6 tips for selling to the CFO & winning bigger deals

Learn how to get the CFO on side and close deals quicker

Rory Sadler
June 19, 2023
February 24, 2024
Learn how to get the CFO on side and close deals quicker
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When you’re in sales, you know your goal. Predictably, your goal is to sell something, but if we take a step back and absorb the big picture, we'll see the all-elusive CFO.

The chief financial officer is the big head honcho who calls all the shots financially and has all the power, budget, and influence to choose whether your product or service is the one.

This is certainly true in an economic downturn when the CFO is looking to cut back on costs and make more streamlined monetary decisions. 2024 is developing into the year where CFOs are the most important person in purchasing and budgeting decisions.

They’re also the hardest to get to. It’s like the boss level in a video game. You need to keep your eye on the prize, work through gatekeepers and keep the CFO in mind so that when you reach the top of the mountain to face them, you're ready for the presentation.

Getting to the CFO- paying your dues

Although this is an article regarding how to sell to the CFO it doesn't start there. To sell to someone, you first have to get through to them which means paying your dues through the sales funnel.

The CFO gets the final say and the final sign-off but you need to start somewhere to get to them. Research has come to show that 9 out of 10 senior executives won’t respond to cold outreach like emails or cold calls so getting to them through warm or burning hot channels is essential. So how do you get to the CFO?

Find and create champions

Champions are people within your target company who know what's going on. They guide you in making decisions and help you have your finger on the pulse of choices. They are contacts and confidants who can inform you on what's happening in the company. But more importantly they actively advocate for you and your product or service when you're not in the room.

It’s critical to teach your champion in little but crucial ways. Coach them on the why of your product. This will look different than training them; it shows them your passion and dedication to the product so they adopt it themselves. Coaching them on the why will help them champion your product and help you understand what the company, and thereby CFO, is searching for in new products.

Multithread all the time- Become trusted by the people the CFO trusts

Multithreading is the science and art of having multiple (four or more) connections at a target account. Spreading your contacts out through several departments will give you a reputation, turning you from “that guy who’s trying to sell us something” to “Jim, from the paper company, who has a great idea for improving our ROIs".

Research shows multithread sellers are 16% more likely to close a deal with that account. To multithread your way to the CFO, don’t start with CFO. Start with people who might have their ears. Members of the buying committee, people in finance, and others who the CFO trusts will help you make a great impression.

The big whale- The CFO

Now that you’ve waded your way through all the obstacles between you and the CFO, how do you seal the deal? There are some vital aspects to bear in mind about the care and feeding of CFOs, and keeping them in mind will help.

Understand the CFO

Knowing the budgeting boss's mindset will help you appeal to their needs. A CFO is aware of three concerns: Increasing revenue, improving margins, and decreasing costs.

To reach these all-important focuses, they ask a combination of questions such as:

  • Do we actually and absolutely need this?
  • If we threw this away at the end of our day today, what would impact our everyday business?
  • Why can't we do this with our existing technology and processes?
  • What ROI are we getting on this?

Knowing the answers to these questions and addressing them before you even reach the CFO will help show your product’s worth before they can even question it.

Know the details, but don’t lead with them

CFOs tend to be big thinkers. Now that they’ve climbed to the top of the mountain, they really only see mountainously huge things. This means they need broad strokes, the important and big details they care about; how will this benefit their company and their bottom line?

Not all of them will be just like this, but it's important to remember that you've already run the gauntlet to get them. A qualified gatekeeper has already listened to all the details and minutiae about the product. You've gone through all the numbers, productions, and spreadsheets to get here; now is not the time to review the little numbers and specifics again.

A CFO wants to see the big and important industry-changing numbers. They want to see how this will change how they do business for the better and that isn't to say that you can just throw all the little details out the window. A good CFO might have to clarify questions you'll need those details for. Having them loaded and ready will help show that you're a knowledgeable professional completely prepared for this.

Make sure the CFO has access to all the details

Along the same vein, ensuring the CFO has access to all the details independently of you is crucial but what does that mean exactly? Does it mean CC’ing them in the email chain between you and your contact so they can see every detail of the product, the question you answer, and a scrap of PDF?

Absolutely not! Most people in an entry-level position don’t have enough time to trawl through that sheer volume of emails and information, and a CFO definitely doesn’t. Seeing a long email chain, with multiple links and PDF decks attached, popping up in their inbox is a surefire way to pique a CFOs ire and make them feel like you're wasting their time.

So how do you get them the information completely and conveniently? Using sharing platforms is a great method. Trumpet provides a platform for creating microsites with all the top-line information. It includes a summary of the journey so far and mutual action plans that show what has happened and what actions are next.

With everything laid out like this, it's easy for new team members and the head honcho to absorb all the information at a glance but also dive deeper when it's convenient or necessary for them.

Understand and improve the CFOs position

The bottom line of what you’re trying to do with the CFO is to show that you know their position and how you and your product can make that 100 times better.

Crowdsourcing from your champions to understand the CFOs position and determine how your product can solve it will help you create certainty with the CFO. Showcase to them how your product or service improves their situation.

Working at the top level

Selling to the CFO might seem like a scary concept that’s way above your abilities, but ultimately the CFO has a simple goal; to lift their company up. By showing how you’re a trustworthy source of solutions that can help with that, you can effectively sell to CFOs.

Check out our blog to get more details on tips and tricks we use at trumpet to connect with people and companies.