July 20, 2023
CFO’s will grill your champions - are they ready?
CFO’s will grill your champions - are they ready?
Two weeks ago in a private session for Enterprise Sellers, a rep at a $50M series B SaaS company that sells to CFO’s all day shared his secrets on how to prep your champion for their CFO’s questions.
This matters because CFO’s ask really hard questions and champions are rarely prepared for them.
CFO’s are under intense pressure to preserve cash, lead the charge with "do more with less" and promote efficient growth.
But your champion doesn’t buy tech for a living.
So they aren't ready to go toe-to-toe with a seasoned CFO to justify the purchase.
Thankfully, Daniel Klevit stopped by to give us the exact questions you need to prepare your champions to avoid losing your deal at the CFO level.
When you are not around and your champion has to go front and center before the lord of budget approval, the CFO will 100% ask the questions below. Will your champion be ready for them?
Probably not, unless you prep them.
Here’s the trick: Hit them too early with the hard questions and your champion might get scared off. Ignore them and the CFO will eat your champion for lunch. They will not have defendable answers and you will have no deal.
Here are the top questions to prep your champion on once they have signified they are truly rooting for you to win and appreciate your desire to help them prepare for the CFO conversation:
1. “Can your software pay for itself and when?”
Most value propositions for tech are to create efficiencies. Efficiencies which eventually save or create cash. This question is essentially, “What is the break even point when the cash created by the efficiency catches up to the cash spent buying/implementing the tech?” Include the breakeven point as part of your ROI calculations.
2. “Is this problem worth solving (now) or are there bigger fish to fry?”
What level of problem does this tech fix? Urgent, important, nice to have? Detail why it’s either urgent or important. Nice to have won’t cut it in 2023.
3. “How do you think this will play out in reality?”
The CFO is asking for a walkthrough of the process. What are the steps? How much of our internal resources will it take to get this thing up and running? What about ongoing care and feeding? Who will need to do what internally? Show the journey, value points, resources needed, timeline, etc.
4. "Will this become shelfware?"
They want to know the vendor’s commitment to success. You need to prove to them they are an important customer. Detail what Customer Success resources they will have access to. Prove your solution will work in their environment (via a proof of value exercise).
5. "Are you [the champion] responsible for this if it fails?"
This is the big one. You don’t want to hit this question directly until your champion is bought in and visibly taking the reins of getting this deal done. You can warm up with, “So what is the level of ownership expected from project owners/sponsors? Have you sponsored projects before?" The CFO is looking for commitment to being a system owner. Guide them with a story: “Here’s how another customer answered that question…”
6. “The ROI calculator says you can reduce headcount by two within 24 months. Will you commit to reducing two headcounts on your team in that timeframe?”
This question is certainly related to "will the project pay for itself," but when asked bluntly, it can take your champion off guard.
There are options - “this is not headcount reduction, it’s refocusing existing headcount or more productive tasks (then show how freed up time will be used," or "slow hiring needs until x timeframe."
7. “We have something that kinda does this already. Why can’t we just use that?”
This can be a HUGE deal killer. Even when well executed, many CFO’s will not be swayed because they are not involved in the sales cycle, are not really in the shoes of the constituents who feel the problem, and their priorities are preserving cash and making more. It comes down to - is your offer an incremental improvement vs. transformation play. An incremental improvement will not win the day. Your champion will get a “Make do with what you have” response from the CFO. There needs to be a value story which transcends, “same but better."
If you want access to insider insights like these, directly from the top reps in SaaS who leverage them in the field, apply to the Enterprise Sellers community here.
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