Years back, I had this big idea that I strongly believed in and felt that it could be a game-changer for my employer. I had everything down. The design. The prototype. The user experience. The hockey stick graph. The customer persona. The target market. The strategy. However, knowing my CFO from my experience, I felt nervous about pitching. I often heard these voices in my head that CFOs don’t believe in big ideas. Their role is to shut them down.
Over the years, as I participated in thousands of meetings with a variety of financial executives, I’ve come to understand that they are one of the best people to pitch to as they can’t afford to be biased in their role. We just need to know what they care for. I am pretty sure you have felt the same. As an IT manager, you may have been thinking of replacing that 20-year-old legacy ERP with a modern cloud-based ERP system, but not sure if you feel confident enough to talk to your management. Read on to learn the things CFOs or executives look for when you pitch to them.
A good pitch consists of four essential components:
While pitching, remember one thing that the best pitches are those where you don’t have to pitch at all. This is where your champions will do your job.
Now you must be wondering that as an IT manager where you would get the market data and field insight about what customers care for and how competitors might be doing against you.
To get this insight, you need to make good friends in the sales and marketing departments. Remember, your strength is your technical skills which your sales and marketing counter-parts may not be as good at. If you can crunch this data about customers and the market through secondary research a.k.a. “analysis of internal data sources” in exchange for the field or market knowledge, they would most likely be benefited from this data and it will be a win-win for both of you. If you manage to sell it to your sales team members, they could be highly influential and then they will pitch for you.
Your champions could also provide deeper intel into what your CFO might want to hear as they might have more experience dealing with other executives and help you frame your pitch aligned to their interest.
By selling to champions, your goal is to make the idea of their own. If they are not willing to own it, likely, you might not be able to sell to the CFO either so this could also be a good test if the idea may be worth your CFOs’ time.
You might get only one chance before they start questioning your judgment and credibility so when you ask for a meeting, make sure it’s worth their time.
While ideas are great, what excites CFOs is the numbers. If you don’t have experience crunching numbers for the ROI or TCO analysis, make friends with interns in the finance department with formal education in NPV and future cash flow analysis who may have wanted to get in front of the CFOs to show off their analytical skills. Recruit them in your pitch team. Let them sell for you. The more team members you have who are willing to sell for you, the merrier.
Your goal during your pitch meeting is not to get CFO’s attention. If you have done a good analysis of how this idea would personally benefit you, in your role, you would get their attention automatically, obviously if all goes well. At this stage, your goal should be to get as many people in a room who are willing to pitch for you. During the meeting, your role is to be a moderator by facilitating who should speak when and have complete control of the situation.
The financials are only good if all assumptions are fully vetted. Make sure you use credible sources and have enough data to back up your claims otherwise it’s hard to impress a CFO. Assess all the financial risks with the idea and have a backup plan for each of them. If you missed or ignored even one financial risk, your whole plan may be called into question.
Remember, it is in the best interest of a CFO to consider a project that helps them manage the bottom line of your company so if you have done a good job of crunching your numbers and gathered enough credible evidence to support your claims, CFOs will come after you if there is even a remote possibility of any financial benefit to the company.
CFOs understand financials better than anyone else in the company so they are going to look for the financial feasibility of your next big idea. To get better at assessing the financial feasibility or pitching an idea, you just need to do it more and more. Just because one idea didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean that the next one won’t. The best piece of advice we can have for you is to, never stop pitching!
Have you had similar experiences? If yes, what were your learnings? Do you agree with the approach outlined above? If not, share your insight below. If yes, just comment that you agree. Are there any other strategies you recommend to get CFOs’ attention? If you are a CFO or executive yourself, what do you like to see in pitches? Whatever you feel, please share your thoughts below.
Search Our Blog
CategoriesAcumatica Aerospace & Defense Automotive Chemicals Consumer Goods Distribution Food and Beverage High Tech & Electronics Industrial Manufacturing Infor Life Sciences Retail Service Companies Uncategorized