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The Important Trait of Business Acumen

1 Mar, 2014 By: David Ramos

I’m often asked what I believe is the most important trait to succeed in sales or business.  Anyone who knows me knows my answer:  business acumen.  Today, more than ever, those sales individuals who possess business acumen have a tremendous advantage over those that don’t.

As a dealer principal, sales leader, executive, or sales professional you should remember two quotes that should be at the top of your mind when you look at your sales efforts:

“The problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

“The definition of insanity is to do the same thing again and again, and expect a different result.” – Thomas Edison

It is crucial that you stop and ask yourself, “What are the critical components that will allow salespeople to be successful?”  Don’t stop at the clichés like personality or persistence.  Sure, those characteristics are important, but they do not cause success.  There are just as many (or more) personable, persistent salespeople that fail as those that succeed.

If your products and services require a meaningful investment from your customers or you claim to make a significant impact on customers’ results, there are two critical pieces that absolutely must be present:  business acumen and judgment.  These characteristics are really flip sides of the same coin, as good judgment comes from business acumen.  If you want to break free from the commoditized treadmill, where so many companies in our industry find themselves, you must develop business acumen in yourself, in your organization, and in your salespeople.

The sales profession today is as much about the business of business (if not more) as it is about the products and/or services.  Sales executives need to understand the core business foundation of how their clients and prospects make money, and the key drivers and how they impact companies. 

As technology matures and business competition increases, sales of business technology in legacy products slow down. But some technology providers are doing better than others in these trying/evolving times, driven by how they approach customers with their value proposition and how they substantiate their claims with information. Now, more than ever, customers are seeking value justification before they open their purse strings. And what do they need to see to believe in your technology solution? After the main business benefits have been well defined and understood, decision makers want to see a true value proposition instead of the half-baked fuzzy propositions and value notions of days gone past. As well as a shift by technology vendors responding to increase their capabilities through program offerings, which address business challenges.

The byproduct of your product or service is the key to positioning your business case and your portfolio. How do you translate the byproduct of your product into addressing key indicators that decision maker’s measure?  A true value proposition is focused on the issues companies face on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Sales executives in the imaging, hardware, software and technology services industry have tools in their respective portfolios that can address the business foundation issues (cash flow, profit, assets, growth and productivity) companies’ face.  The challenge for sales is that they need a mechanism that allows for them to take the time to develop and learn about the “How?” on these services, tools and products, and whether they are software or hardware related.

Businesses are complex, and the issues they’re dealing with face greater and greater complexity.  One small problem or change can have a ripple effect through the entire company.  The only way you can successfully cut through this complexity is to understand the critical foundation drivers of a business.  To get the action (revenue and margin) that you want for your products and services, salespeople must be able to influence real decision makers in organizations by addressing the business challenges they face.

This month InfoTrends is launching sale force education development and training with a focus on developing your sales professionals’ business foundational skills with customizable content in the following areas.

  • Business Process Automation
  • Managed Print Services
  • Managed Services (IT)
  • Mobility
  • Production
  • Wide Format
  • Vertical Markets – Healthcare, Financial Services, Legal, K-12 Education, Retail, Manufacturing, Higher Education

Sales professionals that possess business acumen will have the greater advantage positioning their offerings for greater success (measured by faster sales cycle and pipeline cycle times and greater margins) than their competitors while operating in the same external landscape as their competitors.

Salespeople who fail to develop business acumen will be forced to battle in tighter commoditized spaces, looking to eke out decreasing margins against higher expenses – not the future anyone would like to live in.

Today at InfoTrends we recognize that independent companies and in turn their dealer principals, senior sales leaders and sales professionals need information that is relevant to the challenges or issues they face in developing their employees while achieving company goals. 

David Ramos is the Director of Channel Strategy Service for InfoTrends.  He is responsible for managing custom consulting projects, providing forecast analysis, developing market sizing estimates, and marketing channel strategy services to independent companies in the office equipment and IT services space. For info on InfoTrends programs contact david.ramos@infotrends.com or 781-616-2151.

About the Author: David Ramos

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