Is lack of business acumen costing you sales?

Three ways to help your team be more successful in the C suite

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Your salesperson finally gets an appointment with a senior executive in your biggest potential account.  The goal is to have a business conversation and better understand the customer’s key objectives.

But instead, the salesperson leads with their solution and asks contrived questions.  The executive quickly surmises that he or she is just another sales rep and the meeting ends with “Thank you for coming, we’ll be in touch.”

What went wrong?

Is it because the rep doesn’t know how to sell?


More likely, it’s lack of business acumen.

Lack of business acumen is a hidden – yet fatal – barrier that prevents salespeople from forging relationships with senior leaders.

It’s a hidden barrier because sales people who have deep expertise about their own products and services come across as polished and professional in front of customers.

But it’s fatal barrier because the inability to conduct peer-to-peer business conversations with executives relegates your salespeople to making lower level calls on buyers who are more concerned with price than true value.

Here’s what lack of business acumen costs a sales force:

  • Salespeople are unable to forge partnerships with key executives
  • You’re unable differentiate your value story because your sales team only deals with lower level buyers.
  • Your sales force gets a reputation me- too sellers.

To be successful with senior executives, salespeople must look outside the lens of their own business and be knowledgeable about the broader context of their customers businesses. They must understand the customer’s industry, the customer’s competitors, and the customer’s business challenges.

A salesperson who lacks business acumen is like a sportscaster who doesn’t understand the game he’s covering.  Imagine a newbie sportscaster interviewing a professional athlete who excels at a sport the interviewer knows nothing about. The sportscaster would likely ask inane questions like: What’s the hardest part of your job?  What do you need to be successful? What keeps you awake at night?  The athlete would quickly recognize that they are dealing with a novice.

You can’t afford for your sales force to be perceived as rookies.

Here are three types of business acumen that will your team be more successful in the C suite:

  1. Customer industry issues

The operative word here is customer.  Your customers have their own marketplace, competitors and challenges.

For example, you may be in healthcare, but if you’re a manufacturer and your customer are provider, your team needs to understand all the issues facing providers, not just the ones that pertain to their product.  The same principle applies if your customers are in IT, hospitality, financial services or transportation.

  1. Business in general

No matter what your team sells they should all have a basic understanding of finance, operations, manufacturing, service, and overall business flow.  Many sales people have no idea of how to read a P &L or balance sheet.  To be effective at senior levels they must understand the language and metrics of the C Suite.

  1. Trends in thought leadership
    Your team should know what top business leaders are talking about, thinking about and reading. They don’t have to become experts, but your team should aware of what key opinion leaders are saying so they can make intelligent comments in a meeting.