Improve your sales acumen | Funnel Clarity

Before we dive in, here’s a quick definition of sales acumen: It’s an understanding of prospects and how best to approach a sale. Further, sales acumen comprises the behaviors, skills, and traits that make a successful salesperson. It’s important to note that this isn't something you learn once and expect to get—it's something that takes practice and repetition over time.

With that said, you might be wondering what is sales acumen compared to business acumen? Comparatively, a solid understanding of business fundamentals is a general definition of business acumen. As a result, sales acumen expands on traditional business acumen and requires additional skills. 

Sales Acumen Skills Every Sales Professional Needs

Sales acumen skills include prospecting, diagnosing, presenting, overcoming objections, negotiating, and closing. These fundamental skills rarely change, but can be refined over time and with experience. The addition of sales acumen on top of business acumen helps you not only understand your prospect’s business but also how your organization can help them achieve growth goals.

How To Improve Your Sales Acumen In Eight Steps

  1. Stay Up-to-Date on Global Events

  2. Subscribe to an Equity Market Newsletter

  3. Learn How to Read Financial Statements

  4. Build Your Network of Trusted Colleagues

  5. Embrace Cross-Functional Knowledge

  6. Mastering the Art of Storytelling in Sales

  7. Continuous Feedback and Adaptation

  8. Staying Adaptable in Dynamic Markets

Step 1: Stay Up-to-Date on Global Events

Good sales acumen involves more than understanding your prospect’s industry and the tertiary industries that play a role in their ecosystem. With global supply chains and just-in-time inventory, to name a few trends, organizations are more susceptible to chain reactions. That being said, staying informed about what’s happening in the world is one of the most important sales acumen skills. 

You’ll gain a competitive edge by understanding changing financial conditions in certain markets or legislative hurdles that are now in the picture. Inversely, entering a conversation without this background can leave you flat-footed and make it very difficult to connect with your prospect. 

Read More: Selling to the C-Suite

Step 2: Subscribe to an Equity Market Newsletter

Improve your sales acumen skills by making a commitment to stay informed—and subscribe to the sources that will help you do that. Working to understand what’s important to your prospects as they look at the economy and the world around them is what sales acumen is made of. 

Subscriptions like these can keep you well-informed of market trends and news: 

Step 3: Learn How to Read Financial Statements

What does your prospect mean when they say “bottom line?” Developing this sales acumen skill is essential. If you’re selling to public companies, quarterly statements provide a wealth of information. By reading these documents, you can understand trends in their industry, which business units were or weren’t profitable, and what direction their future strategy is headed.

Read More: Successful Sales Research: How to Gather Information on Personas, Prospects and Potential Buyers

Understanding the difference between assets and liabilities is more than just knowing the difference. Even if you’re not selling to public companies now, explore some quarterly statements and understand how they work and how decisions are made based on their contents. 

Step 4: Build Your Network of Trusted Colleagues

Sales acumen skills are built over time and refined and refreshed with experience. As a young professional, expanding your knowledge of different industries and business models will take time. Even those in the middle of their career can likely point to a type of business or industry they haven’t truly experienced yet. Lean on the sales acumen of your network and commit to constantly learning from others. 

This can be your mentor, your boss, previous colleagues or professional groups and organizations. Mentorship and learning can come from many sources. For this purpose, among others, Funnel Clarity offers a LinkedIn group for online sales training alumni to stay connected and share knowledge. In the midst of subscriptions and news-gathering, don’t discount the importance of learning from someone with real-life experience. 

Step 5: Embrace Cross-Functional Knowledge

Sales isn't just about selling; it's about understanding the entire ecosystem in which your product or service operates. Embracing cross-functional knowledge means broadening your horizons beyond your specific sales role.

Think about it: understanding how marketing positions your product, how operations fulfill orders, or how finance handles pricing can immensely benefit your sales approach. With insight into these various functions, you can tailor your sales strategies to align more closely with the overall business objectives.

Start by actively seeking opportunities to learn from other departments.  Participate in cross-departmental meetings, shadow colleagues from different areas, and be inquisitive. The broader your understanding of your company's operations, the more adept you will become at managing complex sales scenarios. What’s more, this can give you insight into how other companies might operate, offering perspective when dealing with prospects' internal processes.

Step 6: Mastering the Art of Storytelling in Sales

Humans naturally connect with stories, making storytelling a powerful tool for sales professionals. Instead of simply listing product features and benefits, weaving a narrative that aligns with your potential customers' needs and challenges can be far more effective. This approach also opens the door to inquiring about the clients' specific needs and concerns.

Start by understanding your audience and what matters to them. What are their pain points, and how can your product or service address them? Craft your narrative into a compelling story that highlights the value you can provide.

But storytelling isn't just about the words you say; it's also about how you say them. Employ visual aids, share anecdotes, and provide examples to make your story vivid and memorable. Tailor your narrative with elements that resonate with your prospects, such as relevant data, testimonials, or strategic insights. By mastering the art of storytelling, you can capture your audience's attention and create a deeper connection that leads to more successful sales conversations.

Step 7: Continuous Feedback and Adaptation

The world of sales is constantly evolving, and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Whether you feel you’ve mastered ways to improve sales acumen or are just getting started, continuous feedback and adaptation are essential.

Seek feedback from colleagues, mentors, and even customers to identify areas for improvement. Be open to constructive criticism and use it to refine your approach. Additionally, stay up-to-date on industry trends and changes in the market so you can adapt your strategies accordingly. Get comfortable with changing your approach and testing various methodologies, and consider keeping notes regarding areas that are working and ones that could be improved.

Step 8: Staying Adaptable in Dynamic Markets

Adaptability is one of the most important traits a salesperson can have. In today's fast-paced business environment, it’s not something you can afford to overlook, even if this isn’t something you’re inherently good at just yet. Markets change, customer needs evolve, and new competitors emerge. As a sales professional, you need to be able to pivot quickly and adjust as needed.

Stay agile by staying informed and being proactive about learning and development. Take advantage of training opportunities, industry events, and networking opportunities to stay ahead of the curve. By staying adaptable, you can continue to thrive in even the most dynamic markets.

Make a Commitment to Improve Your Sales Acumen 

The landscape is always changing, and sales professionals should be continuously refining their skillset. If you’re more inclined to an instructional setting for foundational skills, read more about online sales training provided by Funnel Clarity. Explore topics including prospecting, qualifying, inside sales, proactive account management and selling in a new marketplace.