Audience: Front Line Account Executives that need to manage complex consultative sales processes

If you ask a CFO, they will likely tell you that they have encountered numerous business cases that appear more like product brochures than a compelling case for the company to take a calculated risk.

Any product purchase represents a risk, and the objective of a business case is to de-risk the investment while justifying the investment to the budget holder. Unfortunately, many business cases fail to achieve this objective for a variety of reasons. As a result, reps fail to get CFO buy in.

As a sales rep, this presents an opportunity to stand out from your peers and present a compelling business case that will not only get a CFOs attention but help to get their approval.

Here are some common examples of reasons that business cases fail and practical ways to overcome these issues:

1. Rooted in Fantasy

Many business cases make unrealistic claims about potential benefits, such as a 10X increase in win rate. CFOs are unlikely to believe such claims without justification rooted in their workflows and achievable outcomes.

More specifically, it’s essential to spend the necessary time before building the business case to understand three critical factors:

  1. The core workflows of their business and the role your solution plays.
  2. Feasible outcomes that can realistically be achieved in a specified time frame. These outcomes also need to be quantifiable, otherwise the CFO will have a difficult time buying into the business case.
  3. Metrics that are important to the CFO and how your solution ties back to achieving those metrics.

2. Burying the Impact

The reasoning behind “why do anything” should not be buried in the text. Instead, make the problem statement very clear for why they should act. Be explicit about the impact and demonstrate what they have to gain.

For example, “Utilizing ‘product,’ we’ll see a 2% increase in win rate driving X more revenue.”

Positioning the impact in clear and quantifiable terms will help to get the CFO to lean in rather than tune out.

3. Misaligned with Company Initiatives & Timelines

If a business case does not align with broader strategies and timelines, it will be challenging to gain traction. To overcome this, clearly outline the initiatives your project will directly impact and use your champion internally to outline the exact initiatives. If the company is public you can also look at their financial statements to learn about top priorities and initiatives. If the company is private, do some research and look for some clues on top initiatives. This could come in the form of public interviews with executives, announcements, news releases, and hiring of key roles.

Don’t shy away showing the levers that will either accelerate or decelerate results.

For example, let’s say we know that in order to make our solution stick, we need senior leadership’s adoption and buy-in. If we also know that a key client initiative is increasing win rates and our solution is well positioned to help clients achieve this we can state to prospects: “Without senior leadership accountability, through weekly enforcement and involvement, the ability to achieve your sales goals will be affected.” With statements such as this, we are tying our solutions and recommendations to a key priority that is important to them.

Final Advice

Remember, CFOs are pragmatic and can easily see through superficial claims or vague statements. So, be transparent about the level of effort and commitment required and do not make baseless claims of ROI that are not rooted in their reality and data. By avoiding these common pitfalls and following these practical strategies, you can increase the chances of creating a compelling business case that justifies the investment and de-risks the decision.