In large part, successful organizations only become that way by virtue of proprietary information or work practices, i.e., those trade secrets that differentiate top-tier companies from their lesser competitors. Sales leaders get it. The brightest among them use what they know (business acumen) to derive benefits that not only help move more inventory; they offer a means for moving their business relationships forward over time.
All you need to do is hire a sales force of superstars, right?
Not necessarily. For certain proponents, the only drawback is a tendency to keep their cards close to the vest – a mindset that can drive some individuals to narrowly focus on their own self-interests rather than the larger goals of the group. On the other hand, select stakeholders might initially theorize that business acumen of this description isn’t easily transferable in substantial numbers.
Both perspectives are understandable, but hardly justifiable.
Unfortunately, teaching salespeople the disciplines of business acumen remains relatively rare. In fact, studies show that only 10 percent of salespeople understand the financial considerations that fuel the economic engines of their clients. While there have always been sales professionals who manage to acquire and use business acumen, the concept of implementing it from the top-down is relatively new.
Not surprisingly, it’s an idea that practically sells itself.
Steve Sullivan, a customer value service manager at International Paper, is one sales leader who bought-in after he realized that many of his sales professionals lacked the business acumen required to take effective action on behalf of clients:
“When the customer started talking about finance and strategy, there was a tendency among our folks to go glassy-eyed. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to help the customer; only that they lacked the vocabulary and basic understanding to put the customer’s needs into the proper business context.”
In other words, salespeople only know what they know. But that wasn’t good enough for Sullivan, so he did something about it, launching a new business acumen training program focused on helping salespeople identify the needs of customers, respond to their concerns and manage the results accordingly. He spoke highly about how “increasing the level of business acumen throughout the sales teams has contributed positively to our bottom line,” and, more importantly, how it has “helped us contribute to the bottom lines of our customers and to their long-term success.”
If you are among the many sales leaders who wish their sales teams knew what they did, we know where you’re coming from.
Please share your thoughts on this article with us and let’s begin a discussion.