The CFO Stakeholder: How to speak their language

Finance is becoming more involved in deals as organizations shift away from growth at all costs, and focus on efficient growth. Learn from CFOs at Figma, Vena, and Sprout Social and find out how to partner with Finance to win more deals.

Finance is becoming more involved in deals as organizations shift away from growth at all costs, and focus on efficient growth. 

In this masterclass, CFOs from Figma, Sprout Social, and Vena Solutions share their thoughts on why finance involvement has shifted over the past few years, how to engage with finance teams on deals, and why conviction is important. 

Watch the full masterclass and get their advice and insights below! 

The shift in finance involvement in B2B SaaS sales 

Reflecting back to 2020, around the start of COVID, there started to be a fundamental shift in SaaS, and that shift came quickly. 

As 2021 kicked off, money was flowing freely, there was a ton of access to capital, and there weren't a lot of guardrails around the purchase of software and other tools. During this time there was also a huge focus on attracting and retaining the best people, with some companies afraid that they may miss out on in-house talent. These factors combined with the fact that companies were heavily focused on growth, some to the point of growth at all costs, contributed to the shift in finance involvement over the past few years. 

Fast forward to late 2022/early 2023, the war for talent started to slow, talent became more expensive, and access to cash became more troubled. While companies still continue to focus on growth, there has been an increased focus on efficiency and profitability. Over these three years, organizations also recognized spend that was no longer providing value based on changes in the macro environment - this resulted in an extra level of scrutiny. .

As finance leaders march towards an efficient and profitable business, there have been more questions around the value from each dollar spent, and often where that dollar is coming from as budgets tighten. 

How to engage with finance during evaluation of a new product or service 

With finance being more involved in deals, it can be challenging to know when to engage financial stakeholders in a deal cycle. 

Engaging with the finance team involves a collaborative approach - especially during budgeting cycles, Praveer Melwani (CFO at Figma) explains. 

The finance team works closely with their internal counterparts to assess the importance and necessity of key vendors they work with. The focus is on understanding the ultimate cost drivers, whether it's influenced by platform usage growth, employee numbers, or other factors. Praveer emphasized the importance of working through the "why" behind changes, ensuring clarity and collaboration between finance and other departments. This collaborative dialogue helps bridge the gap between financial considerations and the technical intricacies of vendor solutions.

Joe Del Preto, CFO at Sprout Social, added that as planning cycles kick off, there will generally be an internal evaluation of tools - what are you keeping, what are you getting rid of, and why? When renewals are being evaluated there will also be an evaluation of usage to truly understand if there is value from certain tools that have been purchased. 

With this in mind, finance leaders ultimately want to empower their team to own their budget, and make good decisions within that budget, says Melissa Howatson, CFO at Vena Solutions. The CFO does not want to have to jump in, and having confidence in their team helps greatly in having confidence in their tech stack and solutions. 

When to engage finance in deal cycles 

Do not wait until the eleventh hour to bring finance into your deals. 

The last thing the finance org wants is to feel like their back is against the wall and they need to sign a contract in a short window of time. Nobody likes being surprised, and a sales cycle can run much smoother when the appropriate stakeholders are being brought in early, or given a heads up throughout the buying process. 

Ultimately finance leaders trust their teams to bring them in when they need to. CFOs are likely not trying to proactively get into the buying process, but more so trust that their team has done their due diligence, and will present the business case back internally. If there is a solid champion on the deal they should be engaging finance internally when needed. 

Lastly it is important to understand the company you’re selling to. All organizations will run differently, but knowing how it works on the other side will help your odds. For example if procurement reports into finance, there is a good chance finance will be more directly involved earlier in the deal.

Conviction during the sale 

In 2023 the bar is much higher for the level of conviction you must have when looking to secure budget for new tools. Do you have enough conviction to spend the money? Especially if a tool was not previously budgeted for?

ROI conversations can have their challenges, but if a vendor can help convince a buyer about their level of confidence in your success that always helps - especially in this landscape, says Melissa. Having the data from customers to back claims you are making will always be helpful. Don’t come in saying “Customer A, achieved X”, but focus on the aggregate, “X percent of our customers experience X percent” - this helps paint the picture of achievability for a buyer and can instill confidence that this purchase will yield the expected returns.