capital investments are predicted to grow only 4% annually, less than half of the two-year average growth forecast of 9.2%.
This cautious approach sets the bar higher than ever for sales teams to demonstrate financial acumen during the sales cycle. In fact, new research from Databook shows that 72% of B2B sellers report they are more successful when they use financial data to create sales narratives that speak to executive buyers and their business priorities.
Yet very few sellers are actually able to do this in practice. Less than 30% have used a 10-K Annual Report or 10-Q Quarterly Report in the last 6 months. What is stopping more sellers from doing what everyone agrees works so well? The top 3 reasons identified by respondents include: 25% lack the tools to make it easy, 30% say it’s too time consuming; and 31% say it’s not part of their company’s sales motions.
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Align your strategy to suit a financial mindset
While the pressure to perform can be intense, the study indicates that high performing sales executives consistently seize the opportunity within the challenge. 83% of sellers who significantly exceeded quota in the last few quarters cite using financial data in some area of their sales motions.
As you prepare to make your case with CFOs, banish your generic demo and speak the language of finance instead. CFOs make decisions solely based on business outcomes, time to value, required investment, and the risk profile. To succeed, adapt to this mindset and present a strategic plan that aligns with the company’s urgent business priorities and offer proof points for impact to the bottom line. Essential components include:
1. Alignment with top priorities and proven success.
Use annual and quarterly reports to learn about top company-wide areas of focus and investment, and then dive into proxy statements to discover which initiatives are directly tied to CFO compensation metrics. Consult transcripts of the most recent earnings call to ensure alignment with any pivots or re-prioritization occurring due to fast-changing market conditions.
With a well-researched dossier in hand, you can focus on the specifics of your solution that are most relevant to the company’s and the CFO’s top priorities. Importantly, pro-actively discuss other customers that have generated returns from your solutions that looked like them at the start. Not only does this approach avoid recitation of a long laundry list of product benefits, but you’ll earn credibility as a knowledgeable advisor capable of adapting to the company’s specific needs. Demonstrating alignment with the latest objectives also bolsters the case for fast-tracking implementation of your project.
2. A financial forecast with impact.
Even before you’re privy to budget specifics, you can project bottom-line impact from the outside in using company financial filings and your customer case studies. Base your calculations on forward estimates and target earnings to demonstrate how your solution can help the company make substantial progress toward its goals. Focus on the specific value drivers that matter to the individual CFO you’re meeting, whether it’s cost savings in the supply chain or sales growth in a specific territory or product division.
Case studies are critical to demonstrate relevance and credibility. Work with Value Engineering teams to use actual results from your customer projects to model forecasts for the current proposal; that way, your calculations are grounded in reality, increasing your credibility and offering a further proof point.
3. Relevant best practices that go beyond the expected.
As you consider references and case studies, consider other tactics that go beyond your customers expectations. For example, providing video testimonials from customers or the opportunity to meet customers on a reference call can go a long way. Additionally, bring a business case that adds in the soft costs
Additionally, consider companies that faced similar challenges or undertook similar initiatives that might provide valuable examples and models to reference. Show the specifics of how your solution helped meet or exceed goals, and model how a similar implementation would benefit your prospect. These concrete connections ensure the best practices and results you reference are integrated into your narrative and support the specifics of your proposal.
Maintain the momentum
After your initial meeting with a prospect’s CFO, offer to furnish even more accurate projections using real budget numbers and adjust your proposal as needed based on your growing on-the-ground knowledge of company processes and priorities. As your original outside-in forecast incorporates these actuals, your proposal intertwines with the company’s – and the CFO’s – reality. Serve in a consultative role, communicating new developments in the industry and new results from competitors and peers alongside refinements to your plan.
In this capacity, you can help the CFO build a funding proposal to bring to the board, saving hours of legwork and research on their part – and ensuring that you win the deal with a thoroughly-vetted plan that stands up to rigorous financial scrutiny.
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