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The Difference Between Sales Acumen and Business Acumen



A great question we’re often asked when speaking to clients is, “what is the difference between sales acumen and business acumen?”


To me, one is more tactical, and the other is more strategic. For instance, your organization may be using one of many sales methodologies such as the challenger method, SPIN selling, solution selling, or Sandler selling. Others are focused on budget, authority, need, and timing or discovery, needs analysis, or determining pain points and providing solutions.


In my opinion, this is a very needed, but also very tactical approach. Many sales professionals have great, pre-planned processes to move their clients through that contribute to their success. But the difference between this sales acumen, and business acumen is that to have good business acumen you need to understand your clients’ strategic goals. Particularly, the strategic goals of the c-suite.


It's a process of alignment. When you understand your client's strategic goals, you're going to be more successful at aligning your products and services to their strategy and showing how your solutions solve their most pressing problems. The goal here is to be looked at as a trusted business partner ...not a features & benefits sales rep. By understanding your clients and prospects business challenges, you will understand how to help them achieve their goals and earn the right to connect with the senior leaders that drive strategy and authorize budgets.


In order to be successful with this process, it’s essential that you do your research. One way to do this is by listening to your client’s latest earnings call – you’ll learn the name of their CEO & CFO and get insight into what they are talking about within the organization such as their initiatives and goals. You’ll also hear analyst questions and the responses from the c-suite, giving more details about the industry and questions investors may have about the organization.


If your client isn’t public and doesn’t have earnings calls, pick out some publicly traded companies that are similar to your privately held client. For instance, if you have a privately held client that is in growth mode and they are pre-revenue, the goals for your solutions may be different then if you were selling to a much larger organization that is more concerned about cash flow and profitability.


Recently, I had a conversation with a senior leader of a Fortune 500 company. He told me they teach their reps the following: “Re-allocate the relationship-building time to research and insight time. Look through their company data to find insights, research the customer, make an impactful statement, and add value right out of the gate. Reps who approach their customers with game-changing concepts for their business will be the winners. ”


What a powerful statement.


That aligns perfectly with what we teach at Acumen Learning during our business acumen course.


Here at Acumen Learning we work with some of the greatest, most recognizable sales organizations on the planet on how to build their business acumen while selling. So, whether you use one of the major selling methodologies or not, we can teach your sales team to use our 5-Business Driver model to become that trusted business partner that understands their client's business, understands their strategy, and has earned the right to engage at the highest levels in the organization. Allowing them to close more deals, more often.


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