I believe that we’ll all have a bit more time on our hands over the next weeks and months.
There are no sports on TV. (I’m in the early stages of Premier League withdrawal. Ask my wife. It’s not pretty.)
There are no sporting events to attend in person.
Broadway is closed (so much for those orchestra seats for Company we were going to see next week.)
As a nation we aren’t going out to the movies, packed restaurants or crowded clubs. From the news it appears that we aren’t going anywhere except to our local Target store to buy toilet paper.
We’re not going to the gym. Dinner with friends is out. Weekend getaways are verboten.
It’s all Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and a good bottle of wine. (If people were really paying attention, the shelves of liquor stores would be empty and there would be plenty of TP on the shelves at Target.)
So, what are you going to do with this extra time? You may be part of the vast working from home sales force.
But what are you going to do with the time that normally would have been consumed by all of your now shuttered pastimes?
I don’t want to sound like a killjoy, but, how about doing something productive with that time? Like investing some of it in a little necessary self-improvement.
Do you have business acumen?
Acumen is defined as “keen insight.” As well as having the ability to make sound judgments and decisions in a particular area of expertise.
Wikipedia defines business acumen as “an eagerness and quickness in understanding and dealing with a business situation in a manner that is likely to lead to a good outcome.”
That pretty much defines what salespeople are supposed to do. Quickly understand your buyer’s problem to help them choose the solution that enables them to achieve their desired outcome.
And, yet, one of the most common complaints heard from C-level decision makers about their interactions with sellers is that sellers lack the business acumen to help them formulate the best solution to achieve the outcomes they desire.
You need business acumen to perform to the best of your abilities in sales. That’s a pretty low bar to hurdle. So let’s start making that happen.
Let’s start at the beginning.
For most sellers their lack of business acumen stems from their lack of basic business and financial literacy. Too many sellers don’t understand how a company operates. How it’s organized. What the basic functions are of a company. If you were to take a tour through the offices of your company could you describe what every department in the company does?
More importantly, do you understand how your company makes a profit? Do you understand basic accounting? Do you know how to read a P&L statement? A Balance Sheet? A Cash Flow statement?
To gauge your basic business acumen, have your boss ask you to answer these questions:
How does the company you work for make its money?
What are the day to day responsibilities of each member of your C-suite?
What key factors contribute to how Company A (the best prospect in your pipeline) make its money?
Here are a couple easy suggestions to begin to build your business acumen. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a learning process. But you’ll want to start today and be consistent in learning something new everyday.
I know. It sounds old-fashioned. It’s not. If you want to learn about business, doesn’t it make sense to read about business?
My Dad gave me a subscription to the Wall Street Journal when I started my first job after college. His advice was something along the lines of “Every serious business person reads the Wall St Journal.” He was right. Scanning it daily and picking out stories of interest to read became a part of my daily routine. (It still is. Though now I do it online.) It quickly taught me what I didn’t know about business (which was pretty much everything.) Which motivated me to read and learn even more.
I will admit I’m not a big fan of the Journal’s editorial page politics. However, they do a good job of keeping politics out of their news coverage. So, if you want to learn about business and how it operates, keep informed about what’s happening in the business world, market trends and the world in general, then spend $40 or so a month and subscribe. It’s money well spent.
There are a handful of “MBA in a single volume” books available online. If you’re within the first five years of your sales career I definitely recommend that you read one of these books. Buy one and read it start to finish. I did an informal survey of these books a few years ago. My personal favorite is The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business. By Josh Kaufman.
The New York Times has a series of audio books called The New York Times Pocket MBA. These are good basic primers on a number of important business subjects. I recommend that you start with the one on reading financial statements. “Analyzing Financial Statements: 25 Keys to Understanding Numbers.”
Data literacy is increasingly important for everyone; especially sellers. We live in an age of big data. Unfortunately, so much of the data that is touted for sellers these days falls under the umbrella of the old saying about there being 3 types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. (And, no, Mark Twain did not originate that quote.)
Data is becoming so essential to our ability to operate that it’s vitally important that we be able to correctly interpret it and place it into its appropriate context. Unfortunately, there are too many metrics and KPIs being thrown around for sellers that are obviously misunderstood by the people propagating them. It’s important to educate yourself how to read, interrogate and interpret data for yourself rather than rely on the interpretations of others.
I recommend you read this excellent book by John H Johnson titled Everydata: The Hidden Misinformation in the Little Data You Consume Every Day. It’s a really useful and accessible book that will teach you how to correctly interpret the data you encounter in your work and personal lives everyday. If you want to preview the book, listen to my conversation with John H. Johnson on Episode #459 of my podcast: How to To Use Data Thoughtfully to Increase Your Sales.
If you have any personal recommendations for fellow readers about useful books to increase your business literacy, and business acumen, please send them along to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bestselling author of Amp Up your Sales and Zero Time Selling, Andy Paul is #8 on LinkedIn’s list of the Top 50 Global Sales Experts to follow. With more than 170,000 followers, Andy is a highly sought-after speaker and sales sage who interviews the world’s foremost sales minds and extraordinarily interesting people to bring you strategies and insights that you can use to generate epic wins and massive value.