BBQ and business acumen.
Traditionally, those two items don't go together, but for this story, one is the key to the other.
I started in sales in 1993, straight out of college. I didn't have a lot of work or life experiences that I could draw from as I worked with business owners helping them to improve their businesses' performance.
I did my best reading the Wall Street Journal, the business section of the local paper, and reading the latest business books to help grow my knowledge of business.
Even back then, I realized that knowing about business and being seen as a peer to my prospects and clients was going to be key to my success.
Today, we call that developing your business acumen.
Business acumen is your ability to understand how a company makes money and achieves its goals and objectives.
Without a solid business acumen, a salesperson can be seen purely as someone who just sells a product or service. With strong business acumen, a salesperson can be seen as a business partner who has the experience and expertise to help a customer solve their problems and grow their business.
There's Power in Being Seen as a Business Expert
17 years later, I discovered the power of being seen as a business expert and equal with my clients and prospects.
In 2010, I opened my first BBQ restaurant in the suburbs of Chicago, called Q BBQ. I opened it primarily because as a Texan, I missed great BBQ in Illinois.
And though the restaurants are successful, I have three locations, the greatest benefit has been in growing my business acumen.
Now, when I speak with a business owner, I can speak from experience in running a business. I can really speak their language and communicate as an equal. It has leveled the playing field and elevated my status as someone who not only understands their challenges but can also help them solve them.
I realize that you probably won't open a restaurant so that you can gain business acumen for yourself, but there are things that you can do to improve your acumen.
3 Ways to Improve Business Acumen
1. Be Knowledgeable
The first key to gaining business acumen is to gain business knowledge.
Be a sponge.
- Read everything that you can about business.
- Read the Wall Street Journal.
- Subscribe to The Morning Brew.
- Read your local business journals.
- Read a new business book a month.
Right now, I'm reading Start with Why by Simon Sinek. I highly recommend it. Knowledge is power. And if you can't own a business, at least understand everything that you can about running a business.
The second key is interacting with business owners. Get to know them and learn from them.
- Join the Rotary Club.
- Find a networking group of business owners, not salespeople.
- Get involved with the Chamber of Commerce.
- Meet business owners and listen to them.
You will be amazed at what you can learn from actual business owners.
3. Be Confident
The third key is to act like a business owner and speak like a business owner.
When you're working with prospects and clients, talk about their business. Focus on P&L, margins, cost of goods, staffing, competition, and every other area of the business that matters to them.
Do NOT talk about your product or service until it's time to talk about solving their challenges. If you act like a business owner and speak like an owner, then you won't be dismissed like all the other salespeople.
If you follow these three simple steps as you develop and grow your business acumen, you will see how it makes a difference as you work with business owners. You will transform from a sales rep to a business consultant.