I speak to many Heads of Sales and Sales Managers and ask the question “What is it that your sales people are missing that would make them much more effective?” It may not surprise you to find out that they never answer a CRM system! Most of them talk about knowing more about a customer’s business, more understanding of how business works and being able to hold a discussion with an executive about their business issues – what I would call Business Acumen.
Most sales training today seems to be focused on either processes/tools (CRM, pipeline management, forecasting, etc.) or specific skills (negotiation, closing, etc.), and totally avoids the big one – how do we give our sales people the knowledge to go and have these crucial executive conversations. Obviously courses do exist covering these areas but they tend towards finance for non-financial people rather than focusing on what sales really need to know and how they can apply it in real customer situations.
This was the task that I was recently set by a global software company, how do we give our sales people the fundamental business knowledge and the skills to have executive discussions while allowing them to adapt their approach to create long-term behavioural change. The truth is that most sales people are scarred to have these conversations because their lack of business acumen may be exposed. However, if we go back to the Heads of Sales, they would say that these types of discussion are absolutely crucial to move their businesses forward.
In the next article I will look at the design approach to the Business Acumen workshop and how the customer challenged me to change the way I thought about these issues.