Both prospective and current clients want to work with sales practitioners who will partner with them and guide them to a better future. They want trusted advisers instead of salesmen. They’re looking for that special something that the best sales reps have that will increase the likelihood of successfully accomplishing their goals.

That thing they’re looking for is called, “business acumen.”

What does it mean to have “business acumen?” It means you’re a not only a subject matter expert in your industry, but you’re also an original thinker, or what we call a “thought leader” who comes up with new ideas and better ways of accomplishing goals. It means you not only have deep knowledge of your marketplace, you also have inventive ideas as to how unique companies in certain industries can find great opportunity within that marketplace.

Business thought leaders constantly study the business environment, and they search for opportunities where ordinary sales practitioners see none. Thought leaders are not too proud to accept help from a mentor, nor do they shy away from being a mentor to others. Thought-leading sales pros realize that teaching other people is a great way to sharpen their own abilities. As I like to say, “you don’t know it until you’ve taught it.” The more you teach, the more you learn.

Thought leaders are obsessed with what clients think about and care about. They know how the things they sell impact people and businesses.

To have business acumen means you’re obsessed with the results and outcomes real clients get from your services rather than fixating merely on technical details. A sophisticated sales pro with business acumen thinks more about their client’s ROI than basic features and benefits of your company or trivial facts about product or service.

A great sales pro will also feel comfortable watching the business environment and be willing to share insights about where they might see future issues that they should start thinking about.

How do you get business acumen? Constantly read, constantly question people and be extremely observant. As you observe business happenings and behaviors, think about cause and effect. Ask lots and lots of questions and think about how the answers fit into the bigger picture.

Jeff Beals helps you find better prospects, close more deals and capture greater market share. He is an international award-winning author, sought-after keynote speaker, and accomplished sales consultant. He delivers compelling speeches and sales-training workshops worldwide. He has spoken in 5 countries and 41 states. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investor’s Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times.