Building a Procurement Business Case for CFOs (Part 8)

Read the previous installments in this series below:

Part 1: Introduction and Background
Part 2: CFO Demographics
Part 3: CFO Churn and Risk Aversion
Part 4: The Modern CFO in the Mirror
Part 5: Half Accountant, Half Strategists: The CFO as Storyteller
Part 6: Getting a Meeting with a CFO and Capturing Their Interest
Part 7: Coveting the CEO Slot -- and Tapping Into This Interest

Leading up to this post, we've paid particularly close attention to how to capture the CFO's attention based on demographics, aspirations, and interests. In this installment, we'll quickly share what turns CFOs off and can doom a potential "procurement sales" opportunity. Making a generalization, first and foremost, CFOs are corporate snobs. They've worked their way up the ladder (some more quickly than have others; younger CFOs may not have the same Napoleonic and snooty leadership tendencies) and generally don't like being in the same room as those running parts of an organization more than one level below them.

The same goes for external parties. Never put a pre-sales or sales engineer from a software company in front of a CFO, for example (heck, I would not put 99% of software sales people in front of a CFO for the same reason). Part of the problem is that it's in the DNA of more junior commercial leaders to "sell", even if they do so somewhat covertly. But CFOs absolutely hate being sold to. They have radar for it and can see a pitch (even a good one) a mile away.

If "selling" a concept does not work, what does? CFOs need data and convincing before they'll bless an internal investment, champion a program or support/sponsor an external deal. Yet don't think any basic financial model will do the trick. If you come to a CFO with an ROI or NPV calculation of a given opportunity (or its impact on EVA, RONA, ROIC, etc.) expect a full body cavity search on the model. Or as my colleague Brian Sommer likes to say, "expect an inquisition about how the numbers were calculated, captured, etc."

CFOs live to shoot down anything but stellar financial models. It's more fun than a day out of the office. It also goes without saying that CFOs like plain English -- avoid jargon, clichés, and geek speak at all cost (e.g., we're not "investing in a supplier network," we're "investing in a program designed to reduce the number of AP clerks and vendor managers by a factor of ten while improving accuracy and data capture").

Up next: making the effective CFO sale.

- Jason Busch

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