The Missing Ingredient from Sales

I’ve been in Tech Sales for over 2 decades, and as most salespeople do- I’m constantly trying to figure out the winning formula. 

When I typically think of the winning formula- I’d say the most simple, but reliable approach is BANT.  This is qualifying the opportunity by confirming there is an allocated Budget, the person you’re engaging with has the Authority to buy, there is a real Need for the product and a designated Timeline to make the purchase.

I’ve utilized this approach for years, and while it’s brought success- sometimes it feels like something’s missing.  There are inevitably times when your deal has all these elements, but you lose the deal anyway.  There are times when you have all these elements, yet somehow the deal disappears with a ‘no decision’.  Or you’re trying to cultivate a deal, but can’t effectively convert it from a latent to active opportunity.

I’ve personally observed several, common misconceptions from salespeople on why customers buy their products.  Some focus on their relationship, strong position against a competitor, or their product’s features and capabilities.  While all of these can be factors in a decision, they do not address the customer’s #1 concern.

While I don’t have a magic wand that will guarantee a solution for any scenario, I do believe there is a critical missing ingredient from the average Sales Rep’s game:

Financial Acumen.

According to a survey of more than 300 senior executives conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, 65% of the leaders felt that a lack of their employees’ business acumen limits their companies’ strategy execution. 

Reacting to the capability gap, Jeff McCreary, former Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Texas Instruments, commented, “Solid business skills are the foundational strength of virtually any enterprise. To build a high-performing culture and a team committed to rapid execution, you have to develop business acumen. Otherwise, you won’t be as successful as you can and should be.”1

First off, what is financial acumen exactly? 

Financial acumen is defined as an understanding of the drivers of growth, profitability and cash flow as well as a firm’s financial statements and key performance measures.

So why does financial acumen matter to salespeople?  How will this help close deals and make money?

In thinking about why a prospect would invest in your product or technology, it comes down to one simple concept.  The goal of any company is to drive value back to its owners (shareholders).  In considering investing in your proposed project, the stakeholders will need to determine if it will ultimately deliver a positive impact to the company’s financial results by way of increased revenues or reduced costs. 

To put it in extremely simple terms- if they invest $1 in your technology, will it produce more than that $1 in return?  Would the investment be worth the effort if it produces $1.10 for your client?  What if the project could return $5 from the $1 investment?

I declare that it is the salesperson’s job to not only pitch why their product is the best, but it is essential in today’s business world to link their deal to the underlying projected “Return on Investment” to ultimately win over the key stakeholders, especially the CFO.

How would you rate your financial acumen?

Stay tuned, as I share more insight on the basic components of financial acumen in future posts…


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