I’ve been in B2B sales for over 20 years, as a sales rep, sales manager, sales leader, consultant, and trainer. With my career spanning the information-technology revolution, I’m reminded every day how technology has forever changed and continues to change the behavior of both sales professionals and buyers. Since the IT highway continues to accelerate, it will be the survival of the fittest sales professionals who thrive in the competitive marketplace versus those who are passed over with an antiquated skillset of salesmanship.
Technology’s Continual Impact
Technology has required sales professionals to move beyond email to social selling and expand adoption of CRM and SFA to sales asset management and marketing automation platforms. Literally, thousands of new tools are available, each claiming to make a sales rep more productive. But in the end, how do sales reps turn countless search results and a sea of data into relevant business insights? They do so by driving the business conversation as a business professional and with the savvy of a well-informed trusted advisor.
Evolving Beyond a Sales Professional
There is a great line in the movie “Caddy Shack.” The character Carl Spackler, played by Bill Murray, is obsessed with getting rid of the gophers destroying his golf course. At one point he says that to catch a gopher, you have to think like a gopher, and whenever possible, look like a gopher. It is this same concept that applies to you evolving from a sales professional to a business professional. That is, to effectively engage with a decision-making executive, you have to think like the executive and be conversant in their language.
Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and consider their expectations. They expect you to understand their business and add value by solving problems that matter and making a difference to the top and bottom lines of their organizations. They expect you to provide guidance and insight, and partner for success. They want you to be a peer to the managers and executives you call on and demonstrate credibility through your business and industry knowledge.
To prepare for a sales call that meets these expectations, focus on understanding these three areas of business and watch your business acumen, financial literacy and credibility rise.
Understand the industry that your company is in. How mature is your market? By understanding your industry, you will also understand your competition and, ultimately, the alternatives that are available to your prospects. It is important to stay current on your industry trends, changes, and events to be perceived as a business professional representing that industry.
Understand the industry that your prospects are in. Business acumen often begins with industry knowledge and industry acumen. What are the macroeconomic forces impacting the industry of your prospects? These forces can become major drivers of investment and challenge for companies. Keeping abreast of industry trends, influencers, and thought leaders is a requirement for becoming a knowledgeable peer and asset to your customers and prospects.
Understand how your target customers measure their own business success. Whether you call on a for-profit enterprise, government entity, or non-profit group, all organizations have a way to define and measure their success. For many, especially commercial businesses, those measurements are often communicated in financial terms. Not only is it important to be financially literate, demonstrating mastery in the language of business, but it is also important to understand how that terminology applies to the companies you are calling on. If you expect to compete on value, you must be able to understand and articulate that value in the context of each company or organization that you sell to.
The Only Constant is Change
In a competitive world, the strongest survive by staying relevant. Amid changing technology and increasing buyer expectations, business acumen gives sales reps a critical competitive advantage. High performing sales rep hone their business acumen by thinking and speaking like the executives they are calling on. They focus on key facets of their own product or service industry, the prospect’s industry and they speak confidently in their prospect’s business language. This combined knowledge and skill set will lead to meaningful insights and the ability to thrive and excel in the fast lane of the ever-changing world of sales.