Sales Professionals Consume Business Acumen For Breakfast, Are You?Nov 15, 2020
"I believe we can accelerate our acumen, performance and success by leveraging our associations and spending time with people better than us."
If you wish to sit with executive decision makers at the business table, you need to learn, consume and mirror their characteristics.
Don’t Expect a Seat if You Don’t Bring Anything to the Table
Granted, not all will require C-level or executive access. However, engaging at this level is critical if your goals are to build strategic client relationships, be perceived as a trusted professional and to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Just a few years ago, Ulrik Juul Christensen in the Harvard Business Review, wrote that... 20 to 40 percent of employees are “unconsciously incompetent” in areas critical to their performance, and even more are “consciously incompetent,” meaning that employees realize that they are lacking the necessary skillset for their role.
Let's take that statement and then think about all the massive disruption that has occurred during 2020... Think about the rapid pace of change that is occurring in just about every industry, every marketplace and with every company.
One can imagine the gap between what those in sales know and what they need to know is only growing.
I ask to you think about these two questions:
- Do you have what it takes to gain a seat at the table?
- Are you bringing business substance to the table?
"In today's commoditized business world, customers only care about one thing: value. To offer real value you must stop being a salesperson and become a businessperson who sells."
Marc Miller, A Seat at the Table.
I would like all those in sales and sales leadership to stop for a moment:
Are the conversations you are having right now earning you a consistent seat at the business table?
EARN THE RIGHT TO SIT AT THE TABLE
Business executives have business goals and challenges. It's up to you to attach your offerings to their challenges in the form of strategic help, this is true value.
"When you suggest solutions that add value to critical customer strategies, you leave your competitors in the dust. Since your competition is myopically focused on selling products and services that add little value to the higher picture strategy of the customer, these traditional competitors will no longer even be on your radar of competition."
Marc Miller, A Seat at the Table.
Projecting and portraying an executive presence, combined with the way you deliver your message, will cause executives to take notice.
I believe the following is wholly sales grail... it's the combination of confidence, competence, business acumen, business conversation and business knowledge.
Business conversation combined with business acumen will get you equal business stature.
CONSUME BUSINESS ACUMEN FOR BREAKFAST
Wikipedia defines business acumen as the...
"Keenness and quickness in understanding and dealing with a business situation in a manner that is likely to lead to a good outcome."
Sales professionals eat business speak every morning.
They learn the language of business. They learn the language of business executives and they speak their language.
In the Skills Mismatch research (conducted in 2018) by the Economist Intelligence Unit,
"over 65% of leaders surveyed said that a lack of strong business acumen among their leaders was a significant impediment to their success."
Let's apply this to the sales world, if surveyed, what percentage of sales leaders out there would say their salespeople lack strong business acumen?
Fruit, oatmeal and business acumen... breakfast of sales professionals
APPETITE FOR ACUMEN
Remember, C-level executives are business executives. This means you must engage in business-oriented conversations in order to establish your credibility and to differentiate yourself from the competition.
You must speak their language, not yours. You must understand their industry and their competitive environment.
- What are you eating for breakfast?
- What are you reading and listening to with breakfast?
- What knowledge do you think business executives consume for breakfast?
To consistently gain a seat at the table, you need to understand their needs, challenges and business environment.
Do you understand your clients and prospects business?
BUILD BUSINESS ACUMEN THROUGH LITERACY
With daily discipline and determination, I encourage you to develop and appetite for business acumen.
Increasing your business literacy will improve your business acumen.
I encourage you to
- Read company reports
- Follow business market trends
- Allow your clients to teach you their business
- Gain a solid understanding of finance
- Learn the terminology that business people use
CREATE A SENSE OF ACUMEN URGENCY
The business world is rapidly changing. This doesn’t allow any of you to take your own sweet time to learn new things.
I will leave you all with a quote from my very dear friend, Mike Garrison,
"If you only know how to relate based upon what you get paid for you will only be viewed as an expert on that very subject. On the other hand, if you can demonstrate that you are an expert (or at least a credible peer) on what your prospects get paid for you are someone that will be welcomed into the 'inner sanctum' of their business and will be a valued and respected advisor...no matter what you sell."
My sales friend's business acumen is an asset. Do not allow it to become a liability.