Building a comprehensive and relevant learning curriculum for B2B salespeople is always a challenge. On the list are many basic and advanced selling skills, product knowledge, industry knowledge, competitive knowledge, company (back office, for example) knowledge, research approaches, technology skills (using CRM, for example), and more.
Most companies that we've worked and many more that we've surveyed are missing an important component in their training mix: business knowledge. There are plenty of reasons not to focus on this. A big one is cost (travel, opportunity, vendor, licensing, etc.). Few full-service sales training providers offer business knowledge as part of their offering. Many of the rest are reluctant to allow niche players in their accounts because it reduces revenue derived from their engagement with the client. Often sales leadership doesn't see the importance or have an appropriate level of business knowledge themselves, so the subject never comes up.
None of this is good because it leaves the B2B salesperson at a loss. They can't build credibility with the business managers they're supposed to be selling to. They can't show how their products will contribute to the customer making their financial plan. They can't provide the customer's financial people with the assumptions required to build a business case or ROI.
I decided to re-release a podcast I had previously recorded with president Mike Rohan and executive instructor Bob James from Executive Conversation. Originally I was excited at the aspect of doing the podcast. I knew the folks from Executive Conversation going back to the mid-90's. We've had joint clients and they always did a fine job. When I listened to the podcast again recently, I was reminded of what a terrific job Mike and Bob did. This podcast is one that every sales leader should hear.
Executive Conversation says there are five competencies required for B2B selling that are under-appreciated and under-leveraged:
- Business Knowledge. The ability to understand a customer's business model and effectively interpret the macro economic factors impacting their performance.
- Customer Insight. The ability to gain the account insight required to identify new opportunities and to credibly engage around a customer's strategic initiatives.
- Financial Acumen. The ability to interpret financial trends and analyze customer financial performance to pinpoint areas of need.
- Return On Investment. The ability to credibly quantify the financial impact of investing in your solutions using metrics meaningful to the customer.
- Executive Engagement. The ability to credibly engage, build relationships and sell at executive levels within customers.
If you're interested in seeing how fluent you are in these areas, you might take Executive Conversation's quick test.
Many of you are going to read this post and think, "My salespeople don't need this level of knowledge about the business aspects of our customers and clients." You know what? You're probably wrong.
Photo credit: © Sapsiwai - Fotolia.com
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