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Sales Acumen: 4 Steps To Improving It (and the 7 Traits That Make it Easier to Improve)

As sales professionals, mastering the art of sales acumen gives us an arsenal of tools and skills to win the deal.
Sales Acumen

Let’s face it: selling isn’t easy, and it isn’t meant to be. It’s a battlefield where every interaction is a battle. Every victory contributes to your organizational success.

When it comes to sales, it’s not about being the loudest or the most aggressive. It’s about listening, understanding, and addressing the customer’s needs. This forms a meaningful, long-lasting relationship.

Guess what? Improving your sales acumen will make you better at the skills that are mentioned above.

What is Sales Acumen?

In simplest terms, sales acumen is your ability to understand and engage in the sales process. It’s the knack of identifying customer needs and effectively communicating how your product or service can meet them.

By working on sales acumen, salespeople can build a sense that tells them what to say, when, and most importantly— how to say it.

Possessing strong sales acumen is no less than a superpower. Especially these days where the internet gives customers access to countless alternatives to your product. They might not even need to connect with sales to make a purchase, hence, getting buyer access has become challenging.

Today’s customers are more informed and expect more from salespeople. Not to mention, even if you get access to your buyer they usually don’t want a “salesperson” on the other end. Instead, they seek an advisor who can educate them about their business.

How To Improve Sales Acumen in 4 Steps

Customers of today want to connect with subject matter experts whenever they’re trying to make a purchase, so they expect you to be a problem solver, not just a product pusher. Improving your sales acumen can help you become the problem solver they trust.

Having a good sales acumen plays a crucial role in various sales stages. These can include prospecting, diagnosing, presenting, overcoming objections, and negotiating.

When it comes to improving your sales acumen it’s not just about acquiring sales skills, it’s all about how you use those skills.

1) Have a deep understanding of your own business

A salesperson’s knowledge should cover more than just their products. Consider it briefly: How can you sell something you don’t fully understand?

Do you remember this saying? ‘Don’t just know your territory, own it.’ Yes! This applies perfectly to the sales field.

Sales professionals need to be aware of most things in their business. Because this helps them sell their products or services and tailor their offerings to customer needs.

For example: You can start by understanding financials, market trends, following global trends, and knowing your industry dynamics to put your value proposition in a way that resonates with your customer needs. This helps you position your business as a trusted source of information for most of your customers.

To develop a better understanding of your business, you can’t just sit on and talk about sales. You need to be proactively looking to understand their business on a deeper level.

Aligning individual sales goals with company strategies helps salespeople understand their role in achieving business objectives. It’s like fitting into a puzzle where you’re not just another piece but the piece that completes the picture.

2) Understand your customer’s business

Here’s a powerful statistic to wake you up: Fewer than one in ten salespeople can explain significant financial numbers for their customers. Ouch! That’s a slap to anyone who thought knowing your business well was enough to sell. It isn’t.

If you don’t know where your customer makes their money, then how can you guarantee that they can make money from your offer or product?

To build a good sales acumen, you don’t just need to know the customer’s pain points. You need to understand their business model and financial situation

Everything is about them: you need to walk in their shoes, think from their perspective, and see the world through their eyes. Once you do that, selling will become a game where you’re winning most of the time.

3) Shift from transactions to partnerships

Successful salespeople today believe in collaboration and long-term partnerships. They prefer partnerships over individual transactions. And why not? It’s a win-win situation for both sides.

Customers don’t want to feel like they have been sold. They yearn for a trusted business partner who understands their needs and goals.

As a salesperson, your focus should also be on something other than closing deals. Instead, focus on addressing real customer needs. Work towards establishing a strategic, long-term partnership. To become that partner, sales professionals must echo their customer’s business strategies.

The ultimate aim in approaching partnerships is to articulate how your products or services can contribute to the customer’s success. This includes increasing profitability and reducing costs. That’s some serious value-adding right there.

4) Understand what value means to your customers

According to Kevin Cope, every organization has 5 critical drivers:

  1. Growth
  2. Assets
  3. Cash
  4. People
  5. Profit

Salespeople must grasp these organizational drivers. Because this is crucial for them to know what value their customers are after. After all, selling isn’t always about the price, it’s more about the value. So, understanding these key drivers can be your golden ticket to successful sales.

Salespeople can leverage these drivers to appeal to customer outcomes. For example: if your product or service helps cut operational costs and it also increases profitability, in this scenario, the critical driver you need to focus on is ‘Profit’

A good value proposition is like the North Star guiding you in the dark sky of sales. Once you understand what value means to your customers, watch your sales soar high

7 Traits To Improve Your Sales Acumen

While skills dominate much of the conversation around sales acumen, traits also play an equally vital role.

Developing these traits can elevate your sales understanding and help you gracefully navigate the challenging terrain of sales.

1) Self Motivation

Great salespeople have an insatiable hunger to achieve and to outperform. They are driven not by external factors but by internal motivation. They’re self-motivated. They will go that extra mile, ready to turn obstacles into opportunities and prospects into customers.

Here are the some of the best advice when it comes to developing self motivation for sales:

  • Find your ‘Why’: Connect your work to a greater purpose, whether providing for your family, saving for retirement, or funding a memorable trip. When work gets hard, this ‘why’ pulls you through.
  • Set clear goals: Define specific, measurable goals for deals closed, revenue generated, or customer satisfaction metrics. Review them daily and visualize yourself achieving them
  • Break your goals down and have a productive routine: Break your goals down on a quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily basis. Set timelines to achieve your goals. Now, form a routine where you can hit your daily tasks to accomplish your daily goals.
  • Review your big wins: We often quickly gloss over our past sales victories. Counteract this by keeping a brag document of your most significant deals and milestone career moments. Re-reading can re-ignite your swagger.
  • Perfect your craft: Self-motivation flows from mastery. Obsess over refining skills like cold calling, pitching, negotiating, and closing. Skillfulness drives deals

2) Strong communication skills

Sales are more than just a discussion about products and services. It’s about building a relationship with clients. It’s about empathetic listening to their needs. It’s also about articulating solutions efficiently. Communication is the lifeblood of sales.

Strong communication skills can include sharpening your verbal, non-verbal, written, and listening abilities. In our previous blog post we shared how ‘Active Listening’ is one of the best sales tactics to leverage sales. Thus, honing on your ability to communicate effectively can improve your sales skills.

3) Critical Thinking

Salespeople often encounter complex problems that require more than a simple solution. Here’s where critical thinking comes into play. It helps salespersons analyze situations objectively.

This helps them make better decisions. It also helps them find creative solutions to their client’s problems. Sharper critical thinking builds greater conviction and problem-solving ability. It’s needed when you navigate with cross-functional teams internally or trying to influence C-level customers to close a deal.

4) Empathy

Empathy stands tall in a world of transactions and revenues as a trait that makes all the difference. It’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.

Empathy helps salespeople look beyond their targets. It helps them see the world from the customer’s perspective. They can align their sales approach accordingly

As mentioned in this post, you must build partnerships instead of treating deals like simple transactions. Showing empathy is one way that can lead to long-term partnerships with your customers.

5) Ability to Interpret

Not everything that a customer says is simple and straightforward. Sometimes, the real message is hidden between the lines. It requires keen perception to identify.

The ability to interpret gives salespeople the insight keys they need to unlock and accelerate opportunities. It is an invaluable trait sharpened over time by studying subtle human nature and psychology during pitches.

A few key benefits of the ability to interpret are:

  • Helps in uncovering hidden objections
  • Builds deeper rapport with customers
  • Proactively advances deals
  • Enables customization through your offering and product

6) Persistence

Rejection is definitely a part of the sales profession. But those who persist amidst rejection are the real winners.

Persistence fuels the efforts to persuade potential customers and turn rejections into approvals. It embodies the never-give-up attitude that is crucial for success in sales

7) Objection Handling

Objections are not roadblocks, they are just challenges testing your sales acumen. The ability to handle objections converts a negative situation into an opportunity.

It showcases your understanding of customer’s needs

It also shows your ability to offer valuable solutions.

Wrap Up

By now, you can see how improving your sales acumen can lead to higher-level, more effective communication. Hence allowing you to understand the customer’s perspective and helps in pitching better offering to resonate with them

Building sales acumen can depend on your organization’s sales training and employee mentoring. To make this process more productive for your organization, we have our own sales enablement app that can help you improve sales efficiency across your organization.

Experience the Featurewave app for yourself with a six-month free trial for up to five users.

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