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The chief financial officer has become the deal-breaker

There is a need for the channel to become more flexible around finance to make sure customers are happier signing off investments

The chief financial officer (CFO) is emerging as a key factor in the success or failure of a channel pitch in the current market.

Over the past few years, the channel has been encouraged to cultivate relationships with lines of business owners, particularly those in marketing, to ensure they get their share, but with tightened belts and a focus on protecting cash balances, the CFO has become the main stumbling block to getting a deal signed off.

That has meant the channel has had to increase its flexibility and inventiveness on the financial front, being prepared to break up projects into smaller segments and helping customers push back payments into different fiscal years.

Matt Paynter, vendor director for the UK and Ireland at Exclusive Networks, said there had been more calls on its finance team to help partners shape deals for customers, and it had been sharing the message around the changing needs from CFOs to both vendors and resellers.

Sessions it ran to outline the current economic landscape had gone down well, and the distie was doing its best to make sure those pitching sizeable deals understood they might not be approved in the way they had been in the past couple of years.

The channel player has also been encouraging suppliers to appreciate the current economic climate, and that deals will still get through but might need to be presented in terms that appeal to a cautious CFO.

He added that multi-million pound deals were still getting the green light, but customers wanted flexibility about the structure of payments, and that meant working with finance specialists to get the right proposal. “We need our vendors, we need our sales forces to understand this better, so it’s inserted earlier in the deal,” he said. “It’s no surprises.”

Working with partners

From a distributor point of view, the ability to talk about finance and work with partners on deals was being seen as even more of a value in the current climate.

“We need to be really flexible around this stuff now,” he said. “It’s really resonating with the channel. We really see in our flexible finance solutions and how we can work is almost the key bit of value at the moment.”

Suppliers have also seen the power to sign off a deal coalesce around the CFO’s office. Neil Patel, channel partner sales director at D-Link Europe, said it had also seen some hesitation from customers in committing to big projects.

“We’ve got one or two projects that are long-term but that aren’t going to three years out, which is great, you know, and then the sizeable projects, but we’re seeing a reticence in wanting to do long-term commitments,” he said.

“Cash flow is king at the moment, which is probably why the key decision-maker is the CFO in a lot of these organisations.”


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