Your Competitive Advantage: Fluency in the Language of Business Finance


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Enterprise salespeople selling big spend, high impact solutions MUST SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS FINANCE. I know I’m shouting, but I’ve been at this long enough to know that this is an area that salespeople flee from. And yet, constructing a Business Case that demonstrates positive impact on a key financial ratio can win the deal!

Executives live by the manifesto, “What gets measured gets done.” To fully participate in a dialogue with them, you must understand the metrics they use to measure and manage the business.

I’m not talking conversant, just comfortable enough that you won’t freeze like a deer in the headlights when they say “FX headwinds” or “Non-GAPP measure.” Think of a time when you traveled to a foreign country. Although you probably didn’t master the language or become bilingual, within a few days you were able to find your way to the train station or order a hamburger.

It’s the same with traveling to the foreign country of engaging executives and participating in a dialogue with them. Follow the process below, and you’ll increase your understanding of what matters to them, discover specific actionable information, trigger events that create an opportunity for your product or service, and gather information on financial objectives and performance gaps to construct a business case that justifies the investment.

Listen to Quarterly Calls With Industry Analysts
Wouldn’t you do anything to be a fly on the wall as the CEO and CFO at your largest prospect discuss current business performance and future strategies? You can! Create Google alerts for your client and prospect companies, large companies in the verticals you work with, and companies that drive growth and innovation in the U.S. (e.g., Google, Apple, Target). The unscripted Q&A at the end is often the source of the most revealing information and insights. Just go to Google Alerts and type “Quarterly Earnings Calls” in the Search Query box.

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Master Business Finance in Bite-Sized Chunks
Google some terms from earnings calls to increase your understanding of executives’ language (e.g., basis point drag, exchange or inflation driven price points, free cash flow). Study one financial metric per month (e.g., EBIT—earning before taxes, ROA—return on assets).

Use Financial Websites to Analyze Financial Performance
Once you’ve discovered the metrics they focus on, utilize financial websites to drill deeper. How does current performance compare to past performance? Are they outperforming or underperforming their industry? Their key competitors? Are they trending up or down on key indicators? Where are the gaps?

1. Go to Yahoo Finance, and insert a stock symbol in box at top left.

2. Scroll down and review Key Statistics in the sidebar (e.g., EBIT, ROA, gross/net/operating profit margins)

3. On the left sidebar, review Competitors and Industry

This information is free, readily available, and tremendously informative. You just need to find the insights beneath the surface of what you’re reading. Analyze what you’ve seen. Draw dotted lines between their roadmap and your product or service. Be on the lookout for a gap and construct an idea to close that gap!

3 Steps to Incredible Competitive Advantage
Step 1: Discover the metrics your prospect uses to manage and measure improvement.

Step 2: Design a customized Value Proposition: How does your product or service deliver that improvement? Now you can use that value proposition in your messages to prospects.

Metrics-Rich Example:
– On the quarterly earnings call, your CEO said you plan to invest in additional distribution centers for Omni-Channel fulfillment.
– Your objectives are to re-platform for improved functionality while maintaining 15% operating margin…the highest in your space.
– XXXX optimizes productivity of your current system while achieving your initiative to enhance the Omni-channel experience while minimizing CapEx costs.

Step 3: Construct a Business Case matching the Value Proposition to an improvement in the financial metric they use to measure profitability or to demonstrate positive impact on critical operational metrics. (In the example above, these would be 15% operating margin, and improved functionality in distribution centers).

Selling at this level, your mission is to know your customers’ business as well as they know it themselves, and then construct a business case that would drive revenue into (or cost out of) their business.

Try it yourself. Sniff out a project. Most suppliers actually do understand their customers’ business better than customers do themselves— when viewed specifically through the lens of their capabilities.

This post was originally published on Pipeliner CRM Blog.

Barbara Geraghty
Barbara is the principal of Visionary Selling, which helps companies accelerate sales revenue from enterprise accounts by elevating the level of contact to VP and above and honing value messaging to engage executive decision makers. The company offers sales skills training that includes one year of coaching with a unique sales methodology that earns back its ROI. Geraghty is an accomplished industry keynote speaker.


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