This includes more CFO involvement in key decision making, including helping to set business strategy, deciding where to invest capital and even looking at product mix and go-to-market strategies.
Over the past 18 months, the survey results indicate that CFOs have assumed significant additional responsibilities for several key groups, including: information technology (43%), human resources (39%), production (38%), customer service (37%), and even marketing / sales (33%).
According to the Wall Street Journal report on the study, Finance Chiefs Expand Role, several CFOs confirm the trend, and highlight how proving the ROI on proposals is more important than ever, for example:
- Terry Lillis, chief financial officer at Principal Financial Group Inc. says there's more back and forth with different departments when making decisions with more meetings face-to-face and options getting heavier scrutiny.
- Nancy Cooper, finance chief of software developer CA Technologies, based in Islandia, N.Y., now finds herself at marketing meetings. "I'm working pretty closely with marketing people trying to determine where we'll spend money and what's the payback on it," she says.
This centralization of power to financial chiefs has important implications for the way the buying cycle is managed, and how B2B sales and marketing groups must navigate these more complex waters.
Frugalnomics, where economically impacted buyers were forced to do-more-with-less and thus ratcheted up the need for justification, ROI and quick payback from each investment, was already in effect prior to the increase in CFO control. From IDC’s research, a full 90% of buyers were already economic-focused.
Now with CFOs expanding their oversight, gaining more control over spending and key steps in the buying cycle, Frugalnomics will certainly be more intense and more pervasive.
Speaking the CFO’s Language
The expanding CFO role and economics focus will drive how successful marketers connect and engage with decision makers, and how successful sales professionals help facilitate the buying cycle to win new business.
With more responsibility than ever, CFOs are now challenged by CEOs and the board to manage significantly more people, budgets and decisions, in many instances doubling or tripling responsibilities, driving cost reductions, while still capturing growth in a challenged marketplace.
With CFOs controlling strategy, budgeting and spending decisions for more groups, solution providers that can understand these challenges and help CFOs address their new issues will win sales in the nearer term and establish key long term relationships to drive future business as well:
- Having more responsibility means that these CFOs will be time constrained as never before, and need vendors to provide proactive consultative advice to help them analyze opportunities, understand potential solutions, and justify decisions.
- With an edict to reduce costs and grow the business, those vendors that can help the CFOs do-more-with-less, drive higher ROI, achieve faster payback and prove superior value will have the upper edge.
Examining the buying lifecycle, CFOs are involved most active early in the decision making, when the status quo is examined and challenged, and again later in the buying cycle, where the solution selections need to be justified and the stakeholders need to be sure they are getting the best deal possible.
- Interactive white papers – from a few profile questions on the buyers profile and needs, personalization of research and case study white papers, helping CFOs cut through the noise with more quantified, important and relevant decision support content. The pivot points for the content often includes: industry, size, geographic location, stage in buying cycle, role in buying cycle and pain points.
- Diagnostic assessments – interactive surveys that ask questions to identify and illuminate potential issues, provide benchmarks vs. peers / leaders to drive priorities, and deliver customized roadmaps of solutions / services and practices to yield improvements.
CFOs don’t want a dog and pony show, so the typical product PPT just won’t cut it – Product Selling to executives doesn’t work at all. And these same executives have little time for exhausting questions about what is “keeping them up at night”, the typical Solution Selling methodology.
CFOs want you to walk in with an understanding of their issues, and be able to analyze this to provide unique insight, advice and recommendations that align with their pain points – a key component of Value Selling.
Yet sales professionals are indicating that they are having trouble addressing the needs so important to engaging with overloaded and frugal CFOs. According to SiriusDecisions, the Inability to Communicate Value Messages, and Knowledge Gaps regarding industry and solutions are the greatest inhibitors to achieving quota success.
- Corporate Briefings: Understanding the company financials and quarterly briefings, industry challenges, competitors, and latest news is important to gain insight into what will drive corporate objectives and strategic initiatives. Providing resources that let sales understand the challenges can help facilitate the early discussions.
- Diagnostic Benchmarks: sales can be armed with tools to help them benchmark specific aspects of the organization against peers and leaders,. Conducted with key managers in a workshop, the team discovers key issues in a structured and repeatable engagement, and presents key and unique insights into opportunities, priorities and solutions to the executives.
According to IDC sales cycles have lengthened over the past 12 months by 10% or more, and according to SiriusDecisions, most sales are getting stuck in the last part of the buying cycle - justifying the decision & making competitive selection.
Later in the sales cycle, CFOs engage again in the decision making to validate the solution selection and make sure the choices make fiscal sense.
At this later stage, to be sure CFOs have the information they need, sales and marketing needs to provide an ROI business case for the particular recommended solution.
The ROI business case is used to validate the case for change, and quantify the investment requirements, benefits, risks and key financial metrics for the project. These key metrics typically include discounted cash flow, ROI, payback, net present value savings and IRR.
But the justification can’t stop there. Whenever a CFO considers a solution the executives know there are often several options as to how to implement it. At the final stages of the buying decision, sales and marketing needs to quantify the competitive advantage of the solution, often quantifying the unique incremental benefits that the solution can deliver versus competitive options, and justifying the purchase price using total cost of ownership (TCO) comparisons.
The Bottom Line
"When we find ourselves in challenging business climates, the role of the CFO and the CFO's influence expands," says Paul Boulanger, global managing director of Accenture's finance consultancy. Indeed, CFOs are now managing significantly larger portions of the business, often with an iron financial fist.
The CFO control will make buying decisions even more focused on economics, demanding new levels of financial due diligence.
In order to succeed in an ever more “Frugalnomic” world under ever more CFO control, B2B sales and marketing needs to shift from pitching products, to Value Selling by facilitating the buying cycle by diagnosing issues and quantifying value.
Specifically, we recommend the following best practices:
• Engage Earlier to Guide Strategy: diagnostic assessments to help CFOs identify issues, develop strategies to loosen the status quo, set priorities and explore potential solutions,
• Make the case for change – prove to CFOs that there is a “cost of doing nothing”, prioritize the project, and cost justify the change and recommended solution(s),
• Differentiate to prove superior value – prove to CFOs that the selected solution represents best value with quantified lower cost of ownership.
Finance Chiefs Expand Roles, Dana Mattioli, The Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2011-02-02