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Business Acumen–More Than Price

by David Brock on October 31st, 2011

I talk to lots of people about their value propositions and the business cases they have presented for their solutions.   People seem to talk the talk, but in reality, I see few people really focusing on the business value of their solutions. 

Part of the problem is many customers don’t seem to want a business case, they just ask us, “What’s your best price?”  But that’t no excuse.  If we only respond by providing pricing, then we will win or lose on price.  It’s our responsibility as sales professionals to help our customers understand the value our solutions brings–convincing them to evaluate every alternative based on the business case.

Sales people need help in developing their business acumen skills.  It starts with training and coaching—sales managers need to put in place training and coaching programs to help people develop these skills.  Programs that help them understand business basics–how businesses work, basic financial analysis, how to develop and present cost justified solutions.  I find it interesting that for the hundreds of sales skills programs that exist, and the billions spent every year on sales skills training, there are very few programs that develop the business acumen skills of sales professionals.

Marketing and product management have important contributions, as well.  Product training and related materials and collateral need to help sales people present business justified cases.  Questioning guides that help people understand key performance issues, justification guides, industry/market guides, and other materials that extend sales’ understanding beyond features and functions.

Sales people need to take personal responsibility as well.  Start by dusting off your B-school books.  If you never had any formal training, go take a few basic business and financial analysis courses at a local college.  Make sure you understand business fundamentals.

There’s a great new resource to help sales people develop their business acumen skills.  It’s a new book called “Bottom Line Selling” by my friend Jack Malcolm.  It’s a great resource for all sales professionals and should be a desktop guide.  It takes you through many of the fundamentals of understanding your customers’ business, how to leverage financial analysis both to determine problem areas, but also to help present business justified solutions.  It provides insight on tools available on the web and how sales professionals can leverage them to improve their ability to present business value.  Make sure you get a copy of this great resource!

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. Another great post David…..

    I sat down a few years ago with an associate who had just completed his MBA and asked him to explain the role of selling within the business context.

    I learned more in those three hours than I might have in reading 10 business books and it has served me well in appearing more knowledgeable to the prospect and my own associates.

    Salespeople must become knowledge brokers today and I heartily agree with your thoughts here. (as always)

    Good stuff


    • Todd, thanks for the comment. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that discussion. Regards, Dave

  2. Hi David,
    I was lucky in that I worked for an importing company where each deal stood on it’s own. We negotiated our own selling price, payment terms, delivery terms and our company really held us accountable for profit. (excluding fixed expenses like office rent – although we knew what fixed costs were as a % of sales). We used to have a saying, “the dollars are in the details” We even collected payment from our own customers. Which gave rise to another saying we had, “a sale is not a sale UNTIL the money is in the bank”

    • Greg, it’s interesting that sales professionals who’ve had experiences like yours have a much richer understanding of business, how decisions are made, and can leverage that experience in making them more effective as sales people. Thanks for sharing your views.

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