The art of selling involves many specialised skills and behaviours and a ‘can do’ approach. Business owners often look at the skills their sales team needs to develop, forgetting that really knowing the business is also a key ingredient to selling success.

Finding and employing a “gun” salesperson is an exciting prospect but how well do they know your business in order to sell it?

With businesses becoming more complex, it comes as no surprise that clients want to work with business people who can sell, generate and employ new ideas and are willing and able to create a partnership.

Barrett’s work with thousands of sales professionals and hundreds of middle managers has revealed that in many cases, business knowledge and commercial acumen is poor or non-existent.

Interestingly and to their credit, business owners acknowledge the importance of product knowledge and sales training but unfortunately fall short on imparting business knowledge to their sales teams, meaning that the salesperson then misses vital business opportunities to work in partnership with the client at a business level not just at a product level.

Long gone are the days where sales people were simply product experts. These days, expectations are greater and sales people must be trained to be competent business people too. Clients now expect and demand to communicate with real professionals who know how business functions. They want business discussions, not just product discussions. Questions such as: What’s your strategy moving forward?  How is the market and business changing and functioning? How does the product tie in with your business goals and the broader strategic direction?

Often there is little ‘big picture’ discussion with sales people. At best, sales discussions stick to the traditional agenda of supply and distribution. The new expectations for sales people now need to include the fundamentals of business; business acumen, financial awareness and market and industry knowledge. This is of course, in addition to the core capabilities of any good salesperson.

This can seem overwhelming for most, when the expectations are already extremely high for any salesperson. I’m not for a second saying that every salesperson needs an MBA. The business savvy salesperson simply needs to combine some new skills with some old. This new business focus will not only improve the salesperson’s results, but the businesses’ bottom line.

It’s about combining experience, thinking and creativity with some theory. If business owners and leaders can give their salespeople access to information or training on the fundamentals of business as well as the opportunity to see first-hand how the business integrates with that of their customers’ businesses, this will immediately open up their minds allowing them to sell better and give clients what they want and need.

These days we all need to know how businesses work and function. The warning is if we continue to lead with product in 2011, our sales teams will be left behind.  Like anything, it’s about blending theory with practice.  Make sure your sales people can understand businesses’ commercial drivers and make commercially sound decisions in line with your own and your clients’ business strategies.