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Cultivating Business Acumen as a Sales Superpower

Posted by Jack Kasel on Thu, May 23, 2024

Business or sales acumen is the ability to connect with prospects and clients on a deeper level by understanding their unique problems, anticipating their needs, and leveraging knowledge of their business and industry to recommend the best possible solution — regardless of whether or not it results in a closed deal.

The ability to understand a prospect or client’s industry and their market allows a B2B salesperson to understand the big picture. In order to have business acumen, salespeople must understand the forces and factors that impact their industry and it's impact on their clients and potential customers. This knowledge also helps them to differentiate their approach in the sales process. Salespeople with highly developed business acumen are not focused on the sale at hand, but on the broader goal of being a partner and advisor for the long-term.

For those in a producer’s role, whether it’s sales or business development, cultivating business acumen is essential. It allows salespeople the ability to uncover and articulate the challenges faced by the customer or client before they do. This skill involves understanding their problems, the impact of those problems or opportunities, and seeing the world from their perspective.

Business acumen is the key to perceiving the hindrances and challenges impeding their business growth. It’s about comprehending their aspirations to strive and thrive. Every company owner, CEO, or division manager is striving to overcome challenges, bring in new talent, and expand into new markets. Simultaneously, they are thriving by increasing revenue and optimizing costs to enhance the bottom line.

By demonstrating a deeper understanding or business acumen, a salesperson can position themselves as a trusted advisor who comprehends their world. One exercise to test business acumen is to see how long it takes for a salesperson engaged in a conversation with a prospect or customer to introduce their products, services, or company. Are they able to extend the conversation for two minutes, 20 minutes, or even two hours by focusing on the prospect’s needs and challenges before pushing their own solutions?

Developing Business Acumen

In addition to using every industry tool at hand, a well-thought-out pre-call plan can guide a salesperson to organize and articulate the relevant points during the conversation. Instead of entering a sales interaction with the sole aim of making a sale, a salesperson must shift their perspective to building a relationship. They should ask themselves, “How can I establish a meaningful connection with this person?” Developing and exercising their sales superpower – business acumen – is crucial for success in this endeavor.

We partner with Objective Management Group (OMG), the pioneer and industry leader in sales evaluations. According to OMG, these are some of the qualifying competencies that contribute to helping salespeople develop business acumen:

  • Able to Stay in the Moment
  • Self-Limiting Beliefs Won't be an Obstacle
  • Knows Why a Prospect Would Buy
  • Asks about Everything
  • Not Vulnerable to Competition
  • Meet with Decision Maker
  • Uncovers Actual Budget
  • Will Discuss Finances
  • Knows Decision-Making Process
  • Can Influence the Decision-Making Process
  • Handles High-Ticket Pricing
  • Need to Be Liked Doesn't Get in the Way

Salespeople who are successful at developing their business acumen superpower have a frame of reference of continual learning. This includes their desire to fully understand their client’s goals and objectives. In fact, according to Amazon CEO, Andy Jazzy, the second a person thinks they know it all -- or even just enough -- is the second their career generally starts to stall out. Those who continue to grow into greater and greater success, on the other hand, remain hungry for learning. "The biggest difference between the people I started with in the early stage of my career and what they're doing now has to do with how great they were at learning," states Jassy. 

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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.


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